Make Disciples of All Nations

by LA UBF   07/15/2006     0 reads



The Use of Freedom

Matthew 28:1-20

Key Verse: 28:18-20

 “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Through this Bible conference, we’ve learned that God created us to live in perfect freedom. Ever since Adam sinned, however, all people have been slaves to sin and death.  Through studying this passage, we want to answer two questions: “How does Jesus set us free?” And, “How should we use our freedom?”

I. The source of freedom (1–15)

We celebrate Jesus’ resurrection every Sunday. How does it set us free?

First, “Do not be afraid” (1-6). Look at verses 1-2. Jesus was crucified and buried on Friday. On Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. Before they arrived, there was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it (2). His purpose was not to let Jesus out of the tomb, but to allow these women— and others— to see that Jesus’ tomb was empty!

Look at verse 3. “His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.” Imagine the sight: The angel’s face was blazing with heavenly glory— as bright as lightning, and his clothes were like snow on a sunny winter’s day. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men (4). The women also were afraid, but the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay” (5,6). What were the women afraid of and how did the angel help them?

(1) They were afraid of God’s judgment. In their inner hearts, all people know that they are sinners who fall short of the glory of God. The soldiers guarding Jesus’ tomb were not spiritual men, but when they faced this angel, full of the glory of God, they became deeply aware of their own sins; they were terrified of God’s judgment and they fainted. These women had dedicated their lives to follow Jesus and to serve him throughout his earthly ministry, but when they faced the angel’s glory, they too were afraid of God’s judgment. The angel understood their fear, so he told them, “Do not be afraid,” meaning, “There is no longer any reason for you to be afraid of God’s judgment.” Jesus had taught them many times that he had come to earth in order to give his life as a ransom sacrifice for the sins of many people (e.g., 20:28; 26:26–28). Now, his empty tomb proved that God had accepted his sacrifice and that Jesus had finished paying the penalty for our sins so that we could be forgiven (Rom 4:25). They did not have to be afraid of God’s judgment, anymore.

 (2) They were afraid of death. Since the beginning of time, all people have succumbed to death. Nebuchadnezzar, Caesar, Napolean, Alexander— all seemed invincible in their time, but they were all defeated by death. Even Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead, later died again and was buried, and his tomb remains to this day. On the third day after Jesus died, however, the angel rolled away the stone to reveal that Jesus’ tomb was empty. Jesus’ resurrection is not only for himself: he was raised as the firstfruits of those who belong to him (1Co 15:20–23). Through his death and resurrection, Jesus has conquered death. He is the resurrection and the life: whoever believes in Jesus will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in him will never die (Jn 11:25–26). They did not have to be afraid of death, anymore.

(3) They were afraid that their hope in Jesus failed. There were many reasons that these women had dedicated their lives to Jesus, but they could all be summed up in a single word: hope. Jesus gave them hope to be restored in the love of God, hope to fulfill God’s noble purpose for their lives, hope to dwell with God in paradise forever. When Jesus was arrested and tried, they wondered, “What’s going on?” When Jesus was killed and buried, it seemed that their hopes had died with him, but look again at verse 6: “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said....” (emphasis added). Jesus had taught them numerous times that he had to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he had to be killed and on the third day be raised to life (e.g., 16:21; 17:22–23). Three days earlier— just before he was arrested— Jesus had warned them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee” (26:31,32). Now the angel reminded the women of Jesus’ words in order to say, “Your hopes in Jesus are not dead! He is risen, just as he said! He is victorious! Your hope in Jesus is still alive!” Jesus’ resurrection delivered them from all their fears.

Second, a glorious mission (7–15). Look at verses 7-8. After his glorious proclamation, the angel gave the women something to do, “Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him’” (7). Again, the angel reminded the women of Jesus’ words: “After I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee” (26:32). He also gave them a glorious mission to bring the good news of Jesus’ resurrection to his disciples. The women were afraid that it was too good to be true, but they also were filled with joy to know that Jesus was alive! They were not known to be athletic women, but they were so excited about this good news that they hurried away from the tomb and ran to tell his disciples (8).

Look at verse 9. After the women had seen the empty tomb, heard the angel’s message and remembered Jesus’ words, Jesus himself suddenly appeared to them. Without hesitation, they ran to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him as God (9). Read verse 10. “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’” Jesus appeared to them personally in order to take away the last remnants of their fear. Jesus also appeared to them personally so that they could be eyewitnesses of his resurrection. At this time, Jesus’ disciples were hiding behind locked doors for fear of the Jews (Jn 20:19). They needed to know that Jesus was alive! They needed to know that Jesus had fulfilled his mission: he had died for their sins and he had conquered death. So after he appeared to these women, Jesus sent them to his disciples to testify to everything that they had seen and heard, to remind them of his words and to call upon them to meet him in Galilee.

Look at verses 11-15. The guards saw all the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection: They saw the angel roll away the stone; they saw the empty tomb and the folded graveclothes, but they brushed aside the truth of God and missed the point.

II. The use of freedom (16-20)

Through his resurrection Jesus paid for our sins and conquered death. Jesus’ death and resurrection set us free from shame and guilt, free from sin and death and free from all our fears. How should we use our freedom?

First, worship and doubt (16-17). When the women testified to his resurrection and reminded Jesus’ disciples about what he had said, they went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go (16). Read verse 17. “When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” How could they worship Jesus and doubt at the same time? The Greek word translated here as doubted is not the usual word. It doesn’t mean “unbelieving”; it means “double–minded”. On the one hand, they worshiped Jesus because they recognized his divinity, but they didn’t know how to put their faith into practice. They had lost their spiritual direction. At one time, they were sure that Jesus was the Savior of the world and that they were his army. By Jesus’ power they would conquer the whole world for the glory of God! 

Onward Christian soldiers!
Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus
Going on before.” 

After Jesus’ crucifixion and death, however, everything seemed to change. Even though they knew that Jesus was alive, they had lost their identity and direction in Jesus. They worshiped Jesus, but they had no practical faith to finish his work.

Second, spiritual direction (18-20). Look at verse 18. Jesus didn’t leave his disciples in their double-mindedness: he came to them in order to help them. Jesus is the solution to all our spiritual problems! He encourages us, strengthens us and restores our faith. Jesus comes to us in our double-mindedness to correct us, rebuke us and restore our lost spiritual direction. Read verse 18. “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’” Jesus didn’t commiserate with his disciples. He didn’t try to analyze the reasons for their double-mindedness: he just reminded them of his authority and he gave them a job to do. 

  Read verses 19-20. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus is not giving his opinion or making a request: he is giving his disciples an absolute command, based on his absolute authority. The best way for Jesus’ disciples to overcome their double-mindedness was to acknowledge his authority by obeying this command. It seems impossible, but it is possible because all authority has been given to Jesus: not just authority over those who acknowledge him, but authority over every person, every power and every event in heaven above and on the earth below. The double-minded disciples didn’t need counseling or more miracles: they needed to remember Jesus’ absolute authority and to obey his command.

Third, make disciples. Let’s study Jesus’ command in more depth.  Read verses 19-20 again. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” The main verb, and therefore the main point of Jesus’ command, is make disciples. The word disciple means “one who learns from another”. This word forms the root of the word discipline, meaning “control or regulation”. Jesus’ disciples did not just listen to him during the day and then go home. They left their old lives and lived with Jesus twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. A disciple of Jesus is not someone who goes to church once a week and reads the Bible once a day. A disciple of Jesus regulates his or her life according to Jesus’ teachings and example. As Jesus taught disciples to follow his example, the main job of these disciples is to make other disciples of Jesus. Making disciples includes three main components.

(1) Go. Jesus’ command begins, “Therefore go...” We cannot make disciples of Jesus by staying at home. We have to go to our mission field. 

(2) Helping them to believe. Look at verse 19 again. The second step of making disciples involves baptism. The main point, however, is not the act of baptism, but the faith that it signifies. (See, e.g., Acts 2:38,41; Mk 16:15-16) In UBF, we teach the Bible one-to-one until one person is ready to believe in Jesus. Then they can be baptized as the public testimony of their inner faith. 

(3) Teaching them to obey. Look at verse 20 again. The third step in making disciples is “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” After a person comes to believe in Jesus, we must continue to teach them the Bible so that they can grow spiritually mature. In his second letter to Timothy Apostle Paul wrote “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2Ti 3:16-17). Through regular Bible study, we can grow up spiritually until we are thoroughly equipped to carry out every good work that God has prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2:10). 

Notice that Jesus commanded his disciples to teach others to obey everything he had commanded them: everything includes Jesus’ world mission command! We cannot say that Jesus’ world mission command was only for the Eleven apostles, or that it is only for some pastors and missionaries. This command is for every believer to obey. Christians in modern America have lost their spiritual direction. Many believers want to serve God, but they don’t know how. So they become morally indignant and politically active. They think the United States should dominate Muslim nations in order to show that “our God is better than their God”. According to this passage, however, there is one thing that Jesus wants us to do most: to go and make disciples of all nations, helping them to believe and teaching them to obey Jesus. 

Sh. Phillip Brown is handsome and patient. As a young man, he volunteered for “Habitat for Humanity” in order to help build houses for the poor. Through one-to-one Bible study, however, he received clear spiritual direction to go to China as a missionary. Even though he is a very picky eater, he sacrificed his joy of eating in order to serve ethnic Korean students at Yanbian University of Science and Technology in China. Through his sacrifice many students have become Christians.

Dr. Sarah Wang is very able, but she couldn’t find the joy of life in worldly success. She planned to commit suicide many times. Then God introduced her to Missionary Grace Shin. At first, she pretended to be moved by the gospel, in order to please her Bible teacher. Later, however, she received God’s grace of forgiveness, and the love of God overwhelmed her. Four months later, however, her Bible teacher had to leave China because of intense persecution. As a four–month–old spiritual baby, she became a chapter director! Preparing and delivering the Sunday message was so challenging for her, that in her worst nightmares every day was Sunday. In order to follow Jesus and preach the gospel, she gave up good paying jobs at a TV station and as a chief editor of a magazine. She gave up three chances to go to America and Canada in order to study for her Ph.D. She endured persecution from the Chinese police. Still, she served 10 Bible students and the Sunday message every week. In 2004, God helped her to finish her Ph.D. thesis in China. Then God sent her to America for two years’ missionary training at Washington UBF. Last Saturday, she married Sh. Phillip in order to establish a house church for the work of God in China. At first, they didn’t think they had anything in common, but they accepted one another by faith that God had brought them together for his mission in China. Later, they found out that God had chosen the best spiritual coworker for each of them. May God abundantly bless them to make disciples of Jesus in China and to transform China into a kingdom of priests for Asia. 

Fourth, “I am with you always.” Whenever God gives a command in the Bible, he also gives a promise that helps us to obey it. So when Jesus gave his disciples his world mission command, he also gave them a precious promise. Read verse 20b again. “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” If Jesus is with us, who can stand against us? If Jesus is with us, we never have to feel lonely or discouraged. If Jesus is with us, we have no reason to be afraid. We don’t have to be afraid for our lives, because our eternal lives are safe with Jesus. We don’t have to be afraid of failure, because if Jesus is with us we can never fail! Jesus came to save us from our sins and to set us free from the power of sin and death and the bondage of fear, so that we would use our freedom to carry out his world mission command. Look at verses 19–20 again. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  We cannot take Jesus’ presence with us for granted. Jesus promises to be with us when we obey his world mission command.

Last week, while Americans celebrated our Independence Day, President Kim Jeong-Il of North Korea decided to test his inter-continental ballistic missiles. President Bush was alarmed, so he looked to President Hu Jintao of China for help. He thought that President Hu would share his fear of a nuclear-armed North Korea, but President Hu is more afraid of President Bush than he is of President Kim, so instead, he announced China’s new aircraft carrier, which is armed with nuclear missiles. American presidents like to pray, “May God bless America”, meaning, “May God protect the USA from all her enemies.” According to Jesus’ command, however, we should pray, “May God make the USA a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”. Instead of trying to intimidate and dominate other nations with economic power and military might, we pray that we may send out 100,000 missionaries by 2041 to 187 nations, especially Muslim nations, China and North Korea.

As a young man I was able and ambitious. I tried to find the meaning of my life in worldly success, but I could find no lasting meaning in the things of the world. One day, I was invited to Bible study. I meant to say “No, thanks,” but somehow I said, “Okay” and gave my phone number. After several months of Bible study, my spiritual eyes were opened. I came to believe that Jesus Christ suffered, died and was raised again to save me from my sins. I found new meaning and new joy in Jesus and I wanted to dedicate my life to serve his mission. The work of God, however, did not prosper as I had expected and I became double-minded, like Jesus’ disciples. I still believed in Jesus, but I lost my spiritual direction and purpose of life. I became very busy with work and with my new baby daughter. Every week I planned go to campus, but I couldn’t make time to do so. Through this passage, I’ve learned the key to overcoming my double-mindedness: I must acknowledge Jesus’ authority by obeying his world mission command absolutely and without excuses.

The San Francisco Bay Area is a ripe harvest field with 32 universities and community colleges. UC-Berkeley is the top public university in the nation and the flagship campus of the University of California system. The children of diplomats and presidents study at Stanford University, before they return to their native lands. The Bay Area is home to many native Chinese and Latino people, who can be fished and mobilized for Bible America and world campus mission. There is a large population of homosexuals, who likewise can be fished and raised as disciples of Jesus. When I think about my past experience, this work seems impossible, but if Jesus is with us, then I believe that we can successfully carry out his world mission command, beginning at Contra Costa College, Laney College and UC-Berkeley. 

Let’s read verses 18–20 again. May God bless you to use for freedom in Jesus in order to make disciples in your mission field, helping them to believe in Jesus and teaching them to obey all of his commands.