Eric Kayayan

Text verses: 18-20:

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 and of the age.”


The Lord of all things entrusts His Church with the mission of proclaiming His cosmic sovereignty.


Brothers and sisters, can you imagine a more abrupt and radical change of situation than the one faced by the eleven disciples at the time of Jesus’ resurrection?  He who a while ago was hanging on a cross, abandoned, vilified, held in contempt, comes to them after His victory over death, to proclaim His sovereignty upon all things, whether in heaven or on earth!  Shall we be surprised if we read that some “doubted”, as Matthew records it?  And still, the eleven are there, those whom Jesus Himself calls “my brothers”.  Twice the women, the first witnesses of the resurrection were commanded to summon Jesus’ brothers to go to Galilee, on a certain mountain, where He would meet them.  “Summit conference” if there ever was one…  For the eleven, this is everything but a mere alumni reunion, filled with the nostalgia of the good old times!  During this crucial event, which will mark their discipleship forever, Jesus-Christ proclaims to them that a new era in the history of the world has started.  An era during which His authority, His sovereignty upon all things must be and will be proclaimed, simply because He also has full authority upon this Proclamation.  Nothing will prevent this Proclamation from going forward, simply because this Proclamation is rooted in the irrepressible dynamics of Jesus’own resurrection.


And ever since, brothers and sisters, the true Church of Jesus-Christ has understood this mandate as her raison d’ętre, the very reason of her existence.  Through the ages, through times of prosperity or of persecutions, the true body of the risen Lord has been animated, revived, pushed forward by the Holy Spirit for this necessary Proclamation.  “Iesous Kurios”, “Jesus is the Lord”, was the rallying confession of the early Church.

Nevertheless, it might not always be so clear to each of us what the relationship is between Christ’s proclaimed authority in heaven and on earth on the one hand, the Church and the mission on the other hand.  Our Scripture text invites us to explore this relationship in submission to the Spirit of God: for the Holy Spirit alone teaches the elects the ways of God in His plan for the world.  We could sum up this relationship as follows:


The Lord of all things entrusts His Church with the mission of proclaiming His cosmic sovereignty.

1.The dimension of Jesus’ cosmic authority.

We certainly all remember, brothers and sisters, that the content of Jesus’ preaching from the beginning, was the “kingdom of heaven”, “the good news of the kingdom”.  In Matthew 4:17, we read: “From that time on Jesus began to preach, “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near”.  And a bit further, on verse 23, we read again:  Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness among the people”.  Mark, as for him, records the reaction of the people who witnessed this teaching (1:27):  The people were so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this?  A new teaching – and with authority! -  He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.”  Jesus manifested his authority right at the beginning of his ministry, he left no doubts about who possessed authority even on demons.  However, at the eve of departing from earth, Jesus stresses this authority to his brothers, and makes of it the very theme of the Proclamation to come.  He is the King of the Kingdom, He received from the hands of the Father the authority to reign, the Lordship over all things.  His victory over the power of death confirmed His Kingship.  And this Kingship is permanent, nothing or no one will ever take it away from Him.  That, brothers and sisters, is “Evangelion”, Good News: Christ reigns forever!

And then comes the so-called “Great Commission”, which the Church understands as the missionary mandate entrusted to her by Christ to go to all the nations and to make of them disciples.  This is our second point.

2.The Church in mission is born and takes her mandate out of this authority.

The Great Commission, congregation of our Lord Jesus-Christ, is often understood as the founding order of an important church activity, but an activity among many others.  However, our Scripture passage teaches us much more about this Commission: here we have nothing less than the founding declaration of the Church of the New Covenant, with all her true marks.  Therefore we should see the Great Commission as entirely part of this founding declaration of the Church, yes, we should not see the mission as a consecutive or parallel activity of the Church!  We have seen that during the beginning of His ministry, Jesus announced the coming of the Kingdom of God.  Through His resurrection, and afterwards, He confirms His Kingship over this kingdom.  And now Jesus stresses that he gives the missionary order to his disciples on the ground of His Kingship:  All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations (yes, the Greek little word meaning therefore is present in the Greek text of the Gospel according to Matthew, and has indeed much significance).  In other words, because all authority has been given to Him, His disciples are commanded to go and make disciples.  On the one hand, brothers and sisters, we have the declaration of what is a given fact:  “All authority has been given to Him in heaven and on earth”.  We could call this God’s indicative.  On the other hand comes the command to go and make disciples, what we could call God’s imperative.  But this command, this imperative of God’s mission is not a mere option.  It is rooted in the indicative of “All authority has been given to me”.  Shunning away from the command to go and make disciples of all nations would be nothing less than denying that all authority has been given to Him!  But there is an irrepressible dynamics contained in the indicative of Christ’s universal kingship.  Is it strange that this dynamics should be expressed by the command of the Lord to go everywhere and to make disciples acknowledging His cosmic sovereignty?  Actually, Jesus stresses the fact by sending his disciples to all the nations, not to a few only, precisely because His authority is universal and has to be acknowledged as such.  And when, a bit later, Jesus ascends to heaven, He once more proves the cosmic dimension of his authority upon all nations.  Now Christ reigns from heaven upon the whole universe forever.  After the Ascension, we eventually come to understand the deeper meaning of what is written in Psalm 2:  I will proclaim the decree of the Lord: He said to me, “You are my Son; ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.  You will rule them with an iron scepter, you will dash them to pieces like pottery”.

Now, brothers and sisters, in the command given by Jesus to his disciples we find the marks that constitute the true Church: the administration of the sacrament of baptism and the teaching, or preaching, to obey everything He taught them.  Those are the marks of the true Church.  Remember what article 29 of the Belgic Confession says about the true Church:  “The church engages in the pure teaching of the Gospel; it makes use of the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them; it practices church discipline for correcting faults.  In short, it governs itself according to the pure Word of God, rejecting all things contrary to it and holding Jesus Christ as the only Head.”  And, brothers and sisters, according to the pure Word of God as we read it in Matthew 28, verses 18 to 20, the disciples are constituted into a missionary Church: it is indeed within the missionary Proclamation that the constitutive marks of the Church are attributed to her by Christ: namely administrating the sacraments and teaching the Word in its totality.  And, of course, among the things which the true Church must teach and obey, there is the command to go to all nations and to make of them disciples.  Isn’t it the last command of Christ to his disciples before ascending to heaven?  How wonderful that the very formulation of our passage gives a perfect account of that irrepressible dynamics of the Kingdom…

It is hard to believe, brothers and sisters, that in certain so-called “Calvinist” circles, understanding the relationship between the Church and the mission as Matthew chapter 28 teaches us, would be seen as a form of Methodism, or Arminianism!  As if our understanding implied that men and women are saved by their own decision to believe.  First, those who call themselves “Calvinists”, or “Reformed” and nourish such suspicions, affront the memory of John Calvin, who all his life laboured for the planting of faithful churches throughout Europe, from France and England up to Hungary and Poland.  In the midst of his multiple labours, he even backed a truly evangelical missionary endeavour to Brazil, among the Indians…  Second, such people simply deny what the Word of God teaches us about the Church, her foundation and her dynamic mission within the Kingdom of heaven!

As for us, Congregation of our Lord Jesus-Christ, we understand that not only are we commanded to teach all the words taught by our Lord Jesus-Christ, but also we are commanded to obey them, if we still want to be called His true Church.  The true Church joyfully obeys her Lord while the unfaithful church lives in a cocoon, totally inward looking, until she dies out because she denied the principles of her very existence, the principles instituted by the Lord Himself...  This unfaithful church forgot the deep meaning of the great covenantal promise made to Abraham:  “all peoples of earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3).  It forgot that Jesus Christ fulfills this promise too, through His faithful Church, which is His body.  Yes, obeying all the things taught by our Lord, and teaching them, such is the great task of the Church.  This, of course, gives us the scope of our missionary teaching.  And this constitutes our third point:

3.The Church in mission teaches everything the Lord commanded.

“Iesous Kurios”, “Jesus is the Lord”, this is, as we have seen, the Proclamation of the true Church, amidst her members and on the mission field.  Jesus is the Lord, because all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him.  But our missionary proclamation will not be satisfied to repeat this rallying motto without expounding all its facets.  Jesus tells his disciples:  “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you”.  Our task will not be to expect a formal change of religion from the nations, or to merely indicate to them how their souls can be saved.  We will have to teach true discipleship in all the aspects of the reality created by God, the reality over which Christ reigns.  Have you noticed, brothers and sisters, how close to each other the words “disciple” and “discipline” are?  A dictionary of English writes, as one of the possible meanings of the word “discipline”: systematic training in obedience.  Do we accept for ourselves this kind of training, before we want to teach it to others?  Do we search for this systematic obedience in the cultural sphere, in the political or economical realm, in artistic or academic activities?  Do we live out a consistent Christian worldview which has, as its foundation, the rallying motto “Iesous Kurios”, “Jesus is the Lord”?  Teaching them honestly to obey everything Jesus-Christ commanded will require a necessary introspection from us.  This kind of introspection which confesses our own cultural sins (not our culture as such, but all apostate elements in it), which questions our value-system at its core.  This kind of introspection which asks forgiveness from our Lord whenever, in true repentance and humility, led by the Spirit of Jesus-Christ, we come to acknowledge our own idols and we destroy them.  Animated by such a spirit, moved by a deep love for those towards whom we address our Proclamation, we can tackle the Great Commission.  We can tackle it with a joyful and peaceful heart, all the more as we have received an extraordinary promise, the promise of our Lord’s everlasting presence.  And this is fourth point and our conclusion, brothers and sisters:

 4.In the mission He entrusts to His Church, Jesus-Christ is “Emmanuel”, “God with us”.

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”.  With these words ends the Gospel according to Matthew.  But is it really an end?  Rather, it is the expression of the fullness of God’s presence with His children, in Christ.  Remember, at the very beginning of his account, chapter 1 verse 22, Matthew said:  “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:  “The virgin will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel –which means, “God with us”.  This presence is now promised to the disciples who are sent in His mission.  They should not fear, for He who once calmed the storm on the lake remains with them.  Therefore, when facing the difficulties of the missionary Proclamation -and they seem many and insuperable at times- we should remember the words of our Lord to his frightened disciples on the little boat:  You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”  For in the mission which He entrusts to His Church, Jesus-Christ remains “Emmanuel”, “God with us”.  All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him, and this authority extends, of course, over the Proclamation of His Word.  Through this Proclamation, all God’s elects will be saved.  This too, brothers and sisters, is Evangelion, “Good News”.  Christ remains Emmanuel, “God with us”, when He sends His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, at Pentecost.  And what happens at Pentecost?  God Himself brings to the disciples people from all kinds of nations gathered in Jerusalem.  Jesus commanded his disciples to go to all the nations, and God, in His amazing Grace, brings the nations to them!  And the Holy Spirit enables them to communicate with all these people…  The great covenantal promise made to Abraham is fulfilled:  “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you”.  The Church, now empowered by the mighty Spirit of God, is ready to carry out the Great Commission of her Lord.  This too, is Evangelion, Good News.  Therefore, today just like yesterday, we can go with a heart twice joyful and appeased for the mission entrusted to us by our Sovereign Lord, in the assurance that He always will abide by us.