During Jesus’ life, He spoke to His disciples on many occasions and about many things. His words are recorded in the four gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John – and the beginning of Acts. Four of His instructions are particularly important, and in English they are identified by words that begin with the letter “C.” I like to call them “The Four Great ‘C’s’ Of Jesus” – His Great Commission, His Great Compassion, His Great Commandment and His Great Calling. This month we’ll begin by looking at His Great Commission and His Great Compassion. His Great Commission Shortly before Jesus returned to heaven after His crucifixion and resurrection, He told His disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. 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” (Mt. 28:18- 20NIV).
I grew up in a missionary family, and heard these verses from an early age, so this Great Commission of Jesus was one of the C’s that I have always been aware of. note that this commission is given to all disciples of Jesus, not just missionaries. And observe also the following points:
- We are sent by the highest authority, Jesus Himself.
- We must take the initiative to go, not wait for unbelievers to come to us.
- We are told to make disciples – committed followers of the Lord Jesus.
- We are to go to all nations. For some, this may mean traveling to other countries. However, since many nations today have become more and more multi-cultural, many of us have the unique opportunity to reach out to people from “all nations” without leaving our home town!
- We are told that true followers should be baptized, a sign of public confession and allegiance to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
- We are also to teach them to obey all He has commanded.
- We are not sent out alone. Jesus promised to be with us always.
In Mark 6:6-12, we see the pattern of work Jesus expected of His disciples:
- He called the 12 to Himself. We must first follow Him, before being sent.
- They were sent out in pairs. Disciple- making is not meant to be “solo” work!
- He gave them and us authority and power, through His Word and Spirit.
- They were to “travel light” – not burdened by the “stuff” of materialism.
- They were to evaluate the response and maximize their time and resources. After persistent negative results they were to move on to other fruitful areas.
- The content of their message was simple but powerful – repentance, liberation and healing. We are commissioned to share this same message.
In Acts 1:8 we read what should be our pattern of outreach to the world: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Notice the following:
- We should be empowered by the Holy Spirit if we are to be of real use.
- We should tell what we ourselves have seen, heard and experienced – not just tell the stories of others.
- We should increase our circle of influence: First to our “Jerusalem,” then to our “Judea,” then to our “Samaria” and finally, to the ends of the earth. Let’s start where we live, before moving off towards the ends of the earth!
His Great Compassion
The same Lord Jesus who gave the Great Commission to His disciples, also challenged them to show Great Compassion in His name. The criterion He will use to judge all nations on that future day is precisely this: Have we shown practical compassion to those in need around us?
This outward fruit of our inner faith is what He will use to decide who is a true “sheep” and who is merely a “goat.” The full story is found in Matthew 25:31-46, where Jesus challenged His disciples to go and serve others with Great Compassion. In this story, Jesus made the following points:
- Great Compassion looks for practical needs to meet – those who are hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, cold, sick and in prison.
- Great Compassion offers very practical solutions – provides food, drink, housing, clothing, care and visits.
- Our acts of kindness are viewed as if they were done to Him! “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.”
- Eternal rewards are given based on how we show compassion: “Come, you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”
- Since the Lord judges our practical compassion as the yard-stick of our faith, we should ask ourselves, “Is my faith genuine?”
- Finally, the high stakes are inescapable: “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” This does not mean that we can earn our salvation by accumulating acts of compassion, but it does mean that all true disciples – all true sheep of the Shepherd – will live out this Great Compassion. Real faith results in visible works. Otherwise it is worthless; nothing but empty hypocrisy.
In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus told another story to illustrate how we should show Great Compassion to our neighbor. The story of the Good Samaritan makes it very clear that in order to love our neighbor as ourselves we must be willing to commit to personal involvement, risk, discomfort, cost and time. We need to remember that for many people, we are the only Jesus they will meet. So our life is the only version of the gospel they will read. Jesus wants to use our hands, as well as our words, to reach the needy today. Will we let Him?
This has far-reaching implications for Christian missionary work. It should not be a question of whether to share the gospel (Great Commission) or a question of whether to meet practical needs (Great Compassion), but a question of how to balance the two. It is not a matter of either/or, but a matter of both/and. One opens the door for the other. One is the logical conclusion to the other. The Great Commission and the Great Compassion go hand in hand. Jesus modeled both for us, and wishes us, as His disciples, to imitate Him in both aspects of our ministry!
By Andrew Nunn
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org