Famous last words. We are often curious to know what the last words were for a person that was meaningful to us. There is something deeply revealing about who they were, what their values were and what they were thinking about in their last moments.
Leonardo Da Vinci was thought to have said, “I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.” The remark reveals the staggering standards and never-ending pursuit for perfection this man set for himself, he that is regarded as one of our finest artists and thinkers; the archetypal renaissance man.
But what about Jesus, the person at the heart and centre of our faith? What were his last words? What do we learn about who he was, what he valued, and what was he thinking before he returned to Heaven? According to Matthew, Jesus’ last words were for his followers to take the gospel to the corners of Earth: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising 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.” (Matt 28:18-20)
We know this as the “Great Commission.” To those that had witnessed Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, Jesus left a task: to make disciples of all nations. Two millennia and half the world away, this commission that Jesus left for his followers has not changed. Through the Bible, Christians today have also witnessed Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. They too, though perhaps never setting foot on that “Great Commission” mountain, are charged to ensure that people from all nations find and follow Christ.
Therefore, we are all missionaries, commissioned by Jesus to make disciples of the nations. Some of us may be called to be missionaries in countries far from our birth in cultures and languages that we were not born into. Others of us are called to be missionaries in our home countries, in our workplaces, in our networks, and within our own families. But we all have the same goal and same commission: to ensure that disciples are made from all nations, being baptised in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, and being taught to obey all the teachings of our Lord. It this mighty and daunting task, we are reassured that we are not alone. Jesus, the commissioner himself, will be with us, until his return.
Sometimes this is slow and laborious work. It can feel as though we are bearing little fruit. But we ourselves are proof of two things: First that Jesus’ followers did take this commission seriously and second that Jesus really was with his followers. How else are we to explain that two millennia and half the world away, we ourselves are believers that follow Jesus? We are the beneficiaries of the followers who went out before us, proclaiming and preserving the gospel, so that we, too, know this saving message. We have a duty, a responsibility, and a commission to ensure this continues to all nations. Praise God that Jesus is with us, to the very end of the age.