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.
If you’ve ever worked as a team, then you know there are certain behaviors and attitudes that increase productivity, and there are just as many behaviors and attitudes that decrease it too. Good managers, good coaches, good leaders know how to correct unproductive behaviors and improve the performance of their whole team.
But what if your aim is to make your team less productive? Some of you might be muttering to yourself, I’ve worked with folks like that before. During World War II, the U.S. Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner to the CIA, created and distributed a secret pamphlet titled The Simple Sabotage Field Manual to citizens who were living in Germany, Italy and Japan. They hoped to reach those citizens who were sympathetic to the cause of defeating the Nazis and ending the war. The manual, which is still available on the CIA’s website, offered instructions on how to sabotage productivity on the job in order to reduce production in factories, offices, and transportation lines.
Here are some of the instructions: Work slowly. Find reasons to frequently interrupt the flow of work. Blame your shoddy work on your tools or equipment. Some of the instructions for managers include: To lower morale, give extra attention and undeserved promotions to the less-effective employees. When there’s important work to get done, hold a conference to avoid finishing it.
For organizations, the pamphlet offered the following instructions for sabotaging productivity: When possible, refer all matters to a committee for further study and consideration. Make these committees as large as possible. Bring up irrelevant matters as much as possible. Urge caution instead of action.
Jesus wanted His followers to be productive. He wanted them to act. So, let’s compare these instructions on how to sabotage productivity to Jesus’ instructions to His disciples in Matthew 28:16-20. This encounter takes place not that long after the Resurrection. His disciples are waiting for Him on a mountain in Galilee. And when He appears to them, He gets right to the point: 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.
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Jesus could very easily spread the message of God throughout the whole universe without any help. He could perform miracles far beyond the simple acts of feeding people, calming a storm, or raising the dead. All the power to accomplish His purposes is in His hands. And He used this power to send us out to do His work. What an amazing privilege it is to be used by God to do God’s work!
There are three elements to this work that I want us to look at this morning. First, Jesus is sending us out to create a universal Church. Second, Jesus is sending us out to share in a universal experience. Finally, Jesus is sending us out to live by a universal ethic. When we understand these three pieces, then we’ll understand our calling in the world. And that’ll make us more productive as followers of Jesus.
Beginning in verse 19, Jesus says, Therefore go and make disciples of all nations. With just these few words, Jesus sends us out to create a universal Church. To go beyond our own communities, beyond our own comfort zone. Go and make disciples of all nations. In Revelation 7, John sees a vision of the throne of God, and this is what it looked like: . . . there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. God’s church is a universal church, open to every single person of any race, nation, tribe, language, culture, gender.
Followers of Jesus were never meant to withdraw from the world. We were never meant to stay inside our churches and keep the news of Jesus to ourselves. With this command, Jesus sends us out to accomplish God’s plan for the salvation of humanity.
All in all, no more attractive religion has ever been presented to mankind. It offered itself without restrictions to all individuals, classes, and nations; it wasn’t limited to one people, like Judaism, nor to the free-men of one state, like the official cults of Greece and Rome. By making all men heirs of Christ’s victory over death, Christianity announced the basic equality of men. To even the greatest sinners it promised forgiveness, and their full acceptance into the community of the saved.
Christianity announced the basic equality of all people. Everyone is valued by God. Everyone is offered salvation through Jesus Christ. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Second, Jesus commands us to share in a universal sacrament. 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. A sacrament means a holy ritual. It comes from an Old French word that means “solemn oath.” All over the world, the act of Baptism may look different depending on one’s culture or traditions. But the meaning of Baptism is the same, no matter if it happened 1800 years ago in Ethiopia, 500 years ago in Venezuela, or last week in Hinton, West Virginia.
In Baptism, we die to our old life and take on the life of Jesus Christ. We enter into a covenant relationship with God. And we become members of the universal Church. Through one universal sacrament, Baptism, people of every color and ethnicity and culture and socioeconomic class belong to God’s family. We all belong. At last.
Finally, Jesus sends us out to live by a universal ethic, the ethic of love for God and love for others. Let’s focus on the last part of Jesus’ instructions: 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.
. . . and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Not everything in the Law. Not everything in our history and traditions. Everything I have commanded you. In His three years of earthly ministry, Jesus taught His disciples so many vital things about God and how to live out God’s kingdom. But He only gave us three primary commands.
In Matthew 22, an expert in the law tested Jesus by asking Him to name the greatest commandment.
Jesus replied, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.
And in John 13, just before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, He takes the role of servant and washes His disciples’ feet, then He challenges them with these words: A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples if you love one another.
Every single follower of Jesus should be known by our love for God and for others. That’s what Jesus commanded us to do: love others in the same way that He loves us. That’s the primary way we prove that we are Jesus’ disciples: if we love one another with the love of Jesus. And that’s the primary way we make disciples of Jesus too, by loving others enough to go and share the truth of Jesus in our words and our actions. By Baptizing into a covenant relationship with God and membership in the universal Church. And by teaching them by example to obey Jesus’ commands to love God and love one another.
Jesus’ prayer and deepest desire for us is to; 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. He sends us out to create a universal Church that shares a universal sacrament, Baptism and lives by a universal ethic love.
And He wouldn’t send us out to do His work unless He equipped us with the power of His Spirit. So, we can trust the promise He gave His disciples then and He gives to us now: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”