Therefore, go. Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
As we know in our churches, this is "the Great Commission." Go, Jesus told them after rising from the dead. Go, He chose as His parting words before ascending to sit at His Father's right hand. Go.
I've always thought that perhaps it was this "go" that was the greatest commission. The disciples would have known about making disciples, spreading the name of Jesus. They'd been doing that for three years; that was old hat. The problem was going to be getting them just to go...without Him. To stop sitting around in the Upper Room or wandering the streets of Galilee like lost sheep looking for their Shepherd, waiting on His return (which was, yet again, what He'd kind of told them - wait here, I'll be back in three days and come to see you). Now, they had one last command: go. There was no coming back for further guidance. They just had to trust, and go.
Even the baptizing might have been a little old hat, though I think there's some room for debate here. One of my minister friends likes to talk about the way we got some of these made-up religious words we us, and baptize is one of them. It is a rough transliteration of a word that means immersion, and that may play a role in what Jesus is saying here. Immerse them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Bathe them in what it is that I am. Because while baptism was by this point fairly common, or at least conversational, the Spirit hadn't quite made its documented appearance. We see the debate and the distinction drawn between the baptism of John and the baptism of Jesus - one in water and one in blood/fire/holy spirit - but they both just used physical water as the representation.
So was Jesus really saying, "Go everywhere. Call everyone to follow me, and dunk them in the water"?
Maybe. I wasn't there.
This morning, though, I was reading in the new translation I received for Christmas last year. I've finally worked my way through to Matthew 28, and the verse there read:
So wherever you go, make disciples of all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the holy spirit. Teach them to do the things I have commanded you.
This got me thinking, and what honestly I settled on is that this sounds more like the Jesus we see throughout the rest of the Gospels.
Not go, storm through the towns, and make disciples out of everybody. That's not what I read into this translation. What I read here is: wherever you go, wherever you find yourself at any given moment, invite those around you to follow Me - regardless of their creed. Regardless of their background. Whether they are gentile or Jew, saint or sinner, friend or foe. No matter where they've come from, wherever you find them, invite them to follow Me. Immerse them in Love, which is My Father's name. Teach them - not by a book, not even by my book, but by your example to do the things I have commanded you (which kind of requires that you be doing them first, for if I commanded you and you cannot do them, why should those watching you feel obliged to obey?).
That sounds like my Jesus. No Bible-thumping. No doorbell-ringing. No overwhelming mission to search out everyone everywhere and school them in sanctification. Just, hey. Wherever you happen to be, know there are hearts around you. Seeking. Watching. Thirsting. And love them. Immerse them in everything you know and everything you trust and everything you believe of Me by living it, as I've taught you to live for three years. It's what you're doing now; it's just that I won't be beside you any more. I will be in you instead. So...go. Stop waiting around for me, for this is what I've promised you and now I'm headed to what My Father promised Me. Go. And pay attention. And do good. And love.
That is truly the Great Commission. Go. Not out of your way. Just wherever your journey leads you, and wherever you go, live Me.