When Jesus told his disciples to go, they took him seriously. They went. They left their homes and communities and took the message out. They left to make disciples of all nations. Those of us who follow Jesus today are beneficiaries of these first disciples. We owe them a debt. They set the tone for Jesus’ disciples over the centuries. To follow Jesus involves going. It involves helping others become his disciples. Christianity is, at its core, a missionary religion. It’s spread by the followers of Jesus going either next door or to the next continent to make disciples.
Followers of Jesus have embraced this teaching over the centuries. Paul, the apostle, was one of the first and one of the greatest to go. Patricius of England became Saint Patrick of Ireland because he chose to go in response to God’s calling. David Livingstone went to Africa to make disciples of all nations and thanks to his pioneering work and the efforts of many others, millions of Africans are now disciples of Jesus. Their influence is broad.
Nelson Mandela was formed in his faith and his ability to forgive during his time in a Methodist grammar school. Taking seriously the call to make disciples of all nations, in this case being the Xhosa tribe of South Africa, resulted in a leader who stressed forgiveness and unity despite spending 28 years in a prison for his political beliefs. Mandela led South Africa through a perilous journey towards freedom and staved off what many felt would be a time of mass bloodshed and loss of life. Why? Because the teachings of Jesus infiltrated his young life. He heard those teachings because someone took seriously Jesus’ word to “go.”
How about you? Do you take those words seriously? Where can you go? Perhaps there is a young Mandela in your path, down the road, ready for the words of Jesus.
A dozen or so men and women have gathered on a hillside, under the sun. Over the last few weeks they have witnessed a series of events unparalleled in human history. These are the most committed followers of Jesus of Nazareth and they’ve come to this lonely spot to hear him teach.
This would be beyond belief if they weren’t experiencing it themselves, as Jesus was dead on a cross only a few days before. But they’ve seen him alive and spoken to him and touched him. One stuck his hand into the wound on his side. Jesus has eaten with them and reassured them. It’s been a joyous, miraculous celebration of Jesus. However, Jesus says he won’t stay forever and this feels like it may be one of the last times with these, his most faithful disciples. So, what does Jesus tell these faithful followers? What instructions does he leave them with? How does he encourage them to carry on? His directions are quite simple, really. But like all that Jesus taught, in his simplicity lies a depth of profound meaning.
Jesus tells his disciples to GO. He tells them to make more disciples, disciples from all nations (see Matthew 28). He lets them know that his vision is not just local, but it encompasses Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. Picture it. A handful of his followers, mostly uneducated, certainly not powerful or wealthy or well connected. Sitting on a hill at the edge of the empire in a subjugated country. Jesus tells them to go and make disciples of all the nations. What do they do? They GO…
I took a picture of this stained glass window last week while in France. What biblical scene do you think this represents?
Stained glass window in church in Salers, France
St. Patrick’s cathedral in Dublin is built next to the site of the well where Patrick baptized some of the first believers in Ireland in the 400s. The Celtic cross seen here is in the cemetery of the cathedral just steps away from where the well is thought to have been. It was really cool to walk the same ground knowing that people have been meeting the Lord at this place for 1600 years!