Last week, we took a closer look at the crucifixion of Christ. Now, we will incorporate his life and death in our mission field by looking at the example he set of making disciples.
At the start of our Scripture passage (Matthew 28:1-10), Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. While Scripture is not perfectly clear as to whether the women are at the tomb when the earthquake takes place or if they arrive afterward, they do see an angel of the Lord is present and has rolled back the stone to reveal an empty tomb to the women. He then speaks to them, and delivers the message that Christ is risen, just as he said he would.
Mary Magdalene and Mary run off to tell the disciples, and suddenly Jesus is accompanying them on the road. He tells them “do not be afraid,” and sends them to bring the disciples to Galilee.
It is interesting to note that in Matthew’s account of the resurrection, the women play a more important role than the disciples. They are the first to hear about his new life, and Jesus reveals himself to them before the disciples. This is evidence to us that everyone plays an important role in making disciples for Christ.
The next verses we are looking at are very well known. In Matthew 28:16-20, Jesus meets the disciples on a mountain in Galilee where he gives them what is now known as the Great Commission: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
From small children to adults, Matthew 28:18-20 often is used to emphasize the importance of participating in and financially supporting mission work. There are several special offerings throughout the year to give specifically to missions, and that’s not including the youth group fundraisers. While mission trips are important, effective ways of spreading Christ’s message, it is just as important to make sure we do not lose the meaning of making disciples.
Throughout the Gospel, Jesus gives us perfect examples of what it means to make disciples. After all, isn’t that how they came to be known as the 12 disciples? In Matthew 4:18-22, Jesus is walking along and calls Peter and Andrew, then James and John to become fishers of men. Luke 6:12-16 names all 12 disciples: Simon called Peter, Andrew, James, John, Phillip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot. The Gospels are the stories of Jesus walking through life with his disciples and the lessons he taught them, which are shared with us.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, a disciple is defined as one who embraces and assists in spreading the teachings of another. If we apply this definition to the Great Commission and expound on it a bit, we are called to “go and make disciples, followers who embrace and assist in the spreading of Christ’s message, of all nations, baptizing, to purify their lives by gift of his death, them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching, to impart knowledge, them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
To make disciples for Christ does not automatically equate to overseas missions. For some people it may, but for others, it means taking a high school student to go get a soft drink and talking about what’s going on in their lives. It could be mowing a neighbor’s lawn, babysitting for a single parent to give them a night off, or serving at a homeless shelter and taking the time to hear their stories and how they ended up where they are. Every person has a story to share; they’re usually just waiting for someone to care enough to ask about it.
As we begin to wrap up our study of Matthew, take some time to focus Jesus’ resurrection, the Great Commission and how they apply to our individual lives. Remember that Christ called all of his followers to spread his message and you can make a difference by listening to someone else’s story.
Questions for discussion
• Is it a challenge for you to apply the Great Commandment to your own life? Do you see it as more of a mission commandment?
• Who took the time to make you their disciple? Who impacted your spiritual growth the most?
• What does “make disciples” mean to you and what do you need to do to be more faithful in carrying out Jesus’ command?