Photo credit: Alvaro Canivell (Creative Commons)
What does Jesus think about missions?
The Great Commission was given by Jesus to the eleven disciples after his resurrection. Here's the Matthew version:
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:18-20)
The Mark version:
And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe…: (Mark 16:15-18)
I've heard some people say that the Great Commission was only given to the eleven disciples. It doesn't include us. Our lifestyle together should be enough to attract others. The verses that people use for this argument are ones such as John 17: 23
I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.
There is something incredibly attractive about a group of Christians relating well together. But if we believe that is all that is necessary, it gives us a great cop out. We are no longer commissioned to reach out to those who don't yet know him.
It is dangerous to selectively omit verses that were given only to the disciples. If we applied that principle consistently, we would lose many of the teachings of Jesus recorded in the Gospels.
Personally I I believe we need to be witnesses too. Here is some of my reasoning:
- Earlier in the passage in John 17, Jesus says this: Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world… I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.
It is clear that Jesus is sending not just the eleven disciples into the world but also those who believe in him through their presentation of the Good News.
2. In Peter's exposition of the Gospel, he says this: Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, and to your children, and even to the Gentiles—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” (Acts 2:38-39)
According to Jesus, one of the reasons the Holy Spirit is given: But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere— in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
I believe that all of us are called to be ambassadors, those who represent the Kingdom of God to the rest of the world. Obviously, how we do it, and what motivates us is important too.
What do you think?