Do you remember playing games with your siblings or kids in the neighborhood when you were younger? It seems like more often than not those games were usually interrupted by an argument over the rules. There always seemed to be one kid who seemed to think they had the authority to tell everyone else what to do. While they were imposing their will on the rest of the group someone would shout something similar to, “Who died and made you boss?” This of course is the child’s way of saying what the chief priests and elders said to Jesus after He had He cleansed the Temple, “By what authority are you doing these things?”
This question by the religious leaders was more than just a childish tussle over who would be in charge. This was a question of grave importance. They wanted to know if Jesus was claiming that His actions had divine authority behind them. They were also in a very real sense asking if Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah. According to Daniel 7:13-14, the Messiah would receive authority from God to establish His kingdom on the earth. They were asking if this man from Nazareth was really claiming to be the Messiah?
On that particular day Jesus did not answer the inquisitive religious leaders. However, in just a few short weeks, Jesus would make a statement concerning His authority. Matthew ends His gospel with what we now call the Great Commission;
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Popular understanding of the Great Commission is, “Go therefore and make disciples…” While this is true, the Great Commission actually begins with the foundation upon which its potential fulfillment is based. The Great Commission does not start with our going. It starts with the authority of Jesus that is given to Him based upon His life, death, and resurrection.
The Great Commission tells us four things about the authority of Jesus. First, His authority has been given to Him. It comes to Him from the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:13-14). The God of all creation, His father, has bestowed upon Him the authority to fulfill the role of the Messiah. By claiming this authority, Jesus is declaring that He is the Messiah. Secondly, there are no limits to His authority. He said, “All authority,” is His. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. His authority is absolute. Thirdly, there is no where in existence that His authority does not reach. His authority is in heaven and earth. Finally, His authority is a present reality. We are not waiting for Jesus to be given this authority at His return. According to Revelation 1:5 He is now the ruler of kings upon the earth.
The Great Commission carries with it two very profound implications for the church. First of all, it describes the purpose of the church. Jesus is the chosen messiah of God to bring His kingdom to earth. Jesus’ mission exceeds the personal salvation of people so they can go to heaven. His mission is the full restoration of God’s creation; the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. Although personal salvation is an important part of this, the scope of Christ’s work includes all that has been destroyed or marred by sin. It is God’s plan to destroy all evil and restore all things through the work of His messiah. Therefore, if the church is the body of Christ, then we have been called (commissioned) to join in this messianic mission. The commission to make disciples is a part of this messianic mission. Jesus is giving the church its purpose. We are to continue His mission.
Secondly, it means the church has the authority to continue His mission. Jesus declares that His authority is granted to Him. Because of His obedient life, His death upon the cross, and His rising from the grave He has been exalted to the place of authority at God’s right hand. He now passes that authority onto His followers. He began to do this even while He was on the earth. In Luke 9:1 and 10:19, Jesus declares, first to the twelve and then to the seventy-two, that He has given them authority over all the power of the enemy. This authority is extended to His followers today through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
But, what is the authority that belongs to Jesus which He bestows upon His followers? The Greek word for authority in this passage denotes “unrestricted possibility or freedom to act.” In the New Testament this authority belongs to God the Father as the creator of the universe and the source of all life. This authority has been passed to His Son Jesus as His chosen messiah. Then Jesus passes this unrestricted possibility and freedom to act to His followers. Amazing! Do we comprehend the incredible privilege and power being given to the church to make disciples and continue the mission of Jesus?
All too often I believe the church has believed the lies of Satan and the powers of this world who claim all authority belongs to them. Satan in the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness claimed to have the “authority” to give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if he would fall down and worship him. Pilate falsely claimed authority over Jesus to put Him to death or release Him. Jesus said Pilate only had the authority that was given to him. In other words, Pilate wasn’t the one who was really in control. The crucifixion may have looked like the powers of this world were in control but, Paul says in Colossians 2:15 that it was really Satan and all the powers of this world that were being embarrassed. All the participants in the crucifixion were simply acting according to the authority given to them by God.
The real authority of the universe, the one who has the unrestricted possibility and freedom to act is God. God has given that authority to His Son. His Son has bestowed that authority on His church. Amazing!
OnMISSION is about fulfilling the Great Commission. The purpose of the church is to continue the messianic mission of Jesus to implement His kingdom on the earth. We are to make disciples who will live according to the values of God’s kingdom so that His will is done on earth as it is heaven. We have been given the authority (unrestricted possibilities and freedom to act) through the indwelling Spirit of God to continue this mission.
Let’s live, worship, and work in the authority of God’s Messiah!