Speaking of mission, what we are commending or giving to these Cities and the nations is not ultimately a message, but the person Jesus Christ, and it’s not Jesus as a mere person, but Jesus as the King who reigns over all — Jesus in all of his supremacy and power and glory.
Let’s hear Jesus’ own words, Matthew 28:18–20, Matthew tells us that Jesus came and said to his eleven disciples, and to us:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Be going therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
A Message, But Not Ultimately
The gospel of Jesus Christ is a message. It is news. It is the announcement that Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians 15:3–4, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…”
This is a message and it’s a powerful message. It flips the wisdom of the world upside down that the word of the cross, an announcement, speaking about a historical event, voicing a reality — this is the way God has chosen to overcome the world. We say things and people’s lives are changed forever. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. That’s the way it happened for us, we heard something, we heard a word and the Spirit gave us eyes and made us new creations.
So the gospel is a message, but it’s not ultimately a message. It is not flat content. It is the declaration of a person, a real person who has done a real work in real space-time history to reconcile real people to a real God. It is not a cerebral exercise. It is a word that takes us off the page, a message that goes deeper than just hearing.
Peter tells us that “Jesus suffered, the righteousness for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18). Jesus suffered, Jesus the righteous one, the only Son of God, the eternal Word behind everything that exists, he suffered for the unrighteous. That is us. We who have rebelled against God and replaced him with other things, hoisting up the worship of ourselves and created stuff. We have rebelled against our creatureliness and scoffed at the one who made us. And Jesus suffered for us, which means all the wrath that we deserve for our sins, all the punishment we were headed towards, Jesus took all of it. Jesus took our sins upon himself as if they were his sins and he suffered for them in our place, absorbing the fury of God that was against us, so that we would be brought to God, that our relationship with our Creator would be reconciled. God our Father, Christ our Brother, the Spirit our DNA who testifies of this new relationship.
The Person, Jesus Christ
So do you see how this works? I have said words but you all know that it’s not really just words. Embedded in the good news of Jesus is the person Jesus who offers himself to you. So our telling others the gospel is really our introducing others to the Person, Jesus Christ.
And this is why Jesus said to “go make disciples,” not “go make consumers.” If we are just relaying information or just making noise then the neighbors we encounter have the right to click away or turn it off. Or maybe a more positive result, they sign up or download the app, either way this is a cultural distortion that smudges the truth of what we’re doing. Because when we speak the gospel, we are showing people Jesus — we are introducing them to the person, Jesus — and what you do with that, what you do with your encounter with Jesus, is life or death. If you deny the gospel, you reject a person.
And when you believe the gospel, you embrace a person. Christianity is not an email list, it’s not Liking a blog post through Facebook or checking off on some data. When you believe the message of the gospel you are bowing your life to the Lord Jesus Christ who is seated and reigning at the right hand of the Father and who will come again to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will never end.
Jesus — Last Adam and Son of Man
Here’s the counter-intuitive danger that I want to speak into: in our efforts to be practical and live out what we believe, we are actually running the risk of abstracting the very thing that we are exporting. Because we are on the ground running, and moving, and if we are not careful, then the person of Jesus who is behind all of this can be diminished in our minds as just a product we’re trying to spread.
But it’s not about a product, or a mere message, it’s about the person, Jesus. And here’s where we take the final step to say, it’s not even about Jesus as a mere person, but Jesus as the sovereign King over all. See the progression: it is a message, but not ultimately a message. It’s the person, Jesus. And yet it’s not Jesus as a mere person. It’s Jesus for who he truly is (and this is what the message is getting at).
And Jesus actually makes this clear in how he commissions us. Look back at Matthew 28. This first phrase in v. 18 is huge: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
This is rooted back in the Old Testament and it’s a thread that runs throughout all of Scripture. We can call it “the drama of the Son.” It starts really with Adam being created in God’s image. In his genealogy in the gospel of Luke, Luke calls Adam the son of God (3:38). So there’s this idea that Adam is a son. And then after the fall, what is the promise that God makes to Adam and Eve? Genesis 3:15, the seed of a woman. A son. And so here the drama begins, we are looking for this son. Well Cain and Abel don’t work out. Then later comes along Noah, a righteous man, but doesn’t work out. So he has some sons. And then Shem has some sons. And then later Abraham, the one God chooses and blesses. And we’re not sure if he’s ever to going to have a son. Then later in Egypt, when the people of Israel were too great, what was Pharaoh’s strategy? It’s about the son. So this is developed and it runs through the entire Bible. You get to David and what was the promise to King David: it’s that he would have a son who would be king. Throughout the storyline of Scripture our vision for this son gets sharper so that you see this phrase in Psalm 8 and Ezekiel and Daniel, “son of man.” And this phrase, the “son of man” is what epitomizes our hope in a son, going back to Adam and the original promise. And the profile of this son of man is filled out amazingly in Daniel 7.
Dan 7:13 “I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.
So this is the son of man we are looking for. The son of man who owns everything. And Jesus steps on the scene in the Gospels and what does he call himself more than anything else? The son of man. And if that’s not clear enough, in Matthew 28 he gets crystal clear and when he commissions his disciples and his church he prefaces the commission with who he is. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. You see it’s not merely a message, it about a person. But not only a person, it is the person who has all authority in heaven and on earth.
Adam was given the original commission to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth with image-bearers who reflect God’s glory. But that son failed. And here we have the true son of man, the better and last Adam, Jesus Christ, who takes the original commission to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, and he says to his church “make disciples of all nations.” This is a commission that will not fail. The earth will be filled with the glory of God and the way Jesus completes this mission and advances his new-creational reign is by his Spirit filling his people who are sent forth to speak the message of the gospel, that’s not only a message, but is about him, the person, Jesus Christ, our Savior and our Lord, the hope of the world and King over all.
So the point is that we remember him. That we see him and all of his excellency and wonder and majesty. That we know that Jesus is the Who this is all about.
And then we wonder, who could not want to be on mission for a King like that?