In light of the recent Easter celebration, many ask, “How does the resurrection of Jesus impact my life?”
The answer is that for those of us who have placed our faith and trust in Christ’s atoning sacrifice, the resurrection resulted in a new paradigm in which we are given a new commission in life, to go and make disciples of all nations. Jesus’ words from Matthew 28 inform us of this new commission and its implications.
Matthew 28:18-20|18 and Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The most critical aspect of Jesus’ resurrection is that he has been given a new authority. In context, to have been given all authority (v. 18) relates to Jesus’ having defeated the forces of evil at the cross.
Having been the perfect sacrifice for sin and the perfect substitute for those who believe, Jesus accomplished for us what we could not do for ourselves. But going further, the fact that Jesus was resurrected from the grave is validation of the success of the mission he came to undertake. Having gained the victory Jesus is given authority over all heaven and earth to execute the will of the Father in saving sinners through the proclamation of the gospel.
With this new authority Jesus gives a new command to his followers: to go and make disciples of all nations (v. 19a).
Followers of Jesus were to go out into all the world, proclaiming the message of the gospel, and calling upon people to respond. Those who believe in Jesus and would follow after him must be disciple makers. Furthermore, they are to make disciples of all nations, in other words all people groups. No one was to be excluded from the gospel and the call to discipleship.
Disciples of Jesus were to be identified by a new sign of commitment (v. 19b).
Previously, the people of God were identified by the physical symbol of circumcision, a mark which was not apparent to the world.
Baptism, on the contrary, is the outward identifying characteristic of all disciples of Christ.
It is a public declaration of one’s allegiance and communicates the inner change that has occurred through the acceptance of the gospel.
Followers are baptized under the trinitarian formula of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (v. 19c) thus uniting them with the purposes of each in salvation; the Father’s purpose in sending Christ into the world, the Son’s sacrifice for believers on the cross, and the Spirit’s role in bringing new life to dead souls.
Disciples of Jesus are to follow a new way of life. Throughout his earthly ministry Jesus castigated the religious leaders of his day for an outward adherence to rules and regulations while at the same time harboring a heart that was far from the intent those rules and regulations were designed to produce.
He also condemned those who refused to submit to the commands of God at all. A disciple of Jesus is to follow the intent of what Jesus both commanded in his word, and exemplified in his actions (v. 20a), to have both an attitude that is in step with the Word of God and an outward obedience to it.
Finally, disciples of Jesus are afforded a new promise. We no longer go it alone for Jesus has promised to be with us (v. 20b).
Wherever we go, Jesus will be there standing with us, encouraging us, and empowering us through the indwelling of his own spirit in order to accomplish all that he has commanded us to do. In Jesus, we are never alone.
The Rev. Mike McClellan is pastor of Cross Roads Church, Southern Baptist Convention, in Poncha Springs.