The Question Every Disciple-Maker Must Answer
Jesus is getting ready to ascend into heaven. After three years, a death, a resurrection, and forty days of appearances he has raised up a tiny but fully discipled band.
Now, in Matthew 28:16-20 Jesus is dispatching them to disciple the entire world. So what are his final words to them? They’re surprisingly unsentimental. He doesn’t talk about faithfulness or perseverance or belief.
Instead, he speaks about discipleship.
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.”
“Obey everything” is a really interesting phrase. It means we are not only teaching information.
We are, instead, pouring out a lifetime of experience-or, more appropriately, personal gifts received from Christ. We can disciple a student to share bread because Christ has shared his bread with us. We can disciple a student to heal and comfort because we have personally experienced the healing and comfort of Christ.
You can see this in the life of the apostle Paul. Christ has emptied himself into Paul, and Paul is deeply aware of this. He writes in Philippians 2 that Christ emptied himself and took on the form of a servant. Now, as the end of Paul’s own life approaches, he draws on the same language of self-emptying, in a personal note to his disciple Timothy. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 4:5-8:
But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
On the last day, the question of the Lord for each teacher will not only be, “Did you teach them to obey everything I commanded?” but rather, “Did you teach them how to receive all the grace that I poured into you?”
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