Matthew 28. Go and Make Disciples of All Nations
Rev. John Steitz
June 14, 2020
The gospel lesson today is known as the Great Commission. The Risen Christ commissions the remaining eleven disciples (minus Judas) – and by extension every Christian who has followed Christ since – to “Go and make disciples of all nations.”
Let me unpack this statement working from end to beginning. All nations. Make disciples. Go!
All nations. The Risen Christ commissions the group to bring the Jesus movement to people of all nations, meaning people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. Right from the very foundation of the Jesus Mission the Church is to be multiracial and multicultural.
The Church was never to focus only on the specific ethnic group it emerges from. The Church is commissioned by the Risen Christ to be Antiracist.
This commitment to radical inclusion of all of God’s people is an essential aspect of the DNA of the Church from the foundation of the Church. Ending racial division is woven into the genetic code of what it means to be the Church and to be Christ’s disciple.
The Call of the Risen Christ in the Great Commission to go to ALL NATIONS is a Call to live into our Baptismal Vows to resist oppression and evil. In the United States the Risen Christ’s Call to us means that we will actively resist the oppression and evil of racism.
The Risen Christ is calling us to be the Church, calling us to end the racism that destroys and constrains the lives of Black and brown people, and warps the lives of white people. At this critical moment: Let us be the Church!
Disciples make disciples. In the past few weeks I have given emphasis to being disciples who live into and embody our Baptismal commitments as disciples of Jesus Christ. In order to make disciples we need to be disciples.
Now some people will say, making disciples is for leaders and I’m not a leader. Or making disciples is a special call for some, and I’m not one of those given this special call.
It is true that we need leaders and that a local church needs to have a continuous leadership development process. But what is a leader?
We tend to see leaders as those who are out in front publicly, but Christian leadership involves many nitty gritty tasks. Who in your home makes sure there is food on the table to eat? Who coordinates purchasing and preparing this food? These are leadership functions.
As a whole Church we are to make disciples of All Nations, but our disciple making might be focused especially on just one or two people. For example, our children and grandchildren.
How we live our lives models how to be Christ’s disciple to our children. They will learn the Way of Jesus as they observe and copy our actions. And in doing so we take leadership in making disciples of those who are closest to us.
Taking leadership in making disciples is much more closely like making dinner for our families than it is being the next Billy Graham. The coronavirus pandemic has radically altered how we can gather as a local church.
As we seek to follow Call of the Risen Christ to make disciples it is good to remember that the first Christian communities did not gather in church buildings. They gathered in the homes of people, and gathered around Christ’s Table.
Let us bring Christ’s Table into our homes. Let us form house churches that can sustain us through the pandemic. Let us be the leaders in our families who face the challenges of making disciples this moment.
Being a disciple of the Risen Christ is not a spectator sport. We are called to active engagement in being disciples and making disciples.
There is a concept in liberation theology and in popular education called “banking education.” In banking education, the teacher or religious leader (priest, pastor) has knowledge that they pour out into the minds of the students. The students are to passively receive this knowledge, and bank it so that they can remember and recite it.
The Risen Christ at the Great Commission tells the disciples “to teach them everything I have commanded you.” The commands that Jesus has spent the entire Gospel teaching the disciples to follow are all about Active Love. There is nothing passive in the Way of Jesus.
Love God with your entire being. Love your neighbors as yourselves. Even love your enemies. You cannot learn Active Love through banking education.
You might learn about Active Love in a passive way:
“Oh, so the first Christians gathered around Christ’s Table in homes to love one another, make disciples, and ensure that everyone was feed. And the Risen Christ is calling us to end racism as we embrace the radical inclusion of all of God’s people.
Now that is really interesting.”
The Call of the Risen Christ is to Go! To engage in Active Love – to actually do it. To embody the Way of Jesus in our lives – to actually live it. To encourage ourselves and others in joining the Mission of God – to actually be the Church.