“Jesus the Savior”: Preschool & Kids Leader Training for Unit 27, Session 4—Jesus Returned to Heaven
Throughout high school and college I worked at a hardware store. It was a great job, but like any job, it was not without its frustrations. The store I was in during college was used as a training store for new managers. These manager trainees would work at our store for a couple of months to learn the ropes and then leave to go to their own stores. As it happened, their working hours were often nights and weekends, the same hours as most of us part-time employees.
Now, imagine you are a rookie manager looking to make your mark. What would you do? Welp, you would want to show how you are a forward thinker full of great ideas, right? And that is exactly what these managers did. Sometimes their ideas were solid. Other times, not so much. We part-time employees felt the brunt of some of what seemed to be nothing more than foolishness though. Manager Trainee A would have us switch the items on the endcap of aisle 12 with the endcap of aisle 17. But then a couple of weeks later, after Manager Trainee A was gone, Manager Trainee B would have a revolutionary idea: we were to switch the items on the endcap of aisle 17 with the endcap of aisle 12.
Such were our lives under manager trainees. We didn’t mind work; we just wanted the work to make sense. And adding to the challenge was doing what didn’t make sense for a person who we knew was leaving in a matter of weeks. Leading with lame duck authority is challenging, but so is following a lame duck leader.
Thankfully, as believes, we have neither a pointless mission nor a powerless Leader.
Authority of the Mission
A mission succeeds or fails based largely on the authority of the one who gives it. Our mission as believers does not come from our pastors, although God has indeed placed them in positions of spiritual authority over us. Neither is our mission left to our own devices. Our mission comes from Jesus Himself:
18 Jesus came near and said to them,“All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. (Matthew 28:18 CSB)
How much authority does Jesus have? All authority. Why? Because He is the Son of God, the Creator God who made all things and knows what is best. How seriously should we take this mission then? Completely.
It has been said before that this is called the Great Commission and not the Great Suggestion for a reason. And this is that reason: it comes from the One with all authority.
Our task, then, is to understand what this mission is and to dedicate our entire lives to fulfilling our part in it. Living on mission is not an option for the spiritual elites among us. Nor is it a part-time job that we fit into our frantic schedules. We don’t fit this mission into anything else; if anything, we fit all else into this mission. The mission Jesus has given us supersedes all else.
Goal of the Mission
We are to take this mission seriously. But what is the mission? Jesus continued:
19 “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20 CSB)
We often focus on the baptizing and teaching here, and we should pay careful attention to them, of course, but there is actually only one verb in this mission: make disciples. This is what we need to pay the carefullest of attention to.
What does it mean to make a disciple? To answer that, we need to ask first what is a disciple? A disciple is a follower, right? We are disciples when we follow Jesus. So what does it mean to make disciples? It means to make other followers. That much is probably not surprising to you, but I fear that we miss a really important aspect of all of this which Jesus points us to in what follows.
Many of us are quick to see the Great Commission as a call to evangelize, with the visual celebration of “success” coming when a new believer is baptized. And that is surely a critical part of this mission, but it is far from the ending. After all, Jesus didn’t end his explanation of the mission with “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Verse 20 follows. We are also to teach these believers to obey Christ’s commands. What do you think of when you hear that? Likely your mind will go to all sorts of commands in the Bible. And those matter, of course, but we often miss one very important command: the very one we are reading!
We are to make disciples who carry out the Great Commission by making other disciples who carry out the Great Commission, and so on and so forth. Put simply, our mission is to make disciple-making disciples. That is our target. So the greatest way we can measure our “success” in this mission is not the number of disciples we might help make, but the number of disciples they in turn make. May we pray to see a bounty of “spiritual grandchildren” through our efforts.
Power of the Mission
I imagine you took this mission seriously before you began reading this blog post. Perhaps what you have read has reminded you of this mission’s weightiness or helped you to see it more in that way. The danger is that the more we understand our mission, the less qualified we feel to play a part in fulfilling it. Jesus knows this, which is why He concluded it this way:
“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20 CSB)
Jesus’s words here are not primarily words of warning, as if He were saying that He is watching us to make sure we do this and that we do it right. No, these are words of comfort and hope. These are words that are meant to prompt confidence within us. It is not up to us to fulfill this mission. It is up to Jesus Himself, the One with all authority.
Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you.” – Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983)Corrie ten Boom with Jamie Buckingham, Tramp for the Lord: The Story That Begins Where the Hiding Place Ends (Fort Washington, PA: CLC Publications, 1974), 63.