After Easter: “Go and Make Disciples”


After Easter: “Go and Make Disciples”
A Message on Matthew 28:16-20

For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
May 6, 2018
By Doug Wintermute

Matthew 28:16-20 (NRSV)


Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 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 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”


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With the scripture today we’re going to do several things. We’re going to wrap up our sermon series “After Easter” by looking at the very end of the Gospel of Matthew. We’re also celebrating Confirmation Sunday and the decisions our confirmands have made to become followers of Jesus Christ. And as part of that hopefully all of us have reaffirmed our commitments as followers of Christ to fulfill the Great Comission to go and make disciples.


This scripture is at the very end of Matthew. This is what Matthew ended his gospel with.


Last week Pam and I went and saw the new Marvel movie, “Avengers: Infinity War” I’m not going to spoil the movie for those of you who haven’t seen it, but one of the unique things about the Marvel movies (other than Stan Lee making a cameo appearance in each movie) is that at the very end, even after all the credits have rolled, there usually is a scene or two that gives some hints as to what the next movie is going to be about.


I think that’s kind of what Matthew did at the end of his gospel. He gives us a preview of what is to come next.


The scripture we read today contains what is called “The Great Commission.” Now don’t confuse “The Great Commission” with “The Great Commandment.” “The Great Commandment is to love God with all that you have and to love your neighbor as yourself.


“The Great Commission” is to go and make disciples.


The word “commission” has several meanings. As a noun it means a “formal written warrant granting the power to perform various acts or duties.” It also means “a certificate conferring military rank and authority.” In addition, it also means “to act in a prescribed manner or to perform prescribed acts,” as well as “authority to act for, in behalf of, or in place of another” and “a task or matter entrusted to one as an agent for another.”


The really cool thing is that all of these apply to “The Great Commission”! (Well, with the exception of the military one, but the way I see it we are soldiers in the army of the Lord.)


The young people who were baptized and/or confirmed today were commissioned by the Trinity and by us as members of this church. They repented of their sins, renounced the forces of evil, and made a commitment through their own free will to be followers of Jesus Christ.


In doing so they accepted the commission given to every believer of Jesus Christ: to go and make disciples.


Now what I think is really cool (and an example of God showing out, if you ask me) is that “The Great Commission” is fulfilled through living out “The Great Commandment.” We make disciples by loving God and loving others.


One of the things that has come out of the Vibrant Church Initiative (VCI) process that we have been participating in is to re-emphasize what our mission is as a church. Our mission is to “Make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” Our vision is how we plan to accomplish that, but the mission, the end result, is to make disciples. And the way we make disciples is by going.


One of the things I find so fascinating about “The Great Commission” is the first word in that sentence: “Go.”


One of my favorite childhood books was Go Dog Go by P.D. Eastman. I don’t know if it was because the word “dog” is only one letter shy of being “Doug” or what, but I loved that book.


I think I like it because the Doug… er, uh… dog was always going, always moving, always doing something.


I was like that as a kid. If I was a kid today I would probably be diagnosed as hyperkinetic or hyperactive. (Who am I kidding, I probably could be diagnosed that now as an adult.) I was always moving, always doing something.


I had a lot of ear infections as a kid and mom would make me stay inside the house. I hated it. Really, really hated it. I thought I was going to go crazy. I wanted to go. It didn’t matter where or what, I wanted to go.


“Go” is a verb. Verbs, as you know because you were paying attention during English class, is an action word.


My prayer is that these young people who made a commitment to Jesus Christ today are willing to “go.”


I pray that they “go” to their friends at school and share the love of Christ with them in both the words they use and the actions they take.


I pray that they “go” to their families and live and love with them the way Jesus loves us.


I pray that they “go” toward those who society labels as outcasts, and that they are able to convince those on the fringes that there is a God that loves them more than they can comprehend.


I pray that they “go” and put the needs of others before their own, that they develop the ability to “pray without ceasing” as they communicate with God through prayer, and that they resist what society tries to tell them is important and instead build up treasures in heaven.


Come to think of it, I pray that not just for the confirmands, but for all of us.


So my challenge to you today is the same one I offer to the confirmands: GO and make disciples. Be empowered with the Holy Spirit to go and make disciples, not just with people who are like us and that we are comfortable with, but to all of humanity, even those that we might not be comfortable with.


The harvest is ready, but the workers are few. Are you ready to be a worker? Are you ready? Let’s go!


In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.


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