The Mount of Commission
E. J. Strange, Bridgwater
8. THE MOUNT OF COMMISSION
“Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations . . . and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen”, Matt. 28. 16-20.
The Lord is risen. This is the greatest fact of universal history. Without the resurrection the cross is dark, shameful and tragic. Viewed in the light of the resurrection, it shines with all the glory of God.
As we have seen, it is typical of Matthew that, in relating an appearance of the Lord to His disciples, he should choose one that took place on a mountain. There in Galilee was given the commission which has been the inspiration of all true evangelical missionary enterprise during the past nineteen hundred years.
In considering the Risen Lord on the Mountain of Commission we shall note His authority, His command and His abiding presence.
As we trace the footsteps of our Lord upon the earth, we observe the authority that He exercised in every sphere. In the physical realm He commanded the winds and the waves and they obeyed Him. In the moral sphere He had authority upon the earth to forgive sins. In the intellectual sphere He taught as One having authority and not as the scribes. In the spiritual sphere He commanded the unclean spirits and they obeyed Him. He now stands before His disciples as the Lord of life, having by His death and resurrection conquered once and for all the power of death. He declares that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. Into the hands that were nailed to the cross God has placed the sceptre of universal dominion, and God has declared that every knee shall bow to Him and that every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
The work of the Holy Spirit of God through the apostles as recorded in the Acts has as its key-note the declaration of the authority of the Lord Jesus. This is also true of the Epistles and the call to men is to bow to that authority. On the day of Pentecost the climax of Peter’s message to the Jews was reached when he said, “God hath made that same Jesus . . . both Lord and Christ”, Acts 2. 36. When preaching first to the Gentiles in the home of Cornelius, he said of Jesus “he is Lord of all”, 10. 36. Paul says, “we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord”, 2 Cor. 4. 5 R.V.
In our proclamation of the Gospel and in our ministry of the Word we should ever give central place to the fact of the Lordship of Christ, and seek by His grace first to bow to that authority ourselves, and then to bring others also into obedience to our Risen Lord.
The command of the Risen Lord given by virtue of His absolute authority may be summarised in four verbs, go, disciple, baptise, and teach.
Go. The invitation of the Gospel is couched in the sweet word, come. We came to Him and “with our head upon His bosom there came to our fevered heart the rest of eternity, the peace which passeth all understanding”.
But having come, we must go. He chose His disciples first that they might be with Him, and then that He might send them forth. Men must hear. How can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach except they be sent? “Go”, He said, and they went forth and preached everywhere. “Go”, He said, and Hudson Taylor went to China, Livingstone to Africa, Carey to India, and countless lesser-known disciples (but not lesser-known to Him) have gone, nothing doubting. Have we gone, gone it may be to our friends and neighbours, to tell them how great things the Lord has done for us?
Disciple. Before His death, the Lord had expressly told His disciples that they were to go neither to the Gentiles nor to the Samaritans, but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. By His death and resurrection, however, the middle wall of partition was broken down. Henceforth the distinction between Jew and Gentile was to be abolished. God so loved the world, so all nations were to hear the word. From all nations were disciples to be made. The Gospel has one great foundation-message of salvation for men. Its emphases, however, vary. In Luke the Lord tells His disciples that repentance and remission of sins were to be preached in His name. In Mark the emphasis is on faith: “He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved”. In Matthew, the Gospel of the King, the emphasis is laid on discipleship - the path of learning and loving obedience. These differing emphases may be summarised in the words, forgiveness, faith, and following.
Baptise. In our justifiable reaction against the unscriptural and harmful teaching of baptismal regeneration, we must beware of relegating baptism to a position of unimportance. Baptism was the badge of discipleship, the outward evidence of the inward work of grace. It was to be into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. While we repeat this formula in our baptising, it certainly implies much more, even the sign that we have entered through the blood of Christ in to a covenant relationship with the Triune God.
Teach. They were told by the living Lord to teach all things that He had commanded them. Their business would not be to amuse or entertain. (Let us beware of the modern tendency that seeks to cater for the carnal desires of Christians.) Their business was to teach. Teaching demands patience, perseverance, a high sense of duty, diligence and self-discipline. Ceasing to learn, we cease to teach.
None teacheth Lord like Thee,
None can such truth impart.
“Learn of me”, He has said, and, sitting at His feet, we learn the things that we are to teach men to observe. The lessons of our Lord are no mere academic exercises, but those which will bring us into a greater conformity to the will of God.
His Abiding Presence
The Lord said “and,, lo, I am with you all the days, even unto the consummation of the age”, 28. 20 R.V. marg.
It has been pointed out that the Gospel ends as it begins. In its beginning there comes into the world One whose name is Emmanuel, God with us. At the end God is still with us, “Lo, I am with you”. Dr. Campbell Morgan records visiting an aged lady and reading to her Matthew 28. Pausing at the words “I am with you”, he said, “That is a great promise”. The old lady with a twinkle in her eyes replied, “No, Doctor, that is not a promise, it is a fact”. Indeed it is, a blessed fact. His abiding presence with His own is a reality, “And they went forth, the Lord working with them”, Mark 16. 20. The Acts of the Apostles is a record of the acts of the Risen Lord Jesus working by His Spirit in His body, the Church.
He is with us all the days, days of sunshine and of gloom, days of joy and of sorrow. Indeed it is in the days of difficulty, darkness and despondency that He makes His presence especially felt, saying as He did of old upon the earth, “it is I; be not afraid”, Matt. 14. 27. Assured of His abiding presence, the Lord of all authority, who is enthroned on the mountain, the holy hill of the Lord, we go forth in His name, trusting, rejoicing and witnessing to Him.
And until the day break and die shadows flee away, we go to the Mountains of Myrrh there to breathe again and again the pure fragrant air, and there to behold the glories of our Lord.