Jesus Commissions the Disciples
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped 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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’
What does the ‘Great Commission’ mean for us today, in the here and now of our lives in May 2020 and in the near future?
Just before his Ascension to His Father in Heaven, Jesus directed his disciples to meet with Him up a mountain. He had spent around 3 years with these men, his chosen disciples, living and sharing his life with them. They had followed Jesus wherever He went and had learned from Him all that was necessary for them to be true disciples and to then be in a position to make disciples for Jesus themselves. They were not perfect and indeed some still doubted, but they would receive and be enabled by the Holy Spirit, so that Jesus could continue to be with them wherever they went.
In my reflection, I want to focus on two words as we consider our response to this scripture.
Firstly, is the word Commission, which doesn’t actually occur in the reading, but is used in the title for it. It sounds like Co – Mission and that is, I believe, a way we can understand what Jesus wanted his disciples to do. He had completed his earthly mission, his very special part in the overall Mission of God, or Missio Dei. Now the time had come for his disciples to become co-workers in that Mission, to play their part in bringing to earth the Kingdom of God. In order for the Kingdom to be brought to all parts of the world, God needed His disciples to work with Him in the power of the Holy Spirit. We are also called, as his disciples today, to be an important and necessary part of God’s Mission, despite our faults, weaknesses and doubts. He has given us the Holy Spirit to help us in this task.
The second word is Disciple. What is a disciple and how are disciples made? In simple terms, a disciple is a follower of Jesus. It is interesting that Jesus chose just 12 men to become his disciples, plus a small group of women who travelled around with him. In the gospels we read of many times when he spoke to a large crowd, but he could not relate to the crowd in the same intimate way that he did with his disciples. Being a disciple meant being consistently in Christ’s company and sharing life with other disciples in the group. Likewise, for us, if we want to be true disciples of Jesus, then we need to be consistently in Christ’s company and sharing His life within small groups of other disciples. We can have our large church gatherings, either virtually, or physically at some point in the future, when it is good to worship together, to share in Holy Communion and to hear God’s Word being proclaimed, but for disciples to be truly formed, we need to relate in smaller groups also. This was perhaps part of the basis of the ‘House Church’ movement in the 1970’s. When I was at university in the 70’s, I was involved with several churches, some of which focussed very much on large services. In these large gatherings I felt like ’just another student who won’t be with us for very long’. Eventually I joined a church which met in home groups as well as all together on a Sunday. Within my homegroup, my friend and flatmate Gill and I were allocated to a young married couple, Nic and Jenny, for them to disciple us. I knew Nic anyway, because he had been at the same school as me. We didn’t do anything particularly ‘super spiritual’ with them, but they welcomed us into their home and lives and we just learned by spending time with them. I have just recently renewed my contact with them and have discovered that Nic is now the director of Kairos Connexion whose strapline is “TRANSFORMING OUR NATION WITH THE GOSPEL THROUGH A MOVEMENT OF MISSIONARY DISCIPLES”. He is based in Liverpool, working with many churches there, although he is now encouraging churches all over Britain to use the small group model as a means for mission and discipleship.
We are not called to make converts, but to make disciples. Sadly, the converts made at large evangelical meetings do not always stay faithful to Christ, because they have not been discipled within a closer setting. In the book of the Acts of the Apostles, we read that the early church met in homes as well as in the Temple. At the moment, we can’t gather in homes, but there are other ways, such as in Zoom Morning Prayer sessions, where we can meet together in a smaller gathering. We can be discipled and disciple others within small sub-groups of the church and reach out to those in our locality with love, acts of kindness, service and justice - a demonstration of the Kingdom of God amongst us. Do not think you are small and insignificant and cannot make a difference. Remember the lesson that Pauline brought to our attention, that the Kingdom of God is like the tiny mustard seed that grows into a great tree.
I pray that we will each want to be disciples of Jesus who grow into those who can disciple others and also to make new disciples in our Parish, amongst our friends, neighbours and relatives and beyond. During this season of ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ keep praying for your 5, that God may intervene in their lives. By relational unity and powerful prayer, seeking to fight against social injustice and engaging with those in our locality or with those we meet online, may we gain in missional confidence. Lord make us co-workers in bringing Your Kingdom to Earth as it is in Heaven.
27 May 2020