From the Sea of Galilee to the cross of Calvary, Jesus’ invitation to discipleship in the Gospel of Matthew is defined by the word, “follow.”
Matthew 4:19 records Jesus inviting Peter, Andrew, James, and John to leave behind their family business of fishing and become his disciples by inviting them to “Follow me.”
In Matthew 8:22, Jesus issued an invitation to a reluctant disciple who requested to bury his father before following Jesus by saying “Follow me.”
In Matthew 16:24, Jesus expanded the cost of discipleship by telling his followers, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
Matthew 20:29-34 records Jesus’ last healing miracle prior to his entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday as Jesus touched the eyes of two blind men. Verse 34 defines the outcome of this healing story by stating, “Immediately they regained their sight and followed him.”
In the 28th and concluding chapter of Matthew, the context of discipleship is defined by a new word, “go,” as Mary Magdalene and the other Mary encounter Jesus on the resurrected side of the empty tomb. In the reality of Jesus’ resurrection, Matthew 28:10 records a new invitation to discipleship as Jesus commands Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to become the first apostles as they invite the other disciples to live in the reality of the risen Christ, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
All of which leads to the concluding verses of the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus gives the following command to his disciples:
“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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Known as The Great Commission, these verses expand the scope of discipleship on the resurrected side of the empty tomb. For a little over three years, Jesus’ disciples had followed Jesus on a journey that led to the crucified side of the tomb as Jesus:
taught his disciples how to fish for people for God’s kingdom
instructed his disciples to live with the priority of God’s kingdom focusing their lives
told his disciples to deny themselves and take up their cross as they lived in God’s kingdom
healed their sight so they might follow Jesus in a new vision of God’s kingdom
Following the Great Commission, a new day of discipleship had arrived where disciples of Jesus are given the responsibility to go where Jesus commands as they make disciples on the resurrected side of the empty tomb.
What Jesus commanded his disciples to do then, Jesus commissions his disciples to do now – to go and make disciples of all nations. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement that includes The United Methodist Church, took the mission of The Great Commission to heart. He was an Anglican Priest in the Church of England who had such a radical passion for ministry with the poor and working class of England that he was banned from preaching in any Anglican church. As a priest with no parish, Wesley stated “I look upon all the world as my parish” (from Wesley’s journal entry on 11 June 1739).
Going where Jesus commanded, Wesley emphasized personal and social holiness as he preached to people from all walks of life in fields, city squares and coal mines as he travelled more than 250,000 miles throughout the British Isles.
In addition to preaching, John Wesley helped establish schools and medical clinics for the poor throughout Britain as well as places of worship. He began encouraging and training lay people, both men and women, for work in the church. Through his preaching, people began discussing and thinking about not only theology but the social ills of the day and the best ways of addressing them. Wesley’s discussions were not limited to members of his own movement and the Anglican Church but included members and leaders of other denominations.
Going where Jesus commanded, the fruit of Wesley’s ministry is seen in today’s world through over 100 colleges and universities in the United States alone and Africa University in Zimbabwe. In addition to The United Methodist Church that has over 30,000 congregations and ministries that extend God’s presence around the world, more than 20 Christian denominations and groups including the African Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal Zion and Christian Methodist Episcopal churches, the Wesleyan churches, the Church of the Nazarene, the Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries are the fruit of Wesley’s understanding of the world as his parish.
The mission statement of The United Methodist Church is an affirmation of going where Jesus commands. That statement is “the mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
On this Trinity Sunday, may God bless our congregation as we fulfill this mission by going where Jesus commands in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Going Where Jesus Commands
by Pastor Marc Brown
June 4, 2023
Accompanying Scriptures: Matthew 28:16-20
Fort Hill United Methodist Church
Order of Worship for June 4, 2023
Scripture Lesson Matthew 28:16-20
The Good News “Going Where Jesus Commands”
Music “We Walk By Faith” by Henry Alford
Closing Music “Praise Ye the Triune God” arr. Larry Shackley