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GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES

Matthew 1:1-28:20
Key Verse: 28:19-20

Thank God for blessing us to study the whole book of Matthew’s gospel in 103 lessons over the last two years. Through each lesson God gave us his words. When I tried to summarize the whole Matthew’s gospel, so many things were in my mind and it was difficult to arrange this great gospel. Then as I prayed, Matthew 28:19-20 came into my heart and these words appeared to me more and more proper to sum up this gospel of Matthew. These words are also Matthew’ own conclusion in compiling this gospel and Jesus’ last command called “Great Commission”. Let’s expound these words in the light of the entire book of Matthew.

First, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” “In the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit” is a unique expression in the Bible. The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are mentioned together. The whole Scriptures undoubtedly say about the three persons as one God. Matthew also does so. Jesus once said, “…Father, Lord of heaven and earth…no one knows the Father except the Son…” (11:25,27). We could see the relationship between the Father and the Son Jesus. Jesus came to this world to reveal the Father. The Father is the Lord of heaven and earth. He is the Creator. The world was created by him (13:35; 25:34) and at the beginning he made male and female (19:4-6). He initiated the work of man’s salvation. Jesus knew this will of the Father and wanted to obey it though it meant his death on the cross. The night before his crucifixion he prayed at Gethsemane, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will…if it is not possible…may your will be done” (26:39,42).

Matthew’s gospel also depicts the Holy Spirit. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (1:18, 20). At the time of baptism Jesus saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove on him (3:16). When Matthew saw the beautiful messianic ministry of healing the sick, he quoted the words of Isaiah to describe the Messiah: “Here is my servant whom I have chosen…I will put my Spirit on him…” (12:18). Later it is written in Acts 10:38, “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil…” The Holy Spirit was manifested in Jesus’ life and ministry. As Jesus anticipated persecutions for his disciples, he said to them, “…it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (10:20). And when the Pharisees denied the work of Jesus, he said to them, “…if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (12:28). What Jesus had done on the earth was the work God done through the Holy Spirit.

Most importantly Matthew portrays who the Son is. He begins his gospel with these words, “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham.” The Son Jesus had both human origin and divine one. His human lineage was from King David according to God’s promise to Abraham and David. But he was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of virgin Mary. He is the Son of God. At the time of baptism a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (3:17). And also when Jesus was transfigured on a high mountain, a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (17:5). In Matthew’s gospel Peter’s confession of Christ is this: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (16:16). The name Jesus means, “He will save his people from their sins” (1:21). He invites all the weary to himself and gives them true rest, for he is gentle and humble in heart (11:28,29). He is a gentle king. When he entered Jerusalem, a donkey and her colt were brought to him for his ride, which fulfills the prophecy, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘See your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey’” (21:4-6). The gentle and humble king saves. At the last Supper Jesus said to his disciples, offering the cup to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (26:28). He was crucified and died on the cross to pay off the full price for our sins, ransom price that demanded his life (20:28). In his deep sorrow and agony, he cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46). Such a beloved Son was forsaken for our sins. It was so that we sinners might be accepted. No price would be greater than the life of the Son himself. In him we have assured salvation from our sins. Then he rose from the dead, although the Roman soldiers guarded the tomb. The Jewish religious leaders fabricated a lie that his disciples had stolen the dead body of Jesus and made every effort to do away with Jesus’ resurrection. However, according to Matthew, the resurrection of Jesus was an undeniable fact in history, and remains true forever. The risen Christ appeared to his disciples and they worshiped him. He is the true King with power over sin and death: all authority has been given to him. He is truly the Son of the living God, worthy of all human beings’ worship and life-commitment. A disciple is to be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. It is the expression of committing his or her life to him, turning away from their sin and the world. We cannot entrust our lives to anyone but God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Those who make such a commitment are truly blessed people.

Second, “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” We have seen that the gospel of Matthew is the well-organized teaching of Jesus. Matthew divides these teachings into five collections: the constitution of the kingdom (5-7), known as Sermon on the Mount, the duties of the workers of the kingdom (10), the parables of the kingdom (13), the greatness and forgiveness of the kingdom (18), and the coming of the King (24-25). All his teachings are directed to the kingdom of heaven. And at the end of each collection, the words, “When Jesus had finished…” are written as an identical conclusion signal (7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1).

When Jesus said to his disciples, “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you,” it certainly implies that the disciples themselves must first obey the teachings of Jesus. So, it is worthwhile for us to review the teaching of Jesus in each collection. The constitution of the kingdom comes first. We cannot miss the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for there is the kingdom of heaven” (5:3-8). These words are about the formation of the inner character of each disciple. Christ’s teaching is not about skills or etiquettes for the successful life in the world. Christ’s teaching is fundamental and changing one’s inner person fit to the kingdom of heaven. True happiness comes from inside, not outside. It is related to a personal relationship with Christ Jesus. After the Beatitudes, Jesus said to his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world” (6:13-14). He wanted them to know their position in the world. Also, he taught his disciples to live before God, doing even the righteous acts in God’s sight (6:1-4). He taught them the Lord’s prayer, “…hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done…” (6:9-13). He wanted them to store up treasures in heaven. He told them to seek first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness and experience God’s perfect provision (6:33). He wanted them to learn to ask, seek and knock, when the situations look impossible and there seems to be no way out (7:7-8). Jesus urged them to put his teaching into practice so that they might build their house of life on the rock, not on the sand (7:24-27).

In the duties of the workers of the kingdom, the message to be preached is “the kingdom of heaven is near” (10:7). When people reject the gospel, the workers are not to be intimidated but show a clear attitude, shaking the dust of their feet (10:14). Jesus told them to be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves (10:16). They are not to be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul, but the One who can destroy both soul and body in the hell” (10:28). He wanted his disciples to acknowledge him before any people in the world, not being ashamed of him (10:32).

In the parable of the kingdom, the most important thing is that the kingdom of God comes when the word of God is sown and planted in one’s heart. The word of God is the seed of the kingdom of heaven (13:23). So one’s attitude toward the words of God is of supreme importance. And the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden a field or a fine pearl of great value (13:44-45).

In the greatness and forgiveness of the kingdom, the greatest in the kingdom of heaven is one who humbles himself before God (18:4). Kingdom members are those whose huge debt that cannot be paid off is cancelled. So they are to be merciful and forgiving to other fellow members (18:27, 33).

About the coming of the King, our Lord Jesus’ coming again, he taught everything he could: the worldwide deception concerning Christ, the global preaching of the gospel, unequalled distress, finally the coming of the Son of Man on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory and his trumpet call for his elect. The end times will be like the days of Noah when people were indulged in physical pleasure-seeking life up to the day Noah entered the ark. Jesus taught how to wait for his sudden coming. He wanted his people to be like the faithful and wise servants who give God’s flock their food at the proper time, like wise virgins who took extra oil for the lamp, like the good and faithful servants who made the 100% profit with the talents they received, and like the righteous who cared for the least of Jesus’ brothers in his name, purely and secretly before God.

Jesus said in 28:20, “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Obedience is the key to the kingdom of heaven. In Genesis When Adam disobeyed God’s command, he lost the paradise, the kingdom of heaven. Through obedience to the words of God the kingdom of heaven is restored in one’s heart and life. It is very interesting that Matthew used the words “understand” and “obey” carefully and meaningfully in his gospel. When a rich young man came to Jesus and asked for eternal life, Jesus replied, “If you want to enter life, obey the commandments” (19:17). But for “understand” Jesus said in Matthew 13:23, “But one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” On several occasion Jesus put emphasis on understanding: “Listen and understand” (15:10), “Do you still not understand?...” (16:9), “How is it that you don’t understand…?” (16:11), “-let the reader understand-” (24:15), and “But understand this…” (24:43). We should strive to understand the words of the Bible. However, one should not say, “I cannot obey because I cannot understand.” If one wants to obey after full understanding, that cannot be true obedience. Obedience is beyond understanding. It is the matter of trust. Obedience comes through trusting in the One who speaks and commands. As we studied, Jesus is the King whose words are trustworthy and are to be obeyed. Here Jesus said, “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Nonetheless to say, those who teach obedience should do so by an example.

Also, we must think about how to teach in order to help God’s people to obey . We know that the Bible is written concisely, and no expression is redundant. So repetition is very significant. Matthew used the method of repetition, of course in a different context with the same theme, to emphasize certain things. Let’s pay attention to what he repeated. What attitude we should have toward sin is repeated: “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell” (5:29-30), and “If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell” (18:8-9). This repetition comes from knowing the tenacious nature of sin. This is spiritual mortification. The quotation “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” is also written two times: “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’” (9:13) and “If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent” (12:7). Jesus wants us to know God’s mercy and practice it. “…he who stands firm to the end will be saved” is written in 10:22 and 24:23. 10:39 says, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” and 16:25 says, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” It is about how to find one’s life. Jesus also repeated his teaching about bearing fruit in life: “By their fruit you will recognize them…every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit…by their fruit you will recognize them” (7:16-20) and “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit” (12:33). He also taught about the principle of having more repeatedly: “Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him” (13:12) and “For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him” (24:29). Jesus’ words regarding mountain-moving faith is also repeated: “…I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Mt 17:20) and “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done” (21:21). To help people with miraculous sign-seeking mentality Jesus said repeatedly in 12:39 and 16:4, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” The greatest sign God could show to mankind was Jesus’ death and resurrection. The kingdom of God is not like the oft-quoted maxim “First come, first serve”: Jesus said in 19:30, “For many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first” and in 20:16, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Finally, the phrase “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” are repeated most (8:12; 13:42,50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30). This repetition shows God’s judgment at the end of the age is certain. Many say that the best way of education is repetition. People usually don’t like repetition. But God’s word should be learned and taught repeatedly until the word is planted and obeyed in one’s heart and life. At this point we cannot forget the commandment Jesus regarded as the greatest: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophet hang on these two commandments” (22:37-40).

Look at verse 28:19-20 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…” The goal of baptizing and teaching is to make disciples. “Make” is a strong word. We should therefore take note that disciples are not born but made. Leaders of the world can be born. There seem to be inborn leaders. But the disciples of Jesus are to be made. And Christianity have been preserved and expanded because of disciples. “Go and Make” is our King Jesus’ command. “Go” means “Be ready to go to any place. It can also mean “Do not stay in yourself (comfort zone), but be concerned about others.” In a sense Matthew gospel is the gospel of “Go.” 5:24 says, “First go and be reconciled to your brother”, 8:13, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would”, 9:13, “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (9:13), and here, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” “Go and make disciples” Here “make disciples” in Greek is one word, “matheteuo.” It means “to be a disciple of one”, “to follow his precepts and instructions”, “to make a disciples” and “to teach, instruct.” “Make” and “disciple” cannot be separated. “Make disciples” requires life dedication.

Then finally there is the promise of the King: “And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” He is Immanuel, “God with us” (1:23). He promised to be with two or three who come together in his name (18;20). He will be especially with those who engage in disciple-making. He will be with them surely, always, and to the very end of the age.

Thank God for the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit who have been revealed to us in Matthew’s gospel. God the Father in heaven sent his Son into this world and he did the work of God through the power of the Spirit. The Son died for the forgiveness of our sins and rose again from the death. He is truly King over all. He gave the great commission, “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 he promised to be with us. As he gave his life for us, may we give our life to him through disciple-making in obedience to his command and will.

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