16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
This passage is widely known in Christian circles and we call it the Great Commission because it is where Jesus tells His disciples (and we take that unto ourselves as well) what it is we should do now that He had lived, died, and been resurrected and at this very point in time was about to ascend into heaven. We get the complete picture as we look to Acts 1 where Luke is recording Jesus saying goodbye and ascending:
1 The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. 3 To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. 4 Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now .” 6 So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; 8 but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” 9 And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. 11 They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away.
From Luke’s account we get a quick review of Jesus’ ministry for the 40 days after Resurrection Sunday, we understand how Jesus would be with them until the end of the age, and we get affirmation of what Jesus meant when Matthew recorded “make disciples of all nations.” Jerusalem was the closest town to them, meaning the heart of Israel. Judea was “the next town over” and Samaria was the “forbidden city” which Jews did not associate because they were considered a mixed and dirty race. Then Jesus says, “even to the remotest part of the earth.” In other words, He didn’t exclude anything. From those closest to us, to those next door, even those we don’t like, and beyond we are to go and tell about Jesus. This is what we are saved for. This is the purpose we have built into each and every one of us as believers and followers of Jesus Christ.
When I was in the Marines, we were taught, “every Marine is a rifleman first.” This means that regardless if our main job was to fix computers, cook meals, maintain accounting, or keep the vehicles running we were all trained how to shoot and how to do it well so that when the time presents itself, we all know how to fight. In the Christian realm, Jesus says, “every Christian a disciple maker.” So even if we aren’t a pastor, international missionary, or academic theologian, we are still required to know how to teach others what it means to follow Jesus and why it is so important. We don’t have any excuses.
We are going to camp out in this passage to look deeper into what Jesus is really telling us because there is more here than we care to look at sometimes, but it is important to understand the significance of this passage and why it doesn’t matter what our “life specialty” is, that we are all disciple makers.