Jesus’ disciples were huddled behind locked doors: What would they do now? Where would they go? Would the Jews come for them next? The women had gone to the tomb to prepare the body. Everyone believed that this 3-year chapter of their lives was over. They answered the call to “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19). They saw many signs at the hands of their Rabbi, Jesus (John 20:30). But they didn’t know they were awaiting their own commissioning.
Commission? What does that even mean?
The verb commission is to give an order or authorize a work. It also means to bring something produced into working condition. The commissioning of the disciples is not the first time we see this word in the scriptures.
On the sixth day, Adam was commissioned by God to fill the earth, subdue it and rule over it (Gen 1:28). This commission was to be fulfilled as Adam walked with God in the garden, under His rule and reign, as an act of worship. At the close of Deuteronomy, Moses has completed his mission and he commissions the Israelites, fresh out of deliverance from Egypt, to take hold of the land promised to them. In a similar fashion, the end of the four gospels tell us how Jesus, having completed his mission on earth, commissions his disciples to take hold of a new mission:
“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.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
In these three instances, God has completed a work and commissioned his people to advance the work, under his headship, and with the promise of his presence.
But first, preparation
Jesus had already called them to follow, he taught them the gospel through parables and miracles, and he modeled the gospel through serving them and others. Before he uttered the words of Matthew 28, he spent the 40 days after his resurrection continuing to prepare them for the work he would commission them for. The disciples (the larger group, including women) were able to experience the risen Jesus many times throughout these 40 days. In John 21:15, Jesus restores Peter after Peter had denied Jesus three times. Jesus also appears to the disciples and invites them to believe in a tangible way saying, “Touch me and see”(Luke 24:39). In Luke 24, Jesus meets several disciples on the road to Emmaus. He “opened their minds”, and began with Moses and the Prophets, interpreting “to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). Jesus knew his disciples. He knew their hearts and what they needed to be prepared for the work he was about to give them. He patiently walked with them, showed them and taught them the essence of the gospel.
What were the disciples actually commissioned to do?
Jesus’ commission is very simple and specific. The work that Jesus completed here on earth through his life, death and resurrection was to be brought forth and carried out to the whole world by the original disciples. We are to GO, under God’s authority, and make disciples of ALL nations. The sign of making a disciple is baptism under one triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). We are also to teach them (disciple them) to obey the Lord. When he delivered this commission to the original disciples, he also told them to wait in Jerusalem until they are “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). This last part is key to the commission.
The promise of God with us.
The disciples waited in Jerusalem, likely sharing all that had happened, gathering and praying with other disciples who had witnessed the resurrected Jesus. Finally on the day of Pentecost, as they gathered all together, they received the promised Holy Spirit and were filled with power (Acts 2). They spoke in other tongues, and people began to hear what the disciples were saying in their own languages! What a life-changing experience it must have been to be at the southern steps of the temple, witnessing the supernatural power that descended and filled the believers! And if that wasn’t enough, Peter got up and delivered a knock-out sermon culminating in the salvation and baptism of nearly 3000 souls (Acts 2:41)! From Jerusalem, the gospel would go out to all of Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. The faithfulness of the disciples to take hold of the Great Commission is the reason that we worship today.
So what does this mean for us?
Like the original disciples, if we are in Christ, we have been called, taught, shown the way, and commissioned to advance the gospel. Like the original disciples, we have been radically changed by the person and work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. We have been reconciled to God, seen his miracles, and we have a story to tell and a work to do. In the words of Peter and John in Acts 4:20 “for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”
This commissioning may not look like full-time vocational ministry as it did for many of the original disciples. It could very well mean simply discipling first the people in your current sphere of influence. Maybe this is your children, your siblings, your parents, friends or colleagues. As a marriage and family therapist, the Holy Spirit in me gives me power to share my story and invite people to consider the gospel in their own lives. In fact, I share Jesus more in this current role than I ever did in vocational ministry! This world needs hope and the gospel of Jesus Christ for salvation and peace!
So if you’re reading this, you are likely a follower of Christ. Have you taken Jesus’ commission seriously for your own life? Is he calling you to a particular people or place? Are you seeking his teaching, preparation and power for this commission? As you are waiting and seeking, you can begin by sharing with your own Jerusalem (your home, your workplace, your city). And you can ask God to give you what you are lacking. He is a good Father, patient in the process to help us open our eyes and our minds, to understand the gospel, and to take hold of the power of the Holy Spirit within us to bring people to Himself.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist