In my role as a team leader at the Kentucky Baptist Convention, I am privileged to travel around Kentucky and speak to several pastors and churches at various gatherings. One of the sermons that seems almost always applicable is based on Matthew 28:16-20. Although Jesus had been teaching and modeling “The Great Commission” principles for the last 3½ years with the disciples, since they were so important, He gave them a final, post-resurrection reminder!
Here’s my sermon in a nutshell:
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV)
3 post-resurrection reminders for the disciples
1. He reminded them about His POWER.
Jesus had already taught and demonstrated His power to the disciples. They were there when He gave sight to the blind. They watched the infected skin of the lepers become perfect and unblemished. They heard Him yell, “Lazarus, come forth!” They’re looking at Him, now alive, after coming back from the dead, yet He STILL reminded them about His power.
He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (vs. 19). “His authority or power in his earthly life had been great. Now it is boundless and includes earth and heaven” (A.T. Robertson).
WHY? Why did Jesus feel the need to remind them one more time? Jesus knew there would be times in the future when the disciples would need every possible reminder of His power!
2. He reminded them about His PRIORITY.
In this reminder, we find the keys to unlock church growth and revitalization. Forgetting to focus on God’s priority ensures that a church will not flourish in the eyes of God.
He told them, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (vv. 19-20). In other words, Jesus reminded them that His priority was for them to focus on evangelism and discipleship! When churches place priorities above evangelism and discipleship, they are destined for decline.
3. He reminded them about His PRESENCE.
He said, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (vs. 20). They had spent the last 3½ years with Jesus. With His presence, they had gone through storms, faced persecution, walked on water, but now, He was going away. Jesus knew that they needed to be reminded about His continuing presence through the Holy Spirit.
It seems to me that Matthew 28:20 links back to Matthew 1:23 where the angel announced, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and they shall call his name Immanuel, which means, God with us.” What a glorious way to begin this gospel account and what a glorious reminder as we close this gospel account — God is with us!
Churches should continually focus on evangelism and discipleship with the knowledge that God is all-powerful in helping the church fulfill His priority while assuring His presence during the process! To Him be the praise!
Steve Rice is team leader of church consulting and revitalization of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.