The Surpassing (Not Bypassing) Authority of Jesus
God is on a mission to redeem the world. We know this is true because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As believers, on one hand, we relate to this mission because we are those God has brought near to himself. But on the other hand, we relate to this mission because Jesus has commissioned us to participate by spreading the gospel.
When Jesus gives us the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18–20, he lays out what sounds a bit like a non-sequitur. First he claims that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him (v. 18), and then uses that as the foundation for why we, his followers, are supposed to go and make disciples:
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. And behold, I am with you always until the end of the age. (vv. 19–20)
Wait a minute. If Jesus said that he had been given all the authority, why would he tell us to go make disciples of all nations?
Have you ever stopped to ponder why he asserts his all-encompassing authority as the ground for commissioning his disciples? As the logic flows, Jesus has all the authority, so it seems he could easily assert that authority to gather his followers to himself, as opposed to delegating the task. Can’t he just speak the words like he did when he calmed the sea (Mark 4:39–41)? Why the middlemen? More importantly, why such underqualified middlemen? Why simple fishermen (Matthew 4:18–22); a zealot, the equivalent to a modern-day terrorist (Matthew 10:4); a tax-collector, a sell-out to his own nation (Matthew 10:3); a wavering, cowardly man who denies Jesus despite the boisterous declaration that he wouldn’t (John 18:25)? And why us? When Jesus proclaims in John 20:21, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you,” does he really know what he’s getting into, handing off his ministry to people like this?
Those Jars of Clay
2 Corinthians 4:7 tells us that he does. This verse tells us that God does not simply use us in spite of our weaknesses, but because of our weaknesses:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
It is his intention that we be used in our frailty, because there God’s strength is most starkly displayed (see also 2 Corinthians 12:9–10). God uses broken vessels to manifest his power, making very obvious that all glory is due him. His power surpasses our fumbling and failures to make it abundantly clear that whatever is accomplished through us to magnify Jesus is not a result of our doing. God chooses to use us not because we are great, but because he is gracious.
Redeemed and Reminded
God is sovereign. He does not need us. He could display his power much more neatly and efficiently without us, but that has never been the point. Why does God choose this peculiar path, employing dirty, broken pottery to host and reflect his glory?
The fact that he does speaks to his relational nature — that he is eternally, wonderfully the great Three-in-One. He doesn’t intend to reveal himself to us, or through us, without communing with us in the process. His power is surpassing, not bypassing.
God invites us to delight in what he delights in — what is most delightful: himself. When he enlists us to invite others to delight in him, we gain a greater capacity to delight in him. We marvel at how he works in the hearts of those whom we serve, prompting us to gratitude and awe. When we pray for people to encounter God’s glory, we are not only reminded of his beauty that compels our worship, but we also see him as worthy of worship. We see him as one who continues to draw worshipers — yet more jars of clay — who will join the mission of making him known.
God is on a mission to redeem the world, and he redeemed us to be a part of it.
More on the Great Commission:
How Much Is Left to Do in the Great Commission? (article by John Piper)
The Global God Who Gives the Great Commission (message by Louie Giglio)
Finish the Mission: Bringing the Gospel to the Unreached and Unengaged (book edited by John Piper and David Mathis)