Second in a series

At the time of the Great Commission as Matthew records it (28:16–20), more than a week—we do not know just how much time—had passed since the first Easter Day. The disciples of Jesus had returned north to Galilee, and there on a mountain, by appointment, Jesus met them again. This was probably the occasion Paul meant when he said that Jesus appeared to more than 500 brethren at one time (1 Cor. 15:6).

When they saw him (evidently from a distance, at first), their reactions ranged from adoration to unbelief. Some “worshiped him” (NEB, “they fell prostrate before him”), but “some doubted.” Jesus then came and spoke to them. He made an announcement (Matt. 28:18), issued a command (19, 20a), and then gave them a promise (20b).

1. The announcement he made: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (v. 19, RSV).

That this affirmation preceded the commission to go forth to the nations is of vital importance. Indeed, without this announcement of his authority, the Great Commission would have lacked justification as well as impetus. Not until one is convinced of the full authority of Jesus Christ is he in a position to hear and to obey Christ’s commission to go.

a. What was this authority he claimed? “All authority in heaven and on earth.” Here Christ used different prepositions, as if to distinguish the two spheres over which his authority extended—the earthly and the heavenly.

Take earth first. Since he has all authority on earth, he has authority over his servants; this is doubtless a part of his meaning. He is like a commanding officer, who can deploy his forces as he chooses and send them wherever he likes. He has authority to say to anyone, “Go!” He has said it to the Church, but as a whole, the ...

John R. W. Stott (1921 – 2011) is known worldwide as a preacher, evangelist, author, and theologian. For 66 years he served All Souls Church, Langham Place, in London, England, where he pioneered effective urban evangelistic and pastoral ministry. During these years he authored more than 50 books, and served as one of the original Contributing Editors for Christianity Today. Stott had a global vision and built strong relationships with church leaders outside the West in the Majority World. A hallmark of Stott's ministry was his vision for expository biblical preaching that addresses the hearts and minds of contemporary men and women. In 1969 he founded a trust that eventually became Langham Partnership International (www.langham.org), a ministry that continues his vision of partnership with the Majority World Church. Stott was honored by Time magazine in 2005 as one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World."

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