25 May 2016Matthew 28:16-20
“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” (vv. 18-19)
Psalm: Psalm 93
This passage in Matthew's Gospel is often referred to as the Great Commission. This was often the passage that was used when missionaries were sent abroad - it is still used in that way although with far less frequency.
The major focus of the passage is on Jesus' words, "all authority has been given to me". God authorised Jesus, therefore Jesus spoke with God's authority, and as Jesus is 'authorised' so he 'authorises others'. God's mission is revealed through Jesus so that it may be continued down the ages and across the world.
This is not 'authority' in the sense of 'power' - the sort of authority that Jesus was tempted with in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11), this is authority to act on behalf of God in the spirit of Jesus Christ.
The disciples are sent to teach what Jesus had taught them and what they had learnt from how he conducted his mission in love and compassion. They are to teach about God's will and how to live in accordance with it. They are sent to develop the righteousness in others which characterises the kingdom of heaven.
In short this passage sets out the Church's agenda.
- This passage has been associated with the sending of Christian missionaries to other countries - how do you see it as applying to you in your current setting?
- Jesus' contemporaries spoke of him as one having natural 'authority' but he was not authoritarian in how he dealt with either his disciples or those who came to him for help. Howmight we develop in a way which people acknowledge as authentic and 'with authority', without falling into the trap of using authority as power over people?