Audio Worship "To Make Disciples" Matthew 28.16-20

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1588

May 21, 2023

Matthew 28.16-20    Click here for audio worship

Dr. Ed Pettus


“...To Make Disciples


16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”


  • As You Are Going…


Today we take up the second half of our vision which takes into consideration Jesus’ command to make disciples. As we looked last Sunday at Living God’s Word, I hope we gained greater awareness of the importance of living out what God has commanded and how living God’s Word leads us to not just know what the Bible teaches us, but that we do it! Let’s say it together again, our vision statement, Living God’s Word To Make Disciples. You’ll find that printed in the bulletin every Sunday as a reminder and I hope we will all take it to memory, and to heart, to learn what it can mean for us and for everyone we meet in the community. This second part of the statement is based on Jesus’ command to go and make disciples, from Matthew 28.

In the Greek grammar, the “Go” is literally, “as you are going”. I think that is important to our understanding of the discipline of making disciples. As you are going means including disciple making a way of our every day life. On our way to this or that we are looking for opportunities to proclaim the gospel, to share a story, to give a word of encouragement, to tell someone about Jesus and what He has done for us. I realize in saying this that it is not easy to make contact with people every day and I know we can be intimidated by the thought of making disciples. It has not been the practice of mainline churches to be intentional about making disciples. We are more comfortable doing a multitude of things that are religious, that are even helpful to others, but speaking about Jesus and leading people to follow Jesus, is often dismissed as “not my ministry”, “not my calling”. But there is a problem in that way of thinking because Jesus’ command to go and make disciples, as we understand it, was not just for those disciples standing on the hill, but a command that we have taken as a command to the entire church, generation to generation, all the way to today and long into the time after we are gone from this earth.

What we hope will get into our bones is the understanding of and the power of living God’s Word which will help us immensely to become more capable of making disciples. So often we hear people say they don’t know the Bible well enough, or they cannot talk about their personal relationship with God, of something to that effect. Jesus does not really give us that option. Jesus calls us to follow Him, to obey His Word, to take up our cross daily, to love one another, to love our enemies, to give generously, to show grace and mercy and truth and compassion...and, and – to make disciples. It is the last command of Matthew’s gospel – a final concluding word before Jesus ascended into heaven. You know how we often value last words. “Those were the last words he said to me.” Jesus was not dying, of course, He already had and rose again! But Jesus was ascending to heaven and the last thing he said, according to Matthew, was to go and make disciples. Let us begin to value that last word and obey that last word and trust that Jesus will empower us to make disciples.



  • To Make Disciples


We call this section of Matthew 28 The Great Commission. First it is the great...of supreme importance. Like the Great Commandment to love God and neighbor, this is the great mission that we are on and it is a co-mission in that it is a shared mission, with us (the church) and Jesus. He does not leave us to our own power or our own devices or our own wisdom in this mission, but He has given us the Holy Spirit, the Holy Word, and the shared load as we take His yoke upon ourselves making the burden light.

What does it mean to make disciples? It seems to me that it is first of all a proclamation of the gospel. I quoted last Sunday 1 Peter 2.9 and it is appropriate this week as well, But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” ...that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you… Our mission is one of proclamation, of telling the story, telling our story of how we are connected to Jesus and what He has done for us. There is this great scene in Judges 5 about people meeting at the watering hole and proclaiming what God has done:

10Tell of it, you who ride on white donkeys, you who sit on rich carpets and you who walk by the way. 11To the sound of musicians at the watering places, there they repeat the righteous triumphs of the Lord, the righteous triumphs of his villagers in Israel.”


The righteous triumphs of the Lord are the excellencies of God and these are all the stories of God’s power to save His people culminating in the greatest story of all, Jesus Christ, who lived and died and was raised from the dead that we might live! That’s what we are called to share. In the book of Judges it was when the people gathered at the watering places, at the well, at the stream, where everyone gathered. Today it might be at the party, at the grocery store, at the game, at some place where people talk. It might be one on one, two or more, but whatever the circumstance, we repeat that story – the excellent thing God has done in Christ Jesus!

So we talk about it, plain and simple. Beyond that we are also called to show it, which leads to another way of making disciples...namely, BE A DISCIPLE!

Be disciples! Students of Jesus. Become an apprentice learning the way of God in the world according to the commandments of God. Proclaiming, living in, and teaching the kingdom of God. We learn from Jesus who is our teacher of discipleship. Remember when Jesus met with Nicodemus in John 3. Jesus taught Nicodemus that you must be born again. Jesus opened up the Scriptures to Nicodemus, particularly the story of Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness so that those who looked upon it would live. Jesus would become the one lifted up on the cross for all to see and be saved. Jesus teaching Nicodemus.

Or when Jesus has that encounter with Peter on the beach at the end of John’s Gospel. Three times He asked Peter, do you love me? And Peter says he does. Jesus responds, then feed my sheep. Or an earlier story when Jesus needs to correct Peter about Jesus’ death on the cross and Peter says, no, that’s not going to happen. Jesus corrects him saying that Peter is focused on the things of man rather than the things of God (Matthew 16.21-23).

Jesus’ interactions with the disciples, with Pharisees, with every person with whom He came in contact was a life lesson that transformed ways of thinking and acting. He told parables, stories, life lessons then and now. To make disciples we have to be disciples.

Next we have to intend to make disciples. Resolve to learn how, to make attempts. Invite someone to join with you, to walk along side and learn together, not necessarily as teacher and student, but as two students learning from Jesus and His Word. You might be at different levels, but there are experiences that each share that teach each other. Teaching things like Psalm 119.165, “Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.” The Christian life, a disciple’s life, is marked by a peace that does not stumble over every offense, every word spoken in anger, every minor detail that really does not matter in the larger scope of things. But that peace can only come in the love of God’s Word where we learn not to snap at everything that might not fit into our way of doing things. It brins a peace that surpasses understanding and overcomes things like anger, resentment, or being overly offended. One of the goals of a discipling community is to build a fellowship of love and prayer and worship. We have to begin with ourselves in asking if we are being disciples. Are we intentionally seeking out one or more people who could disciple us? Are we students of the Bible? Students of Jesus Himself through developing an intimate relationship in prayer and worship?

Listen...I’m here! I’m ready to get together on a regular basis and talk about being a disciple of Jesus Christ as more than just a saying, but a way of life. But I also understand the resistance to on-going discipleship because Jesus is constantly changing us when we pursue His Kingdom and His righteousness. It can be a frightening proposition to change, especially when we become comfortable with who we are! “I like where I am. Leave me alone!” But that is not what Jesus is about. He is calling us to live worthy of the call, worthy of the kingdom, worthy of being His chosen people, worthy of apprenticeship. It is the same with calling anyone to worship with us, we will gladly receive people into worship, but we will also let them know that coming to worship, participation in the life of Christ means you will not remain just as you are. No, it is not just “just as you are” – if it were it would end all discussion and all discipleship. Jesus is about transforming our lives to reflect His will, His Word, and His call to kingdom living. All these churches who are just receiving everyone just as they are without talking about sin and repentance and moving from darkness to light, these churches are preaching a false gospel.

We really have to be intentional about discipleship because we are constantly bombarded with false information and false gospels. The information age is an age of real misinformation and the misinformation age wants to feed us with misinformation claiming that it is true information. And then the Truth that comes from the Bible is labeled as misinformation. All the social media giants and the major news networks believe themselves to be the authoritative keepers of information when they are actually the greatest at misinformation. When you promote men being women and women men, you have crossed the line into the evil of lies. We live in a time when Isaiah’s prophetic word rings heavy, evil is labeled as good and good as evil, darkness is light and light is darkness. How can we not be enthralled with God’s Word in a time when everything around us seeks to pull us out of the Truth, away from Jesus, and into the pit of lies?

What makes discipleship all the more difficult today is that all the “establishment”, that is, education, government, medicine, science, culture, and society, all are moving rapidly toward anti-gospel, anti-Bible, anti-Christ concepts that have captured the minds of so many people. The mindset of the world is seeking to overcome the mindset of God and His Word. Take for one example the move toward doing away with fossil fuels because of the supposed climate change. I’ve seen as many scientific studies debunking the false narrative of climate change as there are for climate change. But all we get to see are the studies that support the “official narrative” about it all. All we get is the dominate narratives of chicken little, “the sky is falling, the sky is falling!” I’m all for taking care of the planet. Don’t get me wrong. God gave us that responsibility at creation to care for creation. But today’s climate change advocates are much like another Isaiah prophecy who say there is peace when there is no peace. They say there is great danger when there is little danger if any.

How can we become a people who talk about Jesus more, follow Jesus more, and intentionally invite others to follow Him as well? Let me suggest two things to start:

a. Satiate our minds and hearts with God and His Kingdom – get into His Word so that we are more secure in the story, more willing to follow Jesus ourselves, and more willing to call people to discipleship. Something like Living God’s Word!

b. Remove all that hinders our walking with God in Christ. As Hebrews 12.1-2 advocates, Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. I would invite you to revisit last Sunday’s sermon, because I have invoked two Scriptures from last Sunday for this Sunday as well in 1 Peter 2.9 and Hebrews 12.1-2. They both speak to our whole vision statement Living God’s Word to Make Disciples because proclaiming the excellencies of God is both living the Word and a beginning step in making disciples. Laying aside sin is certainly a way of living God’s Word and strengthening our witness toward those we seek to call to discipleship. Walking as a people focused on Jesus builds us up for capacity to be evangelist for Christ. It is what making disciples is about – calling, baptizing, teaching obedience, and the great commission has with it a great promise from Jesus...that promise is Jesus with us.


  • Bonus! Jesus With Us


And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus Christ walks with us as we venture into Living God’s Word to Make Disciples. I want to point out one detail of this conclusion to the Gospel of Matthew and it is actually a negative that I believe becomes a positive for us. It is in verse 17 – And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.” Think about the transition from the end of verse 17 to the beginning of verse 18… “Some doubted...And Jesus came and said to them…” He said to them to go and make disciples. He did not address one iota of their doubt. He did not scold. He did not challenge them as He had done several times before about why they doubted or why they did not understand something. Jesus does not address the doubt, instead He gives a command and the command is to both the worshipers and the doubters! We all have our moments of great faith in worshiping Jesus and we also have times when we are filled with doubt, but Jesus comes in both of those times to say, go - make disciples. Live my Word. Dwell in my commandments. Abide in my love. Take My yoke for it is easy. Jesus knows our strengths and our weaknesses and He uses all to bring glory to the Father. He knows our heart for worship and our doubts and fears, and yet, He died for us, He rose for us, He walks with us always, to the end of the age. How can we not return our lives to Him by Living God’s Word to Make Disciples? How can we let doubts overcome us? How can we live for Jesus, die to self, and invite others to come with us on this journey of faith?

I pray that we all desire without a doubt to be a people Living God’s Word to Make Disciples. Christ is with us, trust in Him, and He will make it so. Amen.