These tender moments are often captured by photos, journal entries and tearful retellings around family dinners for years to follow. They become almost hallowed, and sacred, forever etched in our memory.
Jesus' final words to His disciples were cherished in this way. He parted with a simple encouragement to those He loved most. Those simple words burned into the soul of all who heard them, likely accompanied by tears as they watched Him disappear into the clouds above. Those last, choice words were told and retold, written and distributed, celebrated and circulated until the whole globe hailed those final statements as The Great Commission.
Matt 28:19 NKJV "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations..." The Old King James Version puts it like this, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations..."
I looked up that action word, "teach." It's Strong's Greek number 3100, mathetueo. Defined as follows:
1. To be a disciple of one, to follow in his precepts and instructions.
2. To make a disciple, to teach and instruct.
This explains why it was later translated in the NKJV as "make disciples"... but the phrase, "make disciples" doesn't really capture the full meaning of mathetueo. That is only half the picture. This word doesn't carry one meaning or the other. The combination of points 1 and 2 equal the full meaning of the word. It could be translated, "go and be a disciple, who will also make disciples in all nations."
Mathetueo, in its truest sense, is a word that embodies a continuous process, an ongoing cycle. It is not an event, or an accomplishment, or an action that has a start and an end. It's easy to box the Great Commission into a small check list, and be proud when we can cross it off. I have gone to nations. I have made disciples. Done.
But that's not it. The Great Commission was to "go and mathetueo." Go and be apart of this process of being trained and training others, be a disciple and disciple others. It's much like the word "flow."
If a creek is to flow, water is always rushing from upstream, and always running downstream. It is the combination of the coming and going that brings current, that IS flow. If either the input from upstream, or the output downstream stops, then there ceases to be a flow. Mathetueo is the same concept, in choosing His final words to man before ascending to Heaven, Christ chose a word that embodies a constant receive and give process. It's a lifestyle of learning and teaching, of being instructed as well as giving instruction.
This is the Great Commission. Not just to make a disciple, but to plug into a lifestyle of always learning and growing, and being mentored by someone older and wiser. Accompanied by continual giving, teaching, mentoring and pouring out into others! It is this flow that sustains the Church from generation to generation, it is this process that upholds the hope of the Gospel from era to era. It is this lifestyle that maintains and passes the torch of faith through the ages.
If you think about it, God engineered human biology to operate the same way. For our race to continue, we must be parented, and we must parent. We must be conceived, born and raised, and do the same! And that is how mankind continues! All of us fit into that process. And so it is with the Kingdom of God. We all are to "mathetueo," to flow, to live a lifestyle that is always receiving and always giving.
This ongoing way of living was so important to Christ, He chose this concept to be His final words. Jesus, as God, was not short on words, or unsure of the best thing to say. He was fully aware of every possible word in every language of man to say exactly what needed to be said. And out of all the options in the world, He chose those simple words to leave a lasting impression upon mankind. Millions of believers, over thousands of years, in hundreds of nations, tribes and tongues, have collectively agreed that these last words were the deliberate and decided selection of language by an all-knowing God to relay to man His highest priority and greatest commission.
I am going to adjust my lifestyle, to be a true, Great Commission lifestyle. I acknowledge that I have not arrived, or apprehended, but will humbly be a learner all the days of my life. And in doing so, I will impact and influence many men and women of God around me. Sounds great to me! Won't you join me? Let's let our lives truly realize and exemplify Christ's exhortation to humanity. They were, after all, His final words.