The Resurrection and Great Commission, Part 2

After the women leave to find Peter and the others, the soldiers come to themselves and hurry to tell the chief priests that they as well had witnessed the angel and the rolling away of the stone, and in fact, no doubt had seen Jesus, raised to life speaking to the two women. The Pharisees, chief priests, and elders are very dismayed at this report and give the soldiers sizable bribes to claim instead that Jesus’ disciples came and stole Jesus’ lifeless body away in the night. This is taking their lives in their hands because in reporting they slept on duty, they could be executed, but the elders promise to vouch for the guards, so they took the money and gave false witness as instructed. For this reason, the false narrative of the theft of Jesus’ body persisted for many years after this among the unbelieving Jews, even though the story of the bribe was apparently made public as well not long after, perhaps because some of the guards converted to Christianity and admitted their crime.

In verse 16, the eleven disciples go to a mountain location in Galilee, where they expected to meet with Jesus. Upon arriving, in this account, Jesus is already there, and they worshipped Him, although some of them doubted. We are not told here who the doubters were, but apparently, it was more than just Thomas. Jesus then declares to them, that all power is given unto Him in heaven and on earth. Because of this, the disciples are to go teaching all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Now, you will notice that Jesus tells them to go to ALL NATIONS, not just the Jews. This is not what the disciples did. The word nations there means “ethnos” and clearly should have been understood by the disciples that they should proclaim the gospel not only to Hebrews but to Gentiles as well. Unfortunately, however, their Jewish prejudices ran deep, and they didn’t even hear what Jesus said, though He spoke quite plainly. It wasn’t until years later that the Lord appears to Peter in a vision, sending him to Cornelius’ house that Peter finally figures out that the gospel was not exclusively for the Jews alone.

It is important to note as well the statement Jesus makes about ALL power being given to Him in heaven and on earth. What about Satan? Is he not the prince of the power of the air? Did he not retain a rightful control over the earth by God’s design? If you believe what Jesus says here, that cannot be so. Satan retains control in certain areas of humanity not because God wills it, but because of the dereliction of believers to accept what Jesus actually said upon His resurrection. In fact, there is no scripture to be found that legitimizes Satan’s control in the earth for any reason. We do know from Genesis that God gave man dominion over all the earth, but there is no record anywhere in scripture that God gave, or even allowed Satan to ascend to earthly dominance in the world below. The only conclusion we can make is that when man bowed to Satan in the temptation that Satan then coopted the dominion given to man, who was the only legitimate inheritor of dominion in the earth by God’s command. Therefore, what Adam relinquished by transgression in the garden of Eden, Jesus reclaimed in the resurrection and then imparted that authority, or returned that authority to you and I through the New Birth experience.

Because all power is given to Jesus in heaven and earth, what are the disciples to do? They are to go and teach the nations. What are they to teach them? The word teach here means “to hold discourse in order to instruct…” In other words, the Great Commission is a mandate to engage the world in a dialogue about who Jesus is and what His claims are upon the earth and upon mankind. We are to confront mankind with the claims of Christ. To what end? Verse 20 tells us – we are to teach them to observe all things that Jesus had commanded them. The word observe there means to “keep or maintain.” This is something more than just praying the sinner’s prayer with someone. We have simplified evangelical engagement with Christ to a mere inaugural prayer rather than teaching people to implement in their lives the sayings and teachings of Jesus as He actually commanded us in His final instructions to His followers. What Jesus is saying to the men and by extension to you and me is that we are to go out and be to others what Jesus was to the 12 during His earth walk. We may not feel sufficient for this task, but the promise is that He will be with us in the task, even unto the end of the world. The time reference given means that this commissioning is not just something the disciples were commanded to do, but a generational instruction reaching down to you and me as well

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