Sixth Sunday of Easter: John 14:15-21 16 The eleven disciples went to the hill in Galilee where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshipped him, even though some of them doubted. 18 Jesus drew near and said to them, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptise them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.”
Other readings: Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47:1-2, 5-8; Ephesians 1:17-23
These are the final words of the Gospel of Matthew. They complement the narrative in Matthew 10, when Jesus sends the 12 disciples out, as a training exercise, on their first short mission.
The two texts in chapters 10 and 28 are best read together in order to get to grips with what the early disciples understood when Jesus sent them out with their Great Commission. In the first commission the disciples’ mission is limited to “the lost sheep of the people of Israel” and they are specifically told not to visit Gentile territory or Samaritan towns. But after the Resurrection the restrictions are removed and Jesus instructs his disciples to share the Good News with all peoples everywhere.
This encounter has all the characteristics of a Resurrection narrative: a meeting in a chosen place between Jesus and his selected disciples; and a mixed reaction as some doubted they were seeing the Lord, while others worshipped. In this account there is no mention of Jesus proving he is real and not a ghost; the focus is on the task ahead for the disciples.
Jesus states that he has been given “all authority in heaven and earth”, and the implication is clear that his is a God-given authority. Based on this authority, he tells the disciples to go “to all peoples everywhere”.
His commission involved evangelising all people of the world and “making them my disciples”. Discipleship is entered into through baptism in the name of the Trinity –”the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”. Believers become members of a church, though this word is not used. Then begins the process of teaching these new disciples to understand and live the teachings Jesus gave in the years before his Passion and death.
At this point, Jesus does not give the disciples a list of instructions on how to carry out the commission, but as we read in Acts 1 the Holy Spirit is poured out to enable the disciples to fulfil the mission.
The Gospel ends with a promise: Jesus will be with them until the end of time. He doesn’t spell out how; he simply gives the assurance. His promise, like his message, is for us today and it is eternal.
What do you understand by the Great Commission? Who do you see around you taking part in the Great Commission?
How do you play your part in achieving the commission? How does Jesus fulfil his promise to be with us today?
Go deeper into the power and wonder of the Great Commission by prayerfully reading Acts 1:1-11. Ask God to speak to you about someone with whom you can share Jesus’s words. Remember Jesus promises to be with us and has sent the Holy Spirit to help us.
Read Ephesians 1:17-23 slowly several times and soak up these amazing verses. Verse 17 echoes what we read last week in John 14:17 about the role of the Holy Spirit in revealing God to us so that we know him.
Take a few moments to reflect on the authority that has been given to Jesus and let this strengthen your faith: “Christ rules there above all heavenly rulers, authorities, powers, and lords; he has a title superior to all titles of authority in this world and in the next. God put all things under Christ’s feet and gave him to the church as supreme Lord over all things” (Ephesians 1:21-22).
Lectio Divina is an ancient tradition of reading and engaging with God’s Word
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