Christian bookstore and noticed that there were lots of books and other items with the theme of “God’s Promises.” Most of them seemed to focus on promises of protection and provision (and, in some cases, prosperity). I thought to myself, “Those promises get a lot of PR!” But in Matthew 28:16–20, we find another promise: the promise of Christ’s presence . . . always.
When we use this passage as our “Great Commission” or our call to be involved in God’s mission, we sometimes begin with verse 18, where Jesus sends them out to make disciples, baptize, and teach people. Certainly this part is important. But if we begin with verse 16, we see that Jesus first directed the eleven disciples to be where he would be (the mountain). In order to be sent out into the world, we first have to be where Christ calls us to be, so that we can know who Christ wants us to be, what Christ wants us to do, and where Christ wants us to go.
To the disciples, the first step in that commission may not have sounded so “great.” They were directed to go to a mountain in Galilee, far from the centers of power and excitement. But that’s where Jesus was! And that’s where Jesus promised that he would be present with them always. Now it may seem odd that this promise would come right after Jesus has sent them out (“Go,” v. 19; sent them away?). But it’s as if Jesus is saying, “You are here with me, and I will be there with you.”
So, in mission, is Christ here with us, or are we there with him? We discover the answer as we respond to this commission in faith. I promise (and this isn’t just mission PR!).
Sam Gray, director of mission outreach, Board of World Mission