Go and Make Disciples

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “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 28:16-20, ESV)

I don’t know what it is like for you, but there are times when I am preparing a Bible study, or I’m in the middle of teaching one, and inside of me the thought occurs, “Who do you think you are to teach the Bible? With all your failures and failings, don’t you think you should leave this to someone else, someone more qualified?” These thoughts trouble me, and it can be difficult to work through them, especially if I’m feeling at all discouraged about how my teaching is going. I’m so intimately familiar with my own limitations and sin nature, that it seems ridiculous to think I am up to the task of teaching God’s Word. But it helps me to see how Jesus called and used others with their own limitations and failings.

I love this passage at the end of the Matthew’s Gospel. It is such a powerful and hope-filled encouragement to my soul. Here we see Jesus, after His resurrection, gathering his eleven disciples in Galilee to commission them to their future ministries. These are the same disciples who misunderstood the nature of His kingdom, who argued about who would be the greatest in His kingdom, who fled when He was arrested, and who hid in fear after His death. Even now, as they gathered around the resurrected Jesus, it says that some doubted. They’ve got Jesus right in front of them, and some doubted. Yet, Jesus tells them that because He has all authority in heaven and on earth, they are to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing people in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all that He has commanded them.

None of these disciples had earned the right to teach for Jesus. None of them had aced the course or earned enough righteousness points to take on the role of teacher. Instead, it is because all authority rests with Jesus that He can call them and us to serve Him by teaching, even when we have failed in the past and have doubts and fears in the present. It is by His grace that we have come to saving faith in Him, and it is by His grace that we are able to study the Scriptures and teach others what Jesus wants taught – not because we know it so well or do it so well. It is humbling and amazing to think that God could entrust those eleven disciples back then, and people like you and me today, to go and make disciples and to teach them all that Jesus commanded. Recognizing this “Great Commission” that Jesus entrusted us with motivates me to do my very best, knowing that ultimately, the Holy Spirit is the One who teaches us all through God’s Word.

This passage highlights one more thing that is so very important for me, as well. Teaching can be a very lonely experience at times. Most often we study on our own to lead a Bible study. When we lead, we commonly do so as the primary leader of the group, responsible for how the study goes. We don’t often spend a lot of time with others who are leading other Bible study groups, so we may feel pretty isolated, like we are on our own. But Jesus reassures His disciples that as they carry out this ministry of making disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them, they are not alone. He says, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” This had to be a comfort to them, even as they may later have grieved His leaving them as He ascends to heaven.

The end of the age has not yet come, and the ministry of making disciples, baptizing and teaching them continues. Like the disciples in the past, God continues to call people like you and me, unworthy yet given grace for the task, to this same ministry. In doing so, He promises that we are never alone, that He is always with us, and we always have the ability to reach out to Him for more grace, wisdom, discernment, and strength for the ministries He calls us to.

As you continue to reflect on this wonderful, foundational passage for our Bible study ministries, give thanks to God for the gospel, for His amazing grace that saved you, and that same grace that sustains you as you make disciples, baptize them, and teach them all that Jesus has commanded. Know that Jesus is with you, always and everywhere, even to the end of the age! You are never alone as you teach. May your awareness of His presence grow and encourage you as you serve!

Lord Jesus, thank you for your grace that saved me and that allows me to take on responsibilities as a Bible study leader. I would never dare to do this on my own, so I am grateful that you are present with me. Help me to be attentive to you as I prepare my lessons and as I lead the study. Please use me in spite of my failures and failings. Teach me and transform me so that as I teach others, the reality of what I teach is clear. Give me a heart for the nations, and help me to make disciples wherever you lead me. May I honor you in this way. Amen.

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