by Piotr Krakowczyk
Recovering the Great Commission – reflection on Matthew 28:16-20
and Matthew 10:7-8
The Great Commission can be found at the end of Mathew’s Gospel: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing 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”
(28:19-20). There is, however, a less known commission of Jesus in which He tells His disciples: “As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely you give”
). Unfortunately, this commission has practically disappeared from the missionary strategies of our Churches. A few of us dare to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, or drive out demons. We prefer to speak, to teach, and to baptize, and enjoy a quite good income out of all these activities.
The message – the kingdom of God is near
During ten years of my ministry, I have gone to many nations, preached thousands of sermons, given lectures and conferences on various topics, and baptized many people, mostly children. And I can’t complain: this work provided me with enough financial assistance to live a comfortable life. Perhaps, I could dare to say that I am fulfilling the Great Commission of Jesus quite well. However, a few things puzzle me when I look closer at my missionary life: the content of my preaching and teaching; God’s hand stretching to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders; and the Gospel being preached free of charge.
“The kingdom of God is near.”
The content of this message is that God comes to rule over His people. As if He has made up His mind, seeing our suffering and misery, and decided to do something about it. “I have seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and specious land, a land flowing with milk and honey”
). God comes to claim us back for Himself. He claims us back from the forces of evil, and He decides to restore us and give us back our very lives.
Jesus and His disciples succeeded in preaching this message. They helped the people to “see” that God is concerned with a sparrow; they enable the people to realize that everyone is precious in God’s eyes; and they were able to point out that the end of life is not emptiness and nothingness, but a joyful banquet in the God’s presence. Moreover, they did not only speak about it; they made into a reality.
The power of message – signs and wonders
“Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons.” What a fascinating passage! What a commission! Yet, what have we – Christians of the twenty first century – done with these words? Many theologians and pastors came out with a hypothesis that sees all signs and wonders recorded in the Gospel as a myth or fairy tale. There are even Churches who claim that the era of signs and wonders was confined to the Apostolic Church. Thus, the miracles ended long time ago, and now is the era of knowledge and science. Could it be true? Could this explain the lack of miracles in the midst of our Christian congregations? But then, what about those who actually were able to fulfill this commission, those who healed the sick, raised the dead, cleansed the lepers, and drove out demons? His name was John Sung (1901-44), born in the home of a Methodist pastor in Fujian, China. He is considered one among the greatest Chinese evangelist of 20th century. There were numerous cases of healing in his ministry. For example, instant recovery from a near fatal heart attack, the lame walking, the leprous being made clean, and the deaf and dumb being made whole. It was May 1988, Suangzang, Myanmar. Kam Cin Hau conducted a prayer meeting during which many people converted to Christianity and many were healed.
A hypothesis is a suggested explanation of a phenomenon. However, in the scientific world, any hypothesis requires testing, and one fact that contradicts a hypothesis is sufficient to disclaim it. The two above mentioned examples clearly indicate that signs and wonders are still part of Christian preaching. And there are more examples that could be cited in this matter. There seems to be no escape from concluding that if signs and wonders are missing from our proclamation, then there is something wrong. Jesus always meant what he said. If He said, “go and heal,” He meant it that way, and He promised to stretch out His hand and do the signs and wonders.
The message as a gift – giving it freely
If the content of the message can make us pause for a while and think about our preaching, and if the power of the message can challenge the way we do mission, the last part of Jesus’ commission – “freely you have received, freely you give” – should make us feel uncomfortable. Money is so woven into our missionary activities. In the eyes of many preaching the Gospel has become a commodity; more so, it has even become a way of living, quite affluent I would dare to say. And yet Paul set up an example for any missionary, namely having the joy of preaching the Gospel free of charge (1 Corinthians 9:18
), and he warned against peddling the word of God for profit (2 Corinthians 2:17
A mission station in one among the poorest country in the world, located in the rural area of the country is equipped with a vehicle, a truck, two motorbikes, and a house with kitchen, dining room, four bedrooms, two toilets, and the porch. The population of this mission reaches ten thousand. There are only two private trucks owned by local businessmen, few privately owned motorcycles, most of the houses are made of mud bricks and grass, and very few have toilets. Some church leaders and missionaries blame money as the major cause that accounts for the failure of Christianity in Africa and Asia. Aside of rich Christians living far beyond their needs, there are also rich missionaries living far beyond the wildest dream of the people whom they serve. In this regard, M. Gandhi said to the Christian missionaries working in India: “Noble as you are, you have isolated yourselves from the people you want to serve.
Yes. It is much easier to fulfill the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:19-20
than the one found in Matthew 10:7-8
. It is easier to speak, teach, and baptize than to proclaim God’s kingdom with all its power and free of charge. Yet, people are tired of beautiful words, but they are hungry for God; they do not want to be spoken upon, but they dream to be lifted up from their yoke of slavery. We have such a powerful message to share with the world. Can we share it the way Jesus and His disciples have done in the past? It will depend on how far we dare to go in trusting God’s promise and His providence.