The Great Commission

This past weekend at Eastbrook, we concluded our series entitled “The Beginning of the End,” as well as our entire year and a half journey through the Gospel of Matthew. This series explores the resurrection of Jesus in tandem with some of Jesus’ teaching about the fall of Jerusalem and the end of all time. This weekend I preached from Matthew 28:16-20, the final portion of the Gospel and popularly know as the Great Commission.

This message is from the tenth and final part of our longer journey through the Gospel of Matthew, which includes “Family Tree,” “Power in Preparation,” “Becoming Real,” “The Messiah’s Mission,” “Stories of the Kingdom,” “Who Do You Say I Am?“, “‘Tis the Reason,” “Jesus Said What?!“, and “Scandalous Jesus.

You can find the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“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.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

A Return (28:16)

11 apostles (the 12 minus Judas) 

Leaving Jerusalem

A return to where everything started: “Galilee of the Gentiles” (4:15)

A Meeting (28:17)

Jesus meets with the disciples

The disciples worship Jesus

Some of the disciples hesitate or doubt

Jesus draws near to speak to them

A Commission (28:18-20)

The authority of Jesus (28:18)

Go and make disciples of all peoples (28:19)

Baptize them in the name of the Triune God (28:19)

Teaching them all Jesus’ taught (28:20)

The ongoing, abiding presence of Jesus (28:20)

An End and a New Beginning

The end of the Gospel of Matthew is a new beginning for the church

The end of our journey with this Gospel is a new beginning for us

Join the song:

  • Growing as disciples ourselves: word and baptism
  • Making disciples ourselves: declare Jesus’ authority and invite people to become Jesus’ disciples

Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper in one or more of the following ways:

  • Memorize Matthew 28:18-20
  • Like the disciples in this scene, take time to worship Jesus as King with words or song. What hesitations or doubts do you have? Name those and bring them to Him in prayer.
  • As we finish our journey through the Gospel of Matthew, return to look over the entire book and write down a list of some of things God has been teaching you or ways God has been growing you through it. Share that with a friend this week.
  • For further insight into the Great Commission, consider reading:

The Weekend Wanderer: 12 March 2022

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles


030922iona-aerial“Iona was once the beating heart of Celtic Christianity” – Kenneth Steven at The Christian Century: “For me, pilgrimage begins with the Isle of Iona. I started going there with my parents in the earliest days of childhood. We traveled from the heart of landlocked Perthshire: as the crow flies it’s a couple of wing beats to Iona, while by car it involved a two-hour journey west to Oban, a ferry to the Isle of Mull, a long and beautiful drive across that island, and then a second short ferry crossing to Iona. In those days a small passenger ferry took pilgrims to Iona; I had the sense of reaching the outer edge of some tectonic plate or even the edge of the world. I felt, doubtless like tens of thousands of Iona pilgrims each year, that I had gone back in time. Iona was a place of remoteness and quiet, little changed, I imagined, from the island Columba found when he landed in the sixth century. I felt its isolation when I walked alone to Sandeels Bay in the middle of the island’s east coast or when I battled against the omnipresent winds to the south end of Iona and St. Columba’s Bay. Despite roads and telephones, this was still the Iona the saint had come to find and from which he and his followers had gone out with the Christian story.”


274810155_245611617777589_5201497153106588650_n-750x375“How the Ukraine war is dividing Orthodox Christians” – Jonathan L. Zecher at The Conversation: “There is a famous tale within Russian Orthodox Christianity that goes like this: In the 16th century, Ivan IV – the Terrible, arguably the first Tsar of Russia – sought to extend his power and sent men to ravage those towns that had not submitted to him. At that time, Basil, a “fool for Christ”, came and offered him a gift of raw meat. It was Great Lent, the time when Christians fast from meat and dairy foods in preparation for Good Friday and Easter, and Ivan said that as an Orthodox Christian he would not eat meat. Basil responded: you drink the blood of humans, why not eat meat? Ivan was shocked and repented his violence, and called off those attacks. When it comes to Russian ambitions, not much has changed since Ivan’s days, except the range and power of the weapons. But the current war has an important religious dimension, because both sides of the conflict are not merely Christian, they are members of the same church, sharing a thousand years of religious history. Today, 71% of Russians and 78% of Ukrainians identify as Orthodox Christians. In fact, until 2019, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) was part of the Moscow Patriarchate (MP), and many parishes remain there (UOC-MP), in conflict with a self-governing Orthodox Church of Ukraine (UCO).”


31crosbyembed“Is Congregational Singing Dead?: It’s time to make church music weird again” – Benjamin Crosby in Plough: “It is easy to assume that congregational singing has always been a part of Christian worship. Indeed, if anything it has something of an old-fashioned air at present, conjuring up seemingly timeless images of dusty, yellowed hymnals, of the old mainline church in the center of town, of Garrison Keillor paeans to the Lutherans of Lake Wobegon. But of course, none of those images are in fact timeless, and congregational song has a quite precise history: like the hymnal, the mainline churches, and Lutherans, congregational singing is a product of the Protestant Reformation. Today, however, the practice of congregational singing in church is threatened by a sea change in how people relate to music outside of church. All is not lost, however: the church, if it commits to the weirdness of congregational singing, might work to rebuild a culture of communal music-making within and outside the church, use that culture to invite people into the church, and – most importantly – continue to offer psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to Almighty God.”


128038“Can China’s New Regulations Really Stop Evangelism on the Internet?” – Sean Cheng at Christianity Today: “China’s new internet regulations went into effect March 1, laying out broad restrictions on religious communication, teaching, and evangelism. The new rules put into writing unofficial penalties that some Christians already faced for their online activity, so Chinese believers aren’t sure how the rules will be implemented and how much it could hamper missions. The regulations were announced at the end of last year by China’s State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA) and allow only religious groups with government approval to share information on the internet. According to the new Measures on the Administration of Internet Religious Information Services:

Organizations and individuals must not proselytize online and must not carry out religious education or training, publish preaching, or repost or link to related content; must not organize the carrying out of religious activities online; and must not broadcast religious rites … through means such as text, images, audio, or video either live or in recordings.

On February 28, the Chinese government issued a press release answering questions about the new regulation, stating the government ‘will have close and thorough cooperation to ensure the implementation of the measures.’  How will the implementation of these new measures affect the use of the internet for evangelism and mission by Chinese Christians? Will Christians in China no longer be able to do anything online? As the new measures come into force during the ongoing pandemic, where will the internet mission of Chinese churches in China and overseas now go? CT Asia editor Sean Cheng interviewed several Chinese pastors and Christians (for security reasons, the names of Christians in China are pseudonyms).”


Curry_web_003“Episcopal Bishop Curry says ‘more to do’ as poll shows Christians viewed as hypocrites” – Emily McFarlan Miller and Jack Jenkins at Religion News Service: “Ask a Christian to describe other Christians and the answers likely will be ‘giving,’ ‘compassionate,’ ‘loving’ and ‘respectful.’ Ask a non-Christian, on the other hand, and the more likely descriptors you’ll get for Christians are ‘hypocritical,’ ‘judgmental’ and ‘self-righteous.’ Non-Christians are also far more likely to say Christians do not represent the teachings of Jesus. Those are the results of a new survey conducted by the Episcopal Church, released Wednesday (March 9), that illustrates stark differences between how Christians and non-Christians view Christianity in the United States. ‘There is a disconnect between the reality of Jesus and the perceived reality of Christians,’ said Bishop Michael Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church….Closing the gap between people’s perceptions of Jesus and their perceptions of his followers will take a ‘new Reformation,’ according to Curry — one that includes not only ‘re-presenting’ a Christianity that he believes looks more like Jesus to the rest of the world, but also better formation of Christians around Jesus’ teachings and way of life. ‘The church has got a lot more to do, which is a good thing,’ he said.”


Wendell Berry - New Yorker“Wendell Berry’s Advice for a Cataclysmic Age” – Dorothy Wickenden in The New Yorker: “Hidden in the woods on a slope above the Kentucky River, just south of the Ohio border, is a twelve-by-sixteen-foot cabin with a long front porch. If not for the concrete pilings that raise the building high off the ground, it would seem almost a living part of the forest. Readers around the world know the ‘long-legged house’ as the place where Wendell Berry, as a twenty-nine-year-old married man with two young children, found his voice. As he explained in his essay by that name, he built the cabin in the summer of 1963—a place where he could write, read, and contemplate the legacies of his forebears, and what inheritance he might leave behind.  The cabin began as a log house built by Berry’s great-great-great-grandfather Ben Perry, one of the area’s first settlers, and it lived on as a multigenerational salvage operation. In the nineteen-twenties, with the original house in disrepair, Wendell’s bachelor great-uncle Curran Mathews painstakingly took apart what remained and used the lumber to make a camp along the Kentucky River, where he could escape ‘the bounds of the accepted.’ Wendell, ‘a melancholic and rebellious boy,’ found peace in the tumbledown camp, even though it flooded every time the river overflowed. Eventually, it became uninhabitable, and he pried off some poplar and walnut boards to use in building his own cabin, on higher ground—a ‘satisfactory nutshell of a house,’ he wrote. Standing on its long legs, it had ‘a peering, aerial look, as though built under the influence of trees.'”


Music: Brian Eno with Daniel Lanois and Roger Eno, “An Ending (Ascent),” from Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks

Why Tension is Vital as People of the Kingdom: the mission of the wheat in the weeds

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest.’” (Matthew 13:28-30)

In His parable of the wheat and the weeds, Jesus makes it clear that the intermixing of good and evil is a present reality in the world. In some ways, we do not need Jesus to tell us this because we experience it all the time. We experience the beauty of a sunset made more vibrant and striking because of smoke whirling through the air from forest fires. We cry tears of grief over the death of a friend or family member because we experienced so much love toward and from them.

This is true not just generally, however, but personally and relationally. Jesus says the wheat is people of the kingdom and the weeds are people influenced by evil. There is a tension that arises when kingdom people and evil people are mixed together. We feel it in our workplaces, schools, families, and friendships.

Many times, when we feel this tension as people of the kingdom we speak about it in terms of the pressure we feel to live and speak for God when others oppose us. We may sometimes even take on a “woe is me” attitude because we exist within the tensions of good and evil at play in our world.

Some Christians may even say, “Lord, when will You deal with this evil? Couldn’t You just clear all the world of evil influence and people?! Then we could live fully and peacefully with You in this world.” But this is not how it works.

This is not how it works by God’s wise and loving design. Not only do we as people of the kingdom experience tension in ourselves, we are also bringers of tension in the world around us. Hopefully this is not because we are pig-headed and difficult followers of Jesus, but because we are bringing kingdom-oriented tension into the lives of those who do not know or are resisting God.

Part of our mission as people of the kingdom is to bring necessary tension to a world at odds with God. Our very presence as people trying to walk with Jesus, witness to Jesus, and speak about Jesus is a calling to bring the missional tension of the kingdom to people and places that otherwise would have no influence for Christ there.

So we may need to reframe our feelings of tension. We may need to move away from “woe is me” toward “called is me” as we humbly and graciously live and speak for God in the field of the world where wheat and weeds grow together. Until the final harvest arrives, may we bring kingdom tension as witnesses for our living God.

The Weekend Wanderer: 17 April 2021

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


intercessory prayer“David Garrison on Why We Must Pray for Muslims Around the World” – “Prayer changes things. It changes the hearts of Muslims even as it changes our own hearts. Let me tell you how I became acutely aware of the impact that prayer has in drawing Muslims to faith. In 2014, I published a book called A Wind in the House of Islam. It was the culmination of a three-year journey that took me 250,000 miles throughout the Muslim world where I was able to gather more than a thousand interviews from Muslims who had come to faith in Jesus Christ and were each a part of a work of God within their community that had seen at least 1,000 baptisms.” Garrison goes on to say that “84% of all the Muslim movements to Christ in history have occurred during our lifetime, in fact, during the past 30 years,” which is precisely linked with the advent of recent prayer movements for the Muslim world. Join us the movement of prayer for the Muslim world during Ramadan.


Missing Word in Race“The Missing Word in Our Reckonings on Race” – Phillip Holmes in Christianity Today: “When trying to solve any problem, large or small, it’s important to remember that hasty solutions based on poorly diagnosed problems lead to failure and frustration. This is true whether we’re talking about marketing, medicine, or ministry. And it’s especially true when it comes to repairing an injustice as complex as slavery and racism in America. Today, there is a tendency to oversimplify the problem. But anyone objectively examining the history of American racism knows that the problem is far from simple. In his own reflections on American race relations, the Dutch Reformed theologian Herman Bavinck expressed confidence that the resources for a solution existed within Christianity. According to biographer James Eglinton, however, he lamented that this solution would never come to pass unless the American church ‘underwent a profound transformation.’ Unfortunately, I see little evidence that such a transformation has taken place. Although pockets of hope and moral clarity exist here and there, white evangelicals have largely glossed over the embarrassing parts of their history and reacted indignantly to any suggestion of needing to make amends.”


books“In Praise of Reading Aloud” – Ali Kjergaard at Mere Orthodoxy: “It felt a bit awkward at first, a group of friends in their mid twenties sitting around in my library in an old Capitol Hill row house. We had all brought our copies of various Tolkien, some with a well-loved copy of The Fellowship, others brought stacks of the lesser known stories; The Silmarillion, The Unfinished Tales, Sigurd and Gudrún. Different levels of Middle Earth experts all brought together by a common love of Tolkien. We had discussed the idea of a ‘Tolkien reading night’ for awhile, but on a rainy night we were attempting to make it happen. But would we be bold enough to flip open the pages and read the words aloud? Reader, we did. And it has made me wish I read aloud more.”


Surge Capacity“Your ‘Surge Capacity’ Is Depleted — It’s Why You Feel Awful” – I hear a lot from people that they are tired but don’t know why. Here’s an explanation from Tara Haelle at elemental: “It was the end of the world as we knew it, and I felt fine. That’s almost exactly what I told my psychiatrist at my March 16 appointment, a few days after our children’s school district extended spring break because of the coronavirus. I said the same at my April 27 appointment, several weeks after our state’s stay-at-home order….I knew it wouldn’t last. It never does. But even knowing I would eventually crash, I didn’t appreciate how hard the crash would be, or how long it would last, or how hard it would be to try to get back up over and over again, or what getting up even looked like.”


burnout“The Exaggeration of ‘Burnout’ in America” – But I always like opposing views on matters so here is Jonathan Malesic in The National Review with a different take: “I bet you’re burned out after enduring a full year of the Covid-19 pandemic. If you have kids, you’re probably trying to teach them at home, either between work shifts out in the world or while sharing a kitchen-table office with them. You might have had to care for sick family members while somehow avoiding the virus yourself. And if your job is in health care, education, transportation, or retail, then you have likely worked nonstop at great risk for months on end….In the last few years, burnout has become an important keyword for understanding our misery at work and frustration with the rest of our lives. The pandemic only increased burnout’s relevance. But not all forms of burnout are borne equally, and the popularization of the term has both flattened its meaning and diluted its usefulness in addressing the problem with work in America.”


Jesus cross“Recovering the Ars Moriendi – This article from Miles S. Mullin, II, is from a few years back, but I stumbled upon it a few weeks ago while preparing for Holy Saturday, and think it is still worth the read. “Familiarity with death meant that resurrection possessed a considerable poignancy for the women, bringing a hope that countered the ubiquitous fear of death. As the good news spread, the first-century readers of the Apostle Paul’s  First Letter to the Corinthians (and most readers since) had an acute sense of what it meant that “the last enemy to be destroyed is death (1 Cor. 15:26, NRSV). Until Easter, death had been victorious, the destroyer of lives, families, and hope. But victory only tastes sweeter when defeat is the norm. For the first Christians, the news of Jesus’s victory over death as ‘the first fruits’ (I Cor. 15:23) was sweet indeed.”


Music: Ólafur Arnalds, “Still / Sound,” from Sunrise Session.