Why Would We Make Disciples?
Matthew 28:18 – 20
Why on Earth would we make disciples?
Is there a mistake in the Bible?
A few months ago, I discovered a mistake in Bible!
A dead-set genuine error.
That’s probably not what you expected the preacher to say Sunday morning, was it?!
There’s a mistake in the Bible!
Truth be told, it wasn’t so much a mistake in the Bible, but a typo, in my particular Bible. A word was left out of Mark chapter 5.
And so you don’t worry too much about the reliability of what you hold in front of you, the word that was missing was simply the word “and.” So no great theological change to the Christian faith, required with that one!
I notified the publishers, and they promised to correct it, and to include my name in the list of Bible translators in future editions!
Not really that last bit!
But today we’re looking at these few verses at the end of Matthew’s gospel, what’s often called the “Great Commission.” Because we’ve set ourselves a question for today, “Why on earth would we make disciples?”
But there are some people today, inside the church and outside, who think that these words are a mistake,
That the Great Commission shouldn’t be in the Bible.
Some people, as I say, including some Christian people, who think that to “make disciples” has echoes of colonialism and religious intolerance, and therefore should be, like the typo I discovered, removed from future editions of the Bible, or at the very least explained away, so we don’t have to pay any attention to them.
But I think that not only will we find some answers to our question, but we’ll see this command to make disciples is as relevant today, as when Matthew the historian, wrote this down, nearly 2000 years ago.
Why on earth would we make disciples?
Well Matthew’s first answer is because Jesus is Lord of all.
… Because Jesus is Lord of all.
Look at verse 18 with me if you will, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations
And the word all is repeated right through this section, it’s not always immediately obvious in our English Bibles, but Matthew wants us to see Jesus as Lord of all,
As ruler over all.
As present for all time
All, All, All, All,
Jesus is Lord of all.
Why on earth would we make disciples?
Why would we, Why would you,if you’re a follower of Jesus, make disciples?, Want to see other people become followers of Jesus too?
Because Jesus is Lord of all.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Jesus says, Therefore, go and make disciples
Do you see that this command to make disciples is inextricably linked to Jesus having been given all authority?
Matthew’s original readers were first Century Jewish people. They knew who held authority over heaven and earth. That was easy. The answer is God. That was a Sunday School answer!
You know the story of the Sunday School teacher who asked her class, “What’s grey, and furry, and lives in a Gum tree?”
And one little kid in the Sunday School class put up their hand, and said “Well, it sounds like a koala, but the answer must be Jesus!”
Well for a first century Jew, the answer must be God.
The God of the Old Testament,
That’s who has all authority in heaven and on earth.
And so Matthew’s original readers, would be having one of those Sunday School moments! “It sounds like a koala, but, ”
It sounds like you’re talking about Jesus, but we know the answer must be God. God in heaven.
On your outline there are a couple of verses from the book of Daniel in the Old Testament, written 500 years or so before Jesus.
God gives Daniel a vision, of someone who looks like a human, a son of man, being led into the presence of God.
13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
Daniel 7:13 - 14
Can you hear the echoes in Matthew 28?
Do you see what Matthew wants us to understand about Jesus? All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me
God has given Jesus authority over everything,
He exercises God’s kingly rule over all of heaven and earth.
Which means, somewhat confrontingly, If Jesus has authority over all things,
Then he has authority over me,
God, the Father, has given Jesus authority over, my time,
So for us as a church, here at Trinity, God has given Jesus authority over us,
Over our ministry,
Over our priorities,
Over, the shape of everything.
For those of you at HCCS, God has given Jesus authority over your school. Actually that probably makes it his school doesn’t it?
See the therefore, at the beginning of verse 19. You know what they always say, “Every time you see a therefore, you have ask what it’s there for!”
Yes, it’s trite! But it’s true!
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me., Therefore go and make disciples.
Which is why we can’t just cut this bit out of our Bibles, even if it seems not very PC today! Jesus is still Lord of all, so the command to make disciples still stands.
That’s not to say that Christian people don’t do anything else! That we only make disciples! But to neglect this is to be disobedient to Jesus’ commission. Let there be no mistake about that.
Why are we re-launching our church next week, in a new venue at Cornerstone College?
Why are we going back to meeting all together at 10 AM, instead of at 9 and 11?
Not so that the setup team can have a bit more of a sleep in on Sunday mornings,
Not so we can see our friends at the other gathering,
Not because meeting with 200 people at once is more exciting than meeting with one hundred people.
There is only one reason that we’re re-launching next week. And that is because we want to make disciples.
We want to do the things that Jesus is about to explain in the next couple of verses,
We want to set ourselves up to be able to plant more churches, so that more and more people can become disciples of Jesus.
We are simply trying to be obedient to this commission, from the risen Lord Jesus.
But what actually is a disciple?
Probably good to get that clear, before we go much further!
What is a disciple?
All through Matthew’s gospel we see that a disciple is someone who follows, and learns from somebody else.
And in the case of disciples of Jesus, obviously, we’re talking about people who follow and learn from Jesus.
In the ancient world, disciples would literally, follow their teachers around day by day!
We’ve got lots of teachers here with us this morning! Imagine, those of you who are teachers, your students, not just coming into your class, but staying in your home with you,
Going shopping with you, to learn how you spend your money,
How you interact with people that you meet,
How you respond when you’re in the car, and someone cuts you off!
Imagine having the whole class in the car with you! Watching you, learning those things!
The disciples shared life with their teacher.
See today, we can do online learning. I have to do professional development as a marriage celebrant. I have to train and learn. And I much prefer to do that by distance ed, from the comfort of my office.
There’s no distance ed in being a disciple, no online learning. It’s up close and personal, with the one you’re following.
See making disciples isn’t about getting people to have a mild interest in Jesus.
Someone who is intrigued by Jesus, isn’t a disciple.
Someone who thinks that Jesus was a great man,
A wise teacher,
A significant leader, that’s not what makes someone a disciple.
And if that’s you this morning, I need to say, you’re not a disciple of Jesus.
A disciple is someone who has a whole-hearted commitment to Jesus.
Notice though that this “Great Commission” isn’t just about telling people about Jesus for the first time, what is sometimes called evangelism.
Jesus wants his followers to make disciples. It’s not a one-off event, but a process that continues.
A disciple is a learner.
A life-long learner.
A life-long learner, of Jesus.
Clearly then, making disciples of Jesus, means talking about Jesus.
Introducing people to Jesus.
There’s no way we can be obedient to this Great Commission, without speaking about Jesus;, who he is, what he’s done about our problem of rebellion and separation from God.
One of the ways we talk about what we do in the life and ministry of our church, is to say that “we want to introduce people to Jesus, as we find him in the Scriptures.”
It’s why we as a church are thrilled today, to be standing with HCCS and commending you to God, because this is what you are on about:
These words, from your statement of belief, will be familiar, I’m sure. “We accept that Jesus Christ is central in our School, and therefore that everything that is done, including the learning, at School, or in the School's name, should be done to honour Him”
It’s why I’m honoured, to stand in your whole school Monday morning devotions, and teach your community about Jesus.
You are making disciples of Jesus, and we want to encourage you in that, and give thanks to God.
That’s what a disciple is,
But Jesus also has some specific instructions, for what disciple-making looks like.
go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you
When someone looks at, how we make disciples, Jesus says, there’ll be things that they ought to be able to see. And they’re all ing words, participles, for those of you who like your grammar.
Baptising, verse 19,
Teaching, verse 20
And slightly obscured by getting into readable English, the word go in verse 19, is actually, going.
Teaching, These are the characteristics of disciple-making ministry.
The characteristics of disciple-making ministry:
So, firstly we are to be going.
Making disciples means we go
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, Jesus says, Therefore stay at home with your feet up.
No! Therefore go.
Jesus expects that some forward movement is required. We need to go to where people are.
Earlier in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ life, he tells us that Jesus likened disciple-making to going fishing.
Now, I thought that to get a feel for what Jesus is saying there, I’ll have a go at fishing! So last night I got out my fishing line, and sat on the couch, and do you know what I caught?
“Ah,” you say, “It’s because you had no bait, Clayton!” So I went out into the garden, dug up a worm, put it on my hook, and dragged my dying worm across the lounge room carpet.
And still I caught nothing.
What’s the problem with that scenario?
You don’t catch fish in your lounge room!
You’ve got to go where the fish are! And in my experience of fishing, even then there’s still a lot of waiting, and going further, and waiting some more, and going even further!
To make disciples,
We plant new churches,
We kick off new ministries,
We have conversations,
We seek out people, in order that in God’s kindness, they might become life-long learners and followers of Jesus.
A particular group of us are going from here. Next Sunday, at Cornerstone, we’re commissioning those from here who are going, in obedience to this very command, to launch our new church at Victor Harbor, Trinity South Coast.
Please join us next week at 10 AM, to pray for them, as they go, to make disciples.
Jesus is Lord of all, so we’re commanded to make disciples of all
So we saw already that Jesus is Lord of all,
Now we see one of the particular implications of that, and that is, we are commanded to make disciples of all.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations,
It’s really easy, for Christian people,
For schools, even, I imagine, really easy for us to narrow down our focus,
To be doing really great ministry,
To be making disciples,
But actually only to be really aware of one small patch. Our patch.
We make disciples in Mount Barker,
Or in Verdun,
And be thinking, we’re doing exactly what Jesus has commanded us, but in fact we’re only seeing as small part of the picture.
Someone here was telling me last week, about having eye surgery, and as the scalpel brings the surgeon towards your eye, what do you reckon you see?
What do you notice?
What gets your attention?
This glinting scalpel blade, inches from your eye! That’s the only thing you notice!
There’s a whole room full of people, and stuff, and all you can see, is few centimetres of steel. That’s what fills your vision.
Making disciples of all nations doesn’t mean that every single one of us who counts ourselves a Christian has to get on a plane, and fly to deepest darkest Africa.
It definitely means that some will go! And just this week I’ve had conversations with someone from where who is looking to go, and serve God cross-culturally.
And no doubt as a church, we’ll be able to partner in that work of disciple-making among the nations, as we do with the Klein family, who are making disciples in South East Asia.
But Jesus’ point, make disciples of all nations, is not so much about geographically where your body is located,
But about how big your horizon is,
To speak of the nations, was a typically Jewish way of referring to Gentiles, to people who weren’t Jews. To make disciples of all nations then, is to include Jews and Gentiles, that is, everyone!
Jesus is Lord of all.
There is no place on earth, where Jesus is not Lord.
Therefore there is no place on earth, where this command to make disciples does not extend.
As a kid, did you ever just, spin a globe, and point to somewhere on it randomly, and wonder “what’s it like in that part of the world?”
I used to love just pointing to random places!
A different country,
A different continent.
And yet there is nowhere you can point to on the globe, where Jesus is not Lord.
All authority, in heaven, and on earth, has been given to me Jesus says,
Jesus has authority over every nation,
Some of you will remember that once upon a time, maps were covered in pink, representing the British Empire. And as they used to say, “The sun never sets on the British Empire.”
Well, the sun never sets on Jesus’ kingdom. There’s not a spot on the globe where Jesus’ authority does not extend. Therefore, there is not a spot on the globe where the work of disciple-making is not needed.
As unpopular as it might be, if we believe that Jesus is Lord of all, we are not free to say, well, this nation has their own set of beliefs, their own religion, we don’t need to obey this great commission among them.
Why on earth, would we make disciples, of all nations?
Because Jesus is Lord of all.
You know, you probably even sung it as a kid.
Even if you’ve never been to church before today, I reckon you have probably sung the truth of this message.
I got a ukulele for Christmas. The first song in the ukulele song book I’ve been teaching myself, You know it, I bet;, He’s got the whole world.
He absolutely does.
We hear that claim from Jesus’ own lips here in Matthew’s eye-witness account, and the necessary application of those words for Christian people, is that we are called to make disciples of all nations.
Why on earth would we make disciples?
Not because Christians think that we’re better or smarter than anyone else.
Just because, Jesus has, the whole world in his hands.
Making disciples means we baptise
What else does disciple-making ministry look like?
Well, making disciples means we baptise people.
go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
So baptism is a sign of being a disciple of Jesus, a learner and follower of Jesus.
But notice the language. This baptism isn’t just in the name of Jesus, but in the name of, the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Christian baptism is a sign of being a follower, a learner, of Jesus, but a relationship with Jesus, also brings someone a into relationship with God, the Father, and God the Spirit.
The whole of the Trinity is on view here.
And lest there be any doubt, clearly Matthew the historian is presenting Jesus as God; Equal with the Father, Equal with the Spirit.
We skipped right over it, but perhaps you noticed that Jesus’ disciples worshipped him, in verse 17. That is, they treated him as God. There’s no doubt at all for Matthew, that Jesus is God.
And so as we make disciples, we baptise people into the name of this God.
But what’s in a name?
Why do we baptise people in the name of our Trinitarian God?
Well, in ancient times someone’s name was thought to sum up their nature and their character!
And actually, you could take on somebody’s name, if you wanted to be identified with that person.
Even in the 18th and 19th century, a gentlemen’s valet, his personal attendant, was actually called by the name of the gentleman he served.
Christian baptism, is a mark of someone who’s learning what it is to be identified with God.
Alexander the Great once learned that in his army was a young soldier, named after him, but this young infantryman was a notorious coward.
This upset Alexander the Great, that someone named after him would be such a terrible coward, and so he had the young soldier brought into his tent! Knees knocking, no doubt!
“Do you bear the name Alexander?” The great general demanded, “And are you named for me?”
“Yes, sir,” came the response, “I bear the name Alexander, and I was named for you.”
To which the greatest military commander on the planet replied “Then either be brave, or change your name!”
Do you bear this name, Christian person?
Have you been baptized into the name of your God?
Well, he doesn’t say to us, “shape up or change your name!” But we are called to reflect God’s character and nature, as summed up in his name, and to reflect the lordship of God’s king Jesus.
As we grow disciples of Jesus, we baptize them in the name of our God.
Making disciples means we teach
Jesus goes on; Making disciples means that we teach.
go and make disciples of all nations,, 20 teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
We’ve seen already that being learner is what makes a disciple, a disciple.
Jesus taught his first disciples, and now they are to teach other disciples, the things that Jesus first taught them.
So we are to make people disciples of Jesus, and yet it’s other disciples, who do the teaching! Did you notice that?
Of course, we don’t get to decide, what we teach people, and which bits we leave out, because they’re too hard, or too difficult.
The curriculum, if you like, is already set;, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
This is the same sort of language we find elsewhere in Matthew’s gospel, when he talks about obeying the Old Testament. Jesus is placing his own words, on the same level as everything that God had spoken in the past.
Making disciples then, must be characterised by teaching people God’s Word. There is no escaping from it.
As we make disciples, we teach people God’s Word.
Hampden Road, where our church offices are, must be, I think, the widest street in Mount Barker. And I say that because it is constantly filled with learner drivers practicing their parking! In the hundred metre stretch of our street, I once passed 5 learners, learning how to reverse parallel park.
Learners, Learners, everywhere I look! How kind of God, to remind me that morning, as I weaved my way through, the importance of learning!
It’s what a disciple is, and so we are called to teach.
But someone might say, “Well, hang on, this command go and make disciples, baptise, teach, this commission was given to the original disciples, the apostles, not us.
Why does this apply to Christians today?
How do we know that Jesus intended us to make disciples?
Well, the answer is right here, isn’t it? Jesus says to these original disciples, teach people to obey everything I have commanded you,
And what’s Jesus just commanded them to do?
To make disciples.
That’s one of Jesus’ commands,
And so that’s one of the commands that needs to be taught to the next generation of disciples, make disciples,
There is no escaping it!
Of course, simply doing one of these “ing” words, baptising people for example, doesn’t make someone a disciple, nor does it mean that we’re in the business of disciple making.
My wedding ring, is a sign, a characteristic, of my marriage to Katherine.
It isn’t what makes me married to Kathy.
Which is very fortunate for me, because I lost my wedding ring, and this one is a replacement!
What matters is my relationship. I am married to Kathy, that’s why I wear the ring.
If you are a disciple of Jesus, he says here, you ought to be baptised. It is a mark of discipleship, plain and simple.
It’s why most Christians throughout history, and why we at Trinity will baptise the children of Christian people. We treat our children as disciples of Jesus;, young disciples, but disciples nonetheless. And we definitely follow through on the next marker of disciple-making, we teach our children what Jesus has said.
But baptism is the best example here, of how it’s possible to get things round the wrong way, and to assume that these things are the means, how someone becomes a disciple.
So if we’re doing these things, well then, we must be on track.
Sadly I know some churches, that you’d have to say look like they’re in the business of baptising, but not in business of disciple-making. They’ll pour water on anything that moves! But there’s no evidence of people being introduced to Jesus, and hearing and obeying his teaching.
And there are churches that seem to be all about the business of teaching, they’ll teach you anything and everything!
But the downloading of information is not disciple-making. That’s a risk for us at Trinity, we who value teaching, and long to be taught the Scriptures.
These things are the characteristics of disciple-making ministry, but simply going through the motions of one or more of these activities, doesn’t mean we’re making disciples.
Remember, introducing people to Jesus, and calling on them to follow him.
And that kind of ministry, will have these features.
… Because Jesus is with his disciples by his Spirit
Really quickly, there’s one more answer to our question.
Why on earth would we make disciples?
Because Jesus is with us by his Spirit.
Verse 20, And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
Friends, here is the encouragement, for the task set before us.
The bit we skipped over in verse 17, When they saw him, they worshiped him;, but some doubted
The word Matthew uses to describe the doubt of some of these disciples, is an unusual word. It occurs only one other time in the New Testament, and that’s earlier in Matthew’s gospel, where he describes Peter stepping out of a boat to walk on water with Jesus. But then Peter sees the storm, he doubts, and begins to sink.
That word for doubt, it’s not a word that means disbelieve.
It’s not that these disciples refused to consider that Jesus really was raised from the dead, but it’s a picture of hesitation, or uncertainty.
It’s Peter stepping out of the boat, absolutely confident that because Jesus is there, he can walk to him on the water, but then he sees the waves, and what he sees, crowds in on what he believes.
Disciples sometimes waver.
They struggle, to live out what they believe, when they see the circumstances of life.
When the struggles of life,
And the hurdles in my Christian walk seem very real, and very close
And Jesus seems very far away.
Here is the word that we need to hear, to encourage us in the task that Jesus has set before us.
It’s not even “I will be with you” is it, but I am with you.
Sometimes we have questions,
Sometimes we have doubts;,
Can I really make disciples?,
Am I really, a disciple?,
How could God possibly use me, since he knows exactly what I’m like?
Is Jesus really Lord of all, of all the world? Of all of me?
Trusting in Jesus doesn’t mean never wondering, never doubting, and so here is the great promise of equipping for our task;, Jesus’ own presence. I am with you always
Why on earth would we make disciples?
Because Jesus is with is. As the story goes on, we see that Jesus had to return to his Father in heaven, in order for the Holy Spirit to be given. And now Jesus is always with his disciples.
And so this Great Commission, really turns out to be a great co-mission. It is a joint work. We are commanded to make disciples, that is the privilege of being a disciple, and we are assured of Jesus’ presence with us, as we go about this task.
Many of you were here in the weeks before Christmas when we looked at the very beginning of Matthew’s gospel.
In that first chapter, we were pointed back to the promise God made to Jesus’ great-great-great-great grandfather Abraham, two thousand years earlier, a promise to bless all nations on earth.
And then we saw at the birth of Jesus, the arrival of Immanuel, God with us.
Well, as he gets to the last page, Matthew points us back to where he started, doesn’t he?
Here we see exactly how all nations are blessed through Jesus, by being made disciples,
Here we see what “God with us” really looks like;, God with us, today, in Littlehampton. The promise of Jesus’ presence with us, always, to the very end of the age.
Do you see what Matthew has done?
This command to Jesus’ followers, this great commission, “make disciples”, it’s nothing less than God’s plans and purposes for all of creation,
This is the very purpose to which God has been working since before he laid the foundations of the world.
Why on earth would we make disciples?
Friends, why on earth would we not?!
Why on earth would we not throw ourselves, into the very centre of God’s eternal purposes?