You shared the Gospel with someone and they were saved. Awesome!
Our work is not done when someone is saved. In fact, our work has just begun.
“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.”Matthew 28:18-20
We do what Jesus said and “make disciples.” The Greek reads a little differently than many English translations – πορευθεντες ουν μαθητευσατε παντα τα εθνη.
- πορευθεντες – having gone
- ουν – therefore
- μαθητευσατε – disciple
- παντατα – all the
- εθνη – nations
English translations treat the word “disciples” as a noun (make disciples), but the Greek word is a verb. It has basically the same meaning, “to make a disciple,” so we don’t object to the English translation. The idea of “discipling” (verb) is to “make a disciple.” What’s involved in disciple-making? We’ll see in a few minutes.
We also teach new believers to ‘observe all things’ Jesus has commanded His followers to do.
The Greek word for “teaching” is διδασκοντες and means “teach, cause to learn, instruct, impart knowledge, direct, admonish.” “Observe” is τηρειν and means “to watch over, guard, maintain, preserve, keep.” Our job in discipling is to impart knowledge to young believers that we received from Jesus Christ. Our job is not to make disciples in our image or likeness, but in the image and likeness of Jesus. We work with the Holy Spirit in that supernatural process (Romans 8:28-29). That’s what we do and we’re not finished with the work Jesus gave us to do until we complete the task of disciple-making.
How much knowledge do we impart? All of it! Whatever Jesus commanded us – παντα οσα ενετειλαμην υμιν. That means we must know everything Jesus commanded if we are to impart that knowledge to others. That means disciple-making begins with being a disciple. It means spending time with Jesus in prayer, in His Word, in following Him exactly and closely. When we have become observant, obedient disciples, we can make observant, obedient disciples.
How do we do that? Great question!
Jesus Christ, the Master Disciple Maker, gave us the best example of how to ‘make disciples’: walk together with them through life. His call to people was “follow me.” Here are some examples of that principle –
- “Then He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19
- “As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ So he arose and followed Him.” Matthew 9:9
- “When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, ‘Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Mark 8:34
- “So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, ‘You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Luke 18:22
What happened when people followed Jesus? Their lives changed forever. Change is what we would expect in the life of someone who has been saved, so we want to learn more about that.
Making disciples includes teaching people to “observe all things” Jesus commanded us.
The Apostle Paul explained it this way to his young disciple, Timothy:
“And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”2 Timothy 2:2
Both of these principles are so important to the work God gave us to do that Christians have given them names:
The Great Commission — Matthew 28:18-20
The Timothy Principle — 2 Timothy 2:1-2
The Great Commission
Matthew 28:18-20 has long been known as The Great Commission. Matthew, one of Christ’s apostles, did not include a lot of information about what Jesus said or did in the days following His resurrection until He ascended to Heaven. After reporting about the women who met the risen Christ and how the chief priests and elders of Israel bribed the guards who had been at the tomb of Jesus, Matthew wrote this –
“Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.”Matthew 28:16-20
Jesus had appointed a meeting place for His disciples after His resurrection. It was to be in Galilee. Jesus told them about this the night before He was crucified.
“But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”Matthew 26:32
One of the angels at the empty tomb told the women followers of Christ to tell His disciples to meet him at the appointed place in Galilee. Jesus also told the women to tell the disciples to meet Him in Galilee.
“But the angel answered and said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you. So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, ‘Rejoice!’ So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”Matthew 28:5-10
Jesus appeared to His disciples many times, as we will see in a few minutes. However, most of those appearances occurred in and around Jerusalem. It’s interesting that Jesus made a very specific point on the night before His crucifixion and the morning of His resurrection about His disciples meeting Him in Galilee. Why would He do that?
Galilee became the center of Jesus’ early ministry. It was part of Jesus fulfilling prophecy –
“Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.”Matthew 4:12-16
You can find the context of Isaiah’s prophecy, centuries before Jesus ministered in Galilee, in Isaiah 9. It’s the same context as these famous verses –
“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”Isaiah 9:6-7
Jesus left Nazareth, where he grew up, and moved to Capernaum. Nazareth is located in the southern portion of the region of Galilee, about halfway between the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea. Capernaum is located next to the Sea of Galilee.
Jerusalem was far south of Capernaum, about 80 miles south, in the region of Judea. Samaria stood between Judea and Galilee. Question. Why would Jesus tell His disciples to meet Him in Galilee after He rose from the dead?
The Sea of Galilee is where Jesus called His first disciples to “follow Him.”
“And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ They immediately left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.”Matthew 4:18-22
The cities around the Sea of Galilee are also where Jesus did much of His early preaching and miracles:
“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.”Matthew 4:23
Jesus taught, preached and healed in Galilee. His famous Sermon on the Mount was most likely near Capernaum. He preached and taught in the Galilean synagogues. He performed many miracles in Galilee, including turning water to wine at a wedding, feeding multitudes of people, healing a demoniac, casting out demons in synagogues, healing lepers, forgiving and healing a paralytic, calming a storm and walking on water. Returning to Galilee to meet His disciples following His resurrection would have had a powerful impact on their lives. They returned to where it all began for them. Galilee is where they first met Jesus the teacher and healer. Galilee is where they would spend time with Jesus the resurrected Son of God.
We know from Matthew 28 that Jesus gave His disciples the Great Commission in Galilee. He also did something else there. He showed Himself to hundreds of disciples at the same time –
“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.”1 Corinthians 15:3-6
It would make sense that more than five hundred brethren seeing Jesus at once would have happened in Galilee. Jesus had spoken to crowds of thousands of people near the shores of the Sea of Galilee, so showing Himself to more than five hundred at once was easy enough to do. Galilee played a significant role prophetically in God’s plan for Israel as we saw in Isaiah 9.
Another clue we have about the meeting in Galilee is this statement in Matthew 28 – “When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.” The eleven are mentioned in the context, even though it’s likely that Jesus met with hundreds of His Galilean followers. Jesus had already shown Himself to the eleven apostles (Judas Iscariot was dead and Matthias didn’t become an apostle until after Jesus ascended to Heaven), so they would not have doubted. His appearance to followers in Galilee most likely occurred two or three weeks after His resurrection.
The Apostle Paul gave Christians a basic timeline of Christ’s appearances to His disciples in 1 Corinthians 15. You can compare that the Gospel accounts to gain a better understanding of how Scripture fits together –
- Resurrection Sunday Appearances – Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1; Luke 24:10, 13-43; John 20:11-25
- Eight Days Later Appearance – John 20:26-29
- Two Weeks Later Appearance (approx) – John 21:1-23
- Three Weeks Later Appearance (approx) – Matthew 28:16-17
- 40 Days Later Appearance – Luke 24:49-53; Acts 1:3-11
The Great Commission of Matthew 28 is not the same as what Jesus said to the disciples in Luke 24 or Acts 1 just before He ascended back to Heaven. We know that because of the location mentioned by Luke –
“Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.’ Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey.”Acts 1:9-12
Mount Olivet is located is a mountain ridge near the eastern side of Jerusalem. It is almost almost 80 miles from where Jesus gave the Great Commission to His disciples in Galilee. That would have been a long journey for the disciples on foot. Jesus gave the Great Commission prior to speaking to the disciples from Mount Olivet. What He said to them may sound similar, but He said them at different locations and times (probably a couple of weeks apart).
The Great Commission – “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.”Matthew 28:18-20
Ascension Day Speech – “And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’ Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, ‘Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea andSamaria, and to the end of the earth.”Acts 1:4-8
We also know that Jesus said many other things to His disciples in the days between the resurrection and ascension –
“The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”Acts 1:1-3
We gain a strong understanding of what Jesus wants us to do when we look at all that He told His disciples after His resurrection. He wants us to go into all the world and disciple the nations, teaching them to obey Him. That is our calling – our mission.
We will look at The Timothy Principle in the next part of our special series There’s Work To Be Done.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.