Matthew 28:16-20 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.”
The words of Jesus, in verses 19-20 are often referred to as the Great Commission. The very first word in Jesus’ command is “Go”! He laid the groundwork in verse 18 when he said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
The fact that Jesus has received all authority released the power to fulfill the Missionary Mandate! When did Jesus receive this “all authority”? Hebrews 9:24 tells us, “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.”
Some 600 years before the birth of Christ, Daniel had a vision. That vision is found in Daniel 7:13-14, “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”
When I put these two passages together I can see when all authority was promised as well as when the promise was fulfilled. Hebrews looks back to what happened when Jesus entered heaven with his own blood to offer it on our behalf. Daniel looked forward to that same event. Please, look with me to the passage in Daniel and see the Missionary Mandate promised.
Daniel saw a kingdom being handed to the Son of Man. That was Jesus favorite title for himself! Matthew recorded 30 references to Son of Man. The other three Gospels, combined, produce 52 more references. Jesus received all authority when he entered into the heavenly tabernacle with his own blood. Daniel had foreseen that event and affirmed that all peoples, nations, and languages would be reached by this Son of Man.
In Revelation 5:9 we find this praise song, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,”
As the vision given to John expanded he saw a great multitude! It is found in Revelation 7:9-10, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
I began last week’s sermon with reference to the words of Jesus found in Acts 1:6-11. Part of what he said was, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” Two angels observed these men from Galilee and questioned them, “why do you stand looking into heaven?” Jesus’ instructions recorded in Matthew and Acts spoke of outreach around the world. The angels without a doubt knew the story of Daniel. Now they were observing Jesus’ disciples receiving the final set of instructions from him. These angels, naturally trained to obey, appeared not to understand why these men did not start the process of going to all the world.
The Old Testament is filled with references to reaching nations for God. The life ministry of Jesus repeatedly reaches out beyond the lost sheep of Israel to the Gentiles. Jesus treated the Romans and other non-Jews as a part of his job. Jesus knew that it was necessary for all peoples to be reached.
Last week we concluded with the story of the Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar. This story is found in the fourth chapter of John’s gospel. Jesus had sent his disciples away so he could have a private conversation with this woman. When he asked her for a drink of water she was amazed that a Jew would ask her, a Samaritan and a woman, for a drink. Jesus had to cross two cultural barriers in order to have this conversation. One was to ask a drink from a Samaritan, the second was to ask a drink of a woman not related to him. Both those choices were taboo in their world. After a time of discussion she came to believe that Jesus was truly the Messiah. Having come to that conclusion she left her water jar and hurried into town to tell her friends about this man she had met. Her word of testimony to her fellow townsmen was, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did.” And then she asked the question that should be asked of everyone on earth, “Can this be the Christ?”
John continues the narrative with Jesus teaching the disciples that the harvest is ripe and ready to be gathered. I am not sure that they understood that his reference included the Samaritans. After all, the Jews did not associate with Samaritans. Jesus then settled down to spend some time in Samaria to the concern of his disciples. They were often trying to move Jesus away from Gentiles and even from Jewish children.
Jesus spent two days with these people he was supposed to despise. Many people in that town believed in him. Their testimony was, “we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
I know that Jesus is never taken by surprise. After all, this Jewish rabbi was the Son of God! He would’ve known what was about to happen. He must’ve looked at the crowd approaching him led by this notorious woman. Jesus would have been aware that the promise made to Abraham was being fulfilled even at that time. That promise found in Genesis 12 included, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” These words are the gospel to Abraham! Jesus saw the Samaritans approaching and might have thought, “Add to the record, one more family being blessed.”
Jesus concluded the instruction to his disciples by saying to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” John 4:32. Which raises the question, what is the will and work of the Father who sent Jesus to earth?
We can come up with some obvious answers but we’re better off to let the Word of God — the Bible tell us.
At about the same time in the gospel story we have Luke’s answer to the question. Found in Luke 19:10. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Jesus was very efficient in seeking the lost. He began with the lost sheep of the house of Israel. That was his primary goal. Those who stood in his way were the organized leaders, the scribes and Pharisees. Those hypocrites lined themselves up with the Sadducees to keep Jesus from doing his stated mission on earth.
Remember? When the Samaritans came to believe in Jesus they recognized him as, “the Savior of the world.” John 4:42b. Even the Samaritans recognized that Jesus had come for the whole world. Jesus had come to fulfill the promise made to Abraham recorded in Genesis 12:3, “in you (Abraham) all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
In the last few days of his ministry Jesus entered Jerusalem accompanied by great crowds of people. This is usually referred to as the Triumphal Entry. Mark, who probably recorded the memories of Peter, gives us a shortened account of part of that entry into the city. Mark 11:15-18, “And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 16 And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17 And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” 18 And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching.”
I believe this account is a record of the second cleansing of the temple. Jesus’ objection to what they were doing was more an objection to where they were doing it. An area of the temple had been turned into a place to buy and sell animals for sacrifice and to exchange money into acceptable currency for the temple. The act of buying and selling could have gone on somewhere else but there was this convenient place right at the temple! That place was called the Court of the Gentiles. There was a reason for that name. It was intended that the Gentiles — all non-Jews — have a place where they might be taught Scripture and be taught to worship God. The chief priests and scribes had no intention of providing a place to teach Gentiles. Those people were not going to be welcomed under any circumstances.
When Jesus said, “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations” he was quoting from Isaiah 56:7. So this is not a new concept for the Jews. It was unwelcome but they could not deny the source of Jesus’ words. He added to Isaiah a quote from Jeremiah 7:11, “Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes?”.
I think we have established the fact that Jesus intended to complete the mission begun when Abraham believed God and obeyed him. So, that brings us back to the Book of Acts.
In Luke’s research he came to the report of the words spoken by Jesus on the mount of Ascension. “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8b. Old Testament? New Testament? The entire Bible tells us that God intended to bring all nations to his throne.
So what did the apostles of Jesus do to fulfill the command? Granted, I have been leaving out a very important part of Jesus’ command. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8.
Forty days passed from the time of Jesus crucifixion to the time of his ascension into heaven. We have a very skimpy record of what happened during that time. We know from the words of Hebrews that he ascended into heaven to take the blood of his sacrifice into the temple there. We know from the gospel records that on the third day he appeared to some women and to two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus, then to the others in the upper room where they were hiding from the Romans. As well as a special visit eight days later to show himself to Thomas who missed the first visit.
John recalls a time when Jesus met with some of them on the shores of Sea of Tiberius (Lake of Galilee) early in the morning for a simple breakfast. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, “ For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”
There were many appearances of Jesus. I would say it is very likely that they are not all recorded. Perhaps that will be a topic of conversation in heaven! With all these appearances there must be a discussion of the Missionary Mandate to go to all the world with the gospel. Obviously, they could not set out to fill the Missionary Mandate because it was essential that they be in Jerusalem for Pentecost. Jesus had included in their instructions, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” Then, and only then, could they be his witnesses beginning in Jerusalem and going to all the world!
Having met with Jesus they immediately returned to Jerusalem and settled into an upper room. This was probably in the house of Mary, John Mark’s mother. This was a place where people gathered to pray.
We need to remember that Jesus had given them clear instructions, “Go,… Be my witnesses”.
What did they do? According to Acts 3:1, they settled into a routine of going to the Temple at the hour of prayer. There God confronted them with a man who had been crippled all his life. Peter immediately spoke those often quoted words, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise and walk!” (Acts 3:6). That certainly seemed to be the right thing to do. However, it turned out to be not be the best choice. When the crowd saw that the man had been healed Peter began to explain what happened. And as he was explaining the Temple police showed up and arrested them. This was an opportunity to present the gospel in open court! Or, it was an opportunity to look around and see that there were about 5000 believers in the Jerusalem church. Step one in the Missionary Mandate was well on the way and they might as well move out of Jerusalem into Judea and Samaria and from there to all the world!
As we will see next week that’s not quite what happened.
Let’s finish up today with another walk down the Roman road.
All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory — Romans 3:23
The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord — Romans 6:23.
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. — Romans 5:8.
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved. – Romans 10:9.
We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. — 2 Corinthians 5:20.
Sin always has evil consequences. Just as Adam and Eve were promised a wonderful world of knowledge by disobeying God. Satan promises good things for us. The Bible says there is pleasure in sin for a season.
But seasons always come to an end.
Have you trusted Jesus for your salvation? Today could be your day.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.