One of the greatest things Jesus ever said was, “It is finished” (John 19:30). My obedience is finished and perfect, and you need it. My suffering is finished, and you need it to cover all your sins. I have finished removing the wrath of God from my people. I have finished striking Satan with a death blow. I have established the new covenant for my people. It is finished. And because it is finished, the mission begins.
The decisive thing has been done. News is now spreading throughout the whole world. The mission begins. What is so overwhelmingly amazing about the mission is that it happens through you and me. We could wish that Jesus hadn’t left, because he was so powerful, so impressive. And yet he says, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21). He says, “Whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me” (John 13:20). These were stunning words for the emissaries of the news. The mission begins where redemption ends, at the cross. And our great task is to spread this news with all of our might to every nation on the planet.
Let’s look together at the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18–20. Jesus says,
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, to the end of the age.”
What is the nature of that commission? What is the scope of it? What is the authority behind it? And what is the encouragement behind it?
The Nature of the Mission
First, the nature. “Go . . . baptize and teach them to observe.” Baptism is the outward expression that I belong to Jesus. I have full and complete allegiance to Jesus. I am dead to me, and alive to him. I am walking in newness of life, marked by trust in his promises. I have moved from darkness to light. Baptism is that line drawn for others to see what has happened in us. We are moving in the world to draw people into that kind of relationship and that kind of symbol — to baptize.
Then, after you have baptized them, teach them to do everything. Draw this people not just to have an allegiance to Jesus, but to be like Jesus in the way they live. Bringing them to the point of baptism is to bring them to justification by faith. Bringing them to the obedience of everything said is to bring them to sanctification. So the Great Commission is: Let’s go preach the gospel in such a way, with such a fullness, that people are made right with God through faith in Christ and utterly transformed so that everywhere churches rise up, everything gets changed. That is the nature of this mission.
The Scope of the Mission
What about the scope of our mission? He tells us to do that for all the nations. That does not mean nations like Germany, England, Brazil, Japan, and Indonesia. It means nations like Moabites, Jebusites, Edomites, Cherokee, etc. There are 13,000 different peoples, ethne is the Greek word, meaning ethnic groupings. He means for us to go and get them all. Find them all. Preach to them all. Build the church into all of them. I want my kingdom to have that much diversity.
The scope of the mission is all the peoples. Today, the Joshua Project says we have got about 6,000 people groups, give or take, that are still unreached. They don’t have a self-sustaining church in their midst. Some are totally unengaged. Let’s be part of changing that in our day. Let’s reach all the people groups of the world with this news.
The Authority of the Mission
What about the authority? “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” Jesus says. So go. My wife and I are reading a book out loud together about the mission to the Nosu people in southern China among conservative Baptists during the early part of the 20th century. I think they are called the Li people today. The book was describing the monotheistic, syncretistic, animistic mix of this people a hundred years ago. I thought to myself: A missionary is going to walk in there and say, “I have listened to your understanding of God. Two of the things you said about him are right, five of them are wrong, and you need to change what you believe about God.” We live in a world where that is called imperialism, and labeled absolutely audacious.
So, how can we do that? How can you, a mere human being, walk out of your culture into another culture and tell them five of their views about the Almighty are wrong? You are to do it because Jesus says all authority is his, and he has put it right here in this Book.
That means only Bible-believers do missions. Nobody else has the gall to walk into another culture and start pointing out that their views of God have got to change — only people who believe God has spoken, and that he wants them saved, and that they can’t get saved with a wrong view of God. The authority piece here is massive, and we have it from Jesus.
The Friend in the Mission
What did Jesus say to encourage you to be about this mission, this work? He says, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
John Paton’s autobiography, one of my favorite biographies, tells the story. He was a missionary to the New Hebrides in the 1800’s and he tells the story about having served on the island of Tanna for four years. He had risked his life over and over again, and had very little fruit. Now 1,500 native people are after him with spears and machetes, and they want to kill him. As he and a friend are running away, his friend says, “You climb that tree and I will divert them, and then you go get on the boat and maybe God will spare you.” And God did spare him.
For the next forty years, thousands of people came to Christ from those islands. Do you know what he wrote in his autobiography about those moments up in the tree with his killers running underneath him? He said, “I would go back to that tree any day if I could enjoy the same sweet, precious fulfillment of Jesus’s promise, ‘I will be with you to the end of the age.’” That is what that promise means. Missionaries risk their lives. Many people risk their lives in this mission. You will never be left without Jesus.
And then Paton asks in his autobiography, “Do you have a friend like that?”
I read that and I said, “What a friend we have in Jesus.”
Do you have a friend like that who will be with you in the tree when everything in life, absolutely everything in life, is failing? Do you have a friend that will be there like that with all authority in heaven and on earth?
Let’s go do this. Let’s trust his accompaniment. Let’s bank on his authority. And let’s go make disciples of all the nations, and teach them everything Jesus demanded from the world.