When Jesus spoke with His disciples for the final time, He laid down the following challenge:
“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 end of the age.”
Matthew 28 v 18-20
Jesus leaves His followers with a clear and simple command: people need to hear about me so go out into the world and tell them. There is nothing passive about Jesus’ final instructions. He calls the disciples to “go” but that command was not just for those who were with Him at the time, but for all Christians. The call remains today to intentionally “go” out into the world and tell those who don’t know the good news of Jesus.
However, the call isn’t just simply to tell people, nor is it to convert them. Rather it is to make disciples. Disciples who understand what Jesus has done for them through His death and resurrection and who are committed to following and obeying Him.
Jesus says that these disciples will come from ‘all nations’, from every corner of the globe. The word used here is ‘ethne’, which is translated as ‘nations’ and means ‘people groups’ and ‘cultures’. In other words, Jesus calls us to make disciples of ‘all people groups’.
There are few bigger people groups in the world today than that of sport. Sport has never been so popular and so participated in as it is in the 21st century. The call from Jesus to make disciples of all people groups undoubtedly applies to making disciples in the world of sport. Yet this is a world where strikingly few people are followers of Jesus.
With His final words, Jesus calls us to go and make disciples of all nations, and in doing so calls us to make disciples in the world of sport.
This command from Jesus is important and exciting, but also challenging. You would not be alone if you found sharing your faith a daunting and often nerve-wracking experience.
Jesus was well aware of this which is why the command is surrounded by two crucially important facts: Jesus has all authority on heaven and earth and, He is always with us.
Jesus opens these final words by reminding the disciples that He is in charge of everything: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Having just risen from the dead, Jesus could say these words with conviction and His disciples could be certain of their truth. He has defeated death, He is the Son of God, He really does have authority over all things. When He continues “Therefore, go and make disciples…” we know it is because Jesus has such authority that we can go and share the gospel in any context with confidence.
Having reminded us of His authority, He finishes by reminding us of His presence with us: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” These are such reassuring words to hear. We can be confident that Jesus is with us wherever we are and whatever we are doing.
So as we tell a friend the gospel or invite our training squad to a guest event where they hear a talk about the Christian faith, we can do so with the comforting knowledge that Jesus is with us.
For every Christian, the challenge of Jesus’ final words is clear - go and make disciples everywhere, being confident that Jesus is in charge and is with you.
For sportspeople, perhaps the call is a little more specific: Go and make disciples from the people group of sport. It is a people group of millions, the vast majority of whom do not follow Jesus, and so need to hear about Him. Will you be one of those who will go and seek to make disciples in the world of sport? Will you respond to Jesus’ challenge and look to make Him known in your sports club or team?
All Bible quotations are taken with permission from the NIV:
Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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