Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 28:19 (NLT)
It’s the great commission. Almost all Christians know about it; most can probably quote (or at least paraphrase) that verse.
But what does it mean?
When Jesus said that, he was talking to his disciples, you know, the twelve disciples. He was telling those guys to go and make disciples of all the nations.
So, really, you could say that we are the disciples Jesus was talking about when he said that.
But are we the same “breed” of disciple the twelve were, or are we a watered-down version of it?
In order to explore that question, I want to explore what the Bible says about these disciples, from the way reacted when they were first called, to the way they followed Jesus through it all.
Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him.
Mark 1:17-18 (NLT)
A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he call them to come, too. They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind.
Matthew 4:21-22 (NLT)
The first quote is the calling of Simon (Peter) and Andrew. The second is the calling of James and John. The similarities that stood out to me the most as I read those passages were the immediacy and finality with which all four men followed Jesus.
Jesus called out to them, told them to follow him, and they didn’t look at him, asking why or saying “But I have to maintain my reputation/get that promotion/save this money for this new car.” No, they dropped everything they were doing and followed Jesus immediately and at once.
The Holy Spirit clearly was doing some talking here, and these four guys weren’t going to ignore it. The question is: Are we receptive when the Holy Spirit calls us to follow Jesus?
Another thing that stood out to me, specifically in the second verse, was the last phrase: “leaving the boat and their father behind.” James and John just up and left their possessions (the boat) and their father.
Now it’s one thing for me to say, “Give up my possessions? No problem. I never needed any of this stuff anyway.” But it’s an entirely different thing for me to even say that I’ll just leave my family.
Look, y’all. I literally refused to even consider going to a college that was more than a 2-3 hour drive from home because I wanted to be able to make it back home quickly should anything happen.
I can’t even imagine what I would do if I was in a position where my family was at odds with my faith and I actually had to choose one over the other.
I’m struggling even with the idea that maybe, just maybe God might be calling me to go across the country when I graduate. It’s pretty safe to say that putting God first (even over my relationships with those I love) is something I need to work on.
Later in Luke, Jesus was talking to other men about following him. One of their replies is below:
Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say goodbye to my family.”
But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”
Luke 9:60-61 (NLT)
It’s clear that when we follow after God, we are to put God first, no questions asked. The Bible talks a lot about idols and instructs us in several places to not let anything take the place of God. But, we also must be careful to not let anyone take God’s place as Number One in our lives.
So we’ve received God’s call, and we’ve dropped everything at once to follow Him. Fantastic.
What happens next?
And he called his twelve disciples together and began sending them out two by two, giving them authority to cast out evil spirits. He told them to take nothing for their journey except a walking stick – no food, no traveler’s bag, no money. He allowed them to wear sandals but not to take a change of clothes.
“Wherever you go,” he said, “stay in the same house until you leave town. But if any place refuses to welcome you or listen to you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate.”
So the disciples went out, telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God. And they cast out many demons and healed many sick people, anointing them with olive oil.
Mark 6:7-13 (NLT)
That’s a big chunk of scripture. I’ve broken it down into four main parts that stood out to me.
1. They were equipped by God.
It says that Jesus gave them authority to cast out evil spirits. They didn’t have it of their own accord; God gave it to them. In the same way, we need to be careful to not boast about our own gifts, because they are just that – gifts from God.
And God does gift us with whatever tools we may need to further His kingdom. We need not fear that we aren’t “strong enough” or “smart enough” or “good enough.” God will provide.
2. They relied solely on God, not on material objects.
Jesus told them to take nothing with them – not even a change of clothes, food, or money. Say what? If someone asked us to do that today, we’d probably look at them like they were crazy, right?
But here’s what’s so awesome about this command (and the fact that the disciples followed it): This shows that the disciples relied solely on God, not on material objects, not even on the basic material necessities of life (food, money, clothes).
Because here’s the deal – things aren’t going to get us anywhere. They won’t satisfy us, they won’t bring us joy. And we don’t need them when we have Jesus. He is the Bread of Life. He will provide.
The disciples entrusted Him with this, even down to the necessities most of us hold tight to with an iron grip. Jesus provides, so much more abundantly than the things of this world can. We just have to trust him.
3. They followed God’s instruction to go out, and their mission was focused on doing God’s will.
“So the disciples went out, telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God.”
It was all about God. They did what Jesus told them to do, even if they would maybe have much rather stayed in the comfort of their own homes, and they performed God’s will on their journey. It wasn’t about them and what they could do, but about God and what God could do.
4. They reaped fruit.
“And they cast out many demons and healed many sick people, anointing them with olive oil.”
If we rely on God and God alone, and if we put Him first, focused on doing His will and not our own, then we will produce fruits.
Here’s the deal, guys: God wants to use us. He’s completely ready to. We just have to give him the reins.