This past Sunday we continued in our series called RESET by looking at some of Jesus’ final words in Matthew 28:16-20. We saw how God has given his disciples the mission to go and make disciples. We are the method God wants to use. The authority and presence of Jesus is the means. Going to all people regardless of who they are, sharing the gospel, calling for people to respond to the gospel, being patient with them as they are in process-that’s the mandate of the mission.
At the end of the sermon I made a side point that we can’t allow our busyness to get in the way of Christ’ command. In making that point I talked about how we have power over our choices. We don’t have to let life happen to us. We can happen to life. It was a quick point and not one that I had planned on sharing and had worked out in my notes. I think what I said was true, however, it was not properly nuanced and didn’t take into consideration all the complexities of life. In retrospect, I don’t think it was helpful to open that door without going fully into it. It wouldn’t have been appropriate to spend a long time unpacking the concept of “being active” in life, since that wasn’t the point of the text. So since I wasn’t able to deal with it fully, I shouldn’t have tried to deal with it at all. If that raised questions for you, I’d be happy to interact with you more and walk through scriptures that explain that concept more fully.
To build our anticipation for this text, I started by reading a quote from Kevin Deyoung:
The Biblical authors and the early church understood Jesus’ final words to be among the most important sentences he ever uttered, and the most significant instructions he gave for shaping their missional identity.- Kevin Deyoung
Someone texted in a question and asked,
Why do we consider Jesus' last words as the "most important thing he ever said"? Jesus knew about his death, he knew which words would be included in scripture, so why do we put more weight on these words than any of his other words?
First, I think the point of the quote was misunderstood. I do think that it is not right to put more weight on these final words of Jesus, as weight seems to indicate authority. All of Jesus’ words are equally authoritative. So calling these the most important is not meant to diminish the importance of his other words, or their authority in our lives. In many ways all of Jesus’ commands (love your neighbor, serve one another, forgive) and Jesus’ revelation about himself (savior, God, ruler, Lord) culminate in Jesus saying, “Go”. Because of who he is, we go. Because of what he has done for us, we go. Because of what he has commanded, we know what to do as we go. These final words of Christ really are what comprehensively bring all his teaching together and give us our missional identity in the world.
Here are 3 reasons from the Bible (there are a bunch more, but I’ll limit myself to 3. If you are interested I recommend Kevin DeYoung’s book What is the Mission of the Church).
A form of these words are included in each of the gospel accounts. Each gospel writer had a different audience and different purpose for writing their gospel and so they included different things in it. So for example, only Matthew and Luke record the birth of Jesus, but Mark and John didn’t feel like that was necessary. However, it must have been very clear to these disciples that regardless of what they were trying to emphasize about Jesus, his final instructions were so significant that they couldn’t be left out. This section is one of only a few that are included in all gospel accounts and that therefore indicates their significance
Jesus taught his disciples from day 1, but as he said again and again, his teaching was regularly hidden. However, now that he had risen from the grave and definitively revealed who He is, he gives this clear command to the church and instructs that it continue to be carried out until the end of the age.
Throughout the Bible there is a pattern of significance being given to the final words of biblical characters. For example, consider Jacob, Moses, Joshua, David, Elijah, Paul’s departure from the Ephesians in Acts 20 and to Timothy in 2 Timothy, Peter in 2 Peter. So it fits into the overall literary context of the BIble that the final words of Jesus are very significant.
Grace and peace,