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Go … Make Disciples (2)

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshipped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28.16-20.

This morning’s post is a continuation of yesterday’s, and I again focus on the “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me” which the Risen Christ states as the reason why his followers should go and make disciples of all nations.

“Authority” here is the Greek word exousia which, as someone has said, combines the ideas of might and right. The KJV translates it as “power” and it is also the word used to translate the Hebrew word for “dominion” in the Septuagint — the Greek version of the Old Testament that was widely in use by New Testament times. That is important because there is in what the Risen Christ is saying here (so it seems to me) a deliberate allusion to the well-known “night visions” verses of Daniel: “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7.13-14). In the Greek of those verses, “dominion” is, in every case, exousia — authority — “And to him was given authority … that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him …”

When the Risen Christ (who frequently referred to himself as “the son of man”) says that “all authority” in heaven and earth has now been given to him, he is saying that Daniel’s vision has now come to pass. His resurrection from the dead has marked the dawn of the age to come and the beginning of his universal dominion. He has now moved from being the Good Friday “king of the Jews” (Matthew 27.11) to being the Easter Sunday “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19.16) — the one whom God has highly exalted and on whom God has “bestowed the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2.9-11). No longer, therefore, is it merely the task of the followers of Jesus to call upon their fellow Jews to give allegiance to their Jewish king; it is their task (and the task of every follower of Jesus yet to come) to proclaim the now universal sovereignty of Jesus and to call upon everyone in the world, whatever their language or colour or creed, to recognise his divine majesty and to submit to it.

It is, of course, a redemptive majesty … but more of that tomorrow.

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