“Then the eleven disciples (μαθηταὶ) went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go and make disciples (μαθητεύσατε) of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.” (Mt 28:16-20)
So the risen Lord commands His “disciples” (μαθηταὶ) to go and “make disciples” (μαθητεύσατε) of “all the nations.” And this is to be accomplished, He says, through two things: 1. Baptism, and, equally importantly, 2. Teaching. The disciples weren’t only to baptize, to increase the “number” or “percentage” of church-members, no. They were to “make disciples,” new “learners” and followers and spreaders of His word, similar to themselves. Christ is describing the remarkable and difficult enterprise that was to become His Church.
And in this specific context, of the difficult mission of the Church, the Lord speaks of His own exclusive authority and presence as nowhere else. I find this extremely comforting. “All authority,” He says here, “has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” And on earth! So – it is with My authority, not your own, that I send you to baptize and teach.
And finally, in perhaps the most comforting passage of the whole Gospel, our Lord assures us of His presence among us, on earth as it is in heaven, until the end of time: “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Today, no matter what the ups and downs of our church-life are, I hear this promise, spoken by the Lord to each of us. And I carry it in my heart, like a joy-creating sorrow.