Introduction: One Monday a couple of years ago, Jeff Nichols came up to me and said, “Rob, do you realize your sermon yesterday was a virtual repetition of the one from the week before?” Well, I think I had been tired that particular day, but I told him I had been reviewing. I was teaching by teaching by reinforcement. There’s a Latin Proverb that says: “Repetition is the mother of learning.” The first law of advertising is: “Repeat, repeat, repeat.” Admittedly, sometimes I go too far, as I did on that particular Sunday. Sometimes I repeat my repetitions. But nothing is more enlightening than noticing the repetitions of Christ. By studying His repetitions we can discover what was most important to Him, what was most on His mind, what He most wanted us to learn.
Background: After His resurrection, Jesus remained on earth for forty days. He had begun His earthly ministry with forty days of temptation following His baptism. Now He ended His Gospel work with forty days of triumph following His resurrection. He opened and closed His earthly work with two periods of forty days. One of the unique aspects of this forty-day period is that Jesus now possessed a post-resurrection, glorified, eternal body. He could come and go. He could appear and disappear. And that’s what He did. Dr. J. Sidlow Baxter said that Jesus was weaning His disciples away from depending on His visible physical presence and teaching them to rely on His spiritual, unseen presence. During this period, Jesus met at least ten times with His disciples. And five times He gave them His Great Commission. When we talk about the Great Commission, we should remember that it occurs five times over the ten occasions when Jesus met with His disciples during the forty days of His ministry. Let me give them to you in chronological order.
1. Mark 16:9-15. This passage took place on the evening of His Resurrection Day. He came forth from the tomb with the world on His heart. His first recorded words following His resurrection, as Mark lists them, are: “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to all creation.” Israel is a very small country. It’s about 144 miles from Dan to Beersheba. It’s often said that Jesus never traveled more than 100 miles from His hometown. People who say that are forgetting the trip He took in infancy to Egypt. Nonetheless, during His active ministry that’s probably true. Yet the world was on His heart and on His mind, and He began emphasizing world evangelism as soon as He had risen from the dead.
2. Luke 24:36-49. This passage took place the same evening, in the same room, and involves the same people. Apparently Jesus spoke quite a bit that night about world evangelism, and Luke gives us a different set of quotes. Jesus said that repentance and forgiveness of sins must be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And it must be done in the power of the Holy Spirit.
3. John 20:19-22. Here we have an account of the same meeting in the sealed room on Resurrection night. John’s recollection includes another statement Jesus made—as the Father has sent Me, so send I you.
4. Matthew 28:16-20. This is the classic summation of the Great Commission, and it happened at some sort of halfway point during the forty days. This is the only known pre-announced appearance of Christ. Many commentators believe this is when Jesus appeared to more than 500 at once (1 Corinthians 15:6). Here on the mountainside in Galilee, Jesus described the Great Commission in terms of His power, His purpose, His plan, and His presence.
5. Acts 1:1-8. Now we come to the end of the forty-day period, and Jesus is still repeating and reemphasizing His Great Commission. We have the third occasion and fifth version of it.
Conclusion: When it comes to world evangelism, we have a purpose. We’re obligated to go – to go with heavenly fellowship, divine guidance, angelic protection, spiritual power, entrepreneurial thinking, joyful attitudes, and eternal rewards.