Word for Wednesday...Commission
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.Matthew 28:19-20
Several years ago, my grandfather gave me the gift of a used, dark green, Pontiac Transport. If you are struggling to recall what a Pontiac Transport looked like, allow me to refresh your memory. It was one of the earliest minivans on the market. The front windshield was interchangeable with the windshield from a Boeing 747. From the side it resembled a dust buster. And when all the tail lights and brake lights were illuminated it looked like an alien ship from the arcade hit, Space Invaders. Admittedly, it was a curious gift to give someone newly married with no immediate plans for children, but it was still a gift. And it gave me a great deal of pleasure making my new wife drive it.
Before handing me the keys and signing over the title, my grandfather went through the vehicle and took out all his personal belongings, assuring me all that remained were things I would need. I assumed this meant he had only left things like the owner’s manual and maintenance records, but later discovered he had left more than that. A few months after he gave it to me I was looking through the glove box and discovered, next to those aforementioned items, a small Gideon Bible. I smiled, remembering the way my grandfather defined “necessities.”
The topic of my sermon last Sunday was evangelism, a term I will always associate with my grandfather. For the twenty-seven years or so that I knew him, evangelism, telling people about Jesus, ranked high on his list of priorities. I gave a few examples in my sermon of how he supported and engaged in evangelism, but I didn’t mention his habit of always carrying at least one pocket-size Gideon Bible with him, so he would have one on hand if he encountered someone who might need it. He would buy them by the case. When cleaning out his closet after he died we found a box that was nearly full of them, waiting to be given away. He didn’t think I would “need” a Gideon Bible to operate the Transport, but he felt I would in my efforts to follow Jesus.
The passage quoted above are Jesus’ last words to his disciples in the Gospel of Matthew. Often referred to as “The Great Commission,” they contain Jesus’ instruction to engage in the work of evangelism, to share the good news of the Gospel, to tell people about Jesus, and to invite people to follow him. Evangelism is something all followers of Jesus need to be doing. As we were reminded last Sunday in the story of Philip inviting Nathanael to “come and see” Jesus, we don’t need to have a prepared script or be able to engage in rigorous debate. All we need is a heart for lost people, and a willingness to introduce people to Jesus that flows from our excitement over our own encounter with him. We should pray for both. Jesus can take over from there.