This afternoon I worked on an outline for tonight’s address to the Gideon’s International Convention in Charlotte. I decided to do something that, to the best of my recollection, I’ve never done before – to present a five-point message on the five presentations of the Great Commission. I was impressed that the five Great Commissions are not versions of the same event, but descriptions of at least three different events. This is something Jesus kept talking about during His post-resurrection appearances, and both the setting and the wording changes from rendition to rendition. It was the driving, drumming, pulsating theme of His 40 days of Post-Resurrection appearances. I don’t know how my sermon tonight went over; but in reading these passages again today I’ve seen more clearly than ever the urgency and insistency on the Great Commissions of our Lord.
1. The Comprehensive View of the Great Commission – Matthew 28:16-20. On a mountain in Galilee Jesus spoke comprehensively of His power (v. 18 – all authority is given to Me, therefore you go); His purpose (v. 19 – make disciples); His plan (v. 19-20 – evangelizing/baptizing and teaching), and His presence (v. 20 – I am with you always).
2. The Concise View of the Great Commission – Mark 16:14-15. This is Mark’s condensed view, as befits his stripped-down way of writing. He’s very matter of fact and stresses the universality of the Gospel (all the world… every creature). Jesus seems to have spoken these words in the Upper Room on Easter evening.
3. The Complete View of the Great Commission – Luke 24:44-49. This is a longer and expended account of some of what Jesus said, apparently in the Upper Room on Easter evening. He insisted that the Good News fulfills Old Testament prophecy. He spoke of the necessity of the cross. He described the Gospel message. He talked of the need for repentance and remissions of sins. He told us that our responsibly extends from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. He defined us as witnesses and spoke of our need to relay on the Holy Spirit. Every base is covered, every topic is touched as it relates to evangelism.
4. The Calvary View of the Great Commission – John 20:21. The key word here is “send.” Jesus said that as the Father had sent Him, He was sending us. The word “sent” is crucial to the Fourth Gospel, where Jesus is quoted over and over again saying He was sent to earth, to the cross, on a mission. Now as the Father sent Him, He sends us. This also appears to have been in the Upper Room. The Lord must have said quite a bit that night, for Mark, Luke, and John all quoted different parts of the same talk, assuming all three accounts stem from the same evening.
5. The Concentric View of the Great Commission – Acts 1:8. This verse provides the basis for the outline of the book of Acts—including “chapter 29” which is the ongoing story of evangelism right up to our own day. The Gospel penetrated Jerusalem (Acts 1-7), Judea and Samaria (8-12), and the ends of the earth (12-28). These words were spoken just before the Ascension and apparently provides the final time Jesus drove this point home.
Our Lord’s repeated theme during the interval between His resurrection and His ascension was — All power is given to Me, so go and make disciples in all nations. I am sending you as I was sent. Go to the ends of the earth with the Spirit in your hearts and the Gospel in your hands.