"Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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.”"
As many people before me and many to come, this passage inspires me in my ministry. Jesus told the disciples to ahead the good news and so he tells us to do the same. What clearer aim could there be for ministry?
Often these few sentences are used as a slogan with little depth about what they really mean; they are a call to mission rather than a specific teaching about what mission really is. At other times it's used to give assurance and promise in our work of the church; reassuring us that we are not alone. Sadly some people use these words as a rod to beat themselves with, a proof that they have not done enough for God. All these have something in them but if we go deeper we can find even more which this passage has to say.
Background to Matthews gospel
Matthews gospel was written to provide purpose to a community in crisis on how it should understand its calling and mission. It is thought to have been written c80ad for a community of Jewish Christians whose temple had been destroyed in 70ad and were now in crisis. They had no idea how they would exist without their temple which was everything at that time in Jerusalem. Matthews gospel was written for Christians in crisis.
What does it mean for us?
Being in crisis as the early church was is about losing our identity, our home and everything we know about ourselves and what we believe. This is more than imagining that our home church was destroyed; it's more akin to losing our family, friends, home, job and church at the same time. It is about losing everything which defines us and allows us to know who we are.
Matthews gospel was written to help the Jews know that they had an important mission to fulfill. When we read it we can imagine how transformative it would be of we had lost everything. Would it be enough? Would we continue on being missional?
Matthew's gospel is the only gospel which focuses on the gentiles, everyone who isn't a Jew, and how Jesus came for them as well as the people of Israel. Matthew speaks about the kingdom, the entirety of God's world in heaven and earth, the source of all authority coming from the king, Jesus. Yet in opposition to how a Kingdom might be expected to be Matthew makes it clear that God is not providing a list of rules, rather he tells us to listen deeply for our own specific calling for the good of the kingdom.
What we can take away
God is not telling us what to do, instead he's living in the world and is in constant action which we can take a part in. We are changed in the heart forever by knowing God and loving him. This is the good news of Matthew. This is the good news for those of us in crisis or not. This is true no matter who we are or how we feel about ourselves. Good news indeed.