The Messiah Commissions His Disciples

Between his resurrection and his ascension to the right hand of God, Jesus spent forty days with his disciples teaching them about the kingdom of God and his messianic role. He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, to understand everything that was written about the Messiah in the Torah, the Prophets, and the Psalms.

In essence, Jesus gave them a message to share. They were to proclaim the name of Jesus to all the nations. This involved announcing the good news of the kingdom of God, the death and resurrection of Jesus, the forgiveness of sins, and the end of Israel’s exile, as well as the inclusion of the nations in the kingdom of God. The disciples, however, would not do this alone but in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus prepared them for their anointing in the Spirit when God would pour out the Spirit upon them. They were told to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father, which was their baptism in the Spirit. Just as Jesus was anointed with power in the Spirit at his baptism, the restoration of the kingdom to Israel would begin when God anointed these disciples with power in the Spirit. This anointing would empower them to become witnesses to the work of God in Jesus and testify to the reality of the kingdom of God, beginning in Jerusalem and extending to the ends of the known world.

God, according to Isaiah 49:6, commissioned Israel to be a light to nations and to extend the salvation of God to the ends of the earth. This is also the mission of Israel’s Messiah, and, as disciples of Jesus, it is also the mission of the church (Acts 13:47). As God pours out the Spirit upon the disciples, God empowers them to continue the mission of Israel, which is to bring salvation to the ends of the earth.

The Gospel of Matthew records this commission in its last few verses. Though the ministry of Jesus was primarily to the lost house of Israel, when Jesus gathered his disciples for some final words, he commissioned them to “make disciples of all nations.” Jesus tells his disciples to take his message to all nations and to disciple the nations just as he had discipled them. The mission of Jesus is not stationary or passive. Rather, it moves throughout the world and proactively invites others into the community of Jesus.

From the beginning, God intended to fill the earth with God’s glory as human beings, the imagers of God, flourished. God chose Israel to renew that glory not only in their own land but to the ends of the earth. God sent the Messiah to give abundant life, and the Messiah sent his disciples among the nations to proclaim that life.

Just as Israel was baptized in the sea and under the cloud in their Exodus from Egyptian slavery, and just as the Messiah was anointed with the Spirit at his baptism, so Jesus commissions the disciples to baptize those who seek to follow Jesus and teach them how to live as disciples of Jesus.  When they are baptized, they are included in the community or the fellowship of the Father, Son, and Spirit. They become part of the kingdom of God; they become part of Israel’s story.

As part of Israel’s story, they are called to embody and practice the ethics of the kingdom of God. Included in the communion of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, they are called to imitate God and invite others into that community by making disciples of all nations.

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