Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore 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 that I have commanded you. And remember that I am with you always, to the end of the age’.
Matthew’s Gospel ends where it began, with the assurance that Jesus is Emmanuel – God with us. It is interesting that at this climax, Matthew still observes that some doubted, but there is no suggestion of efforts made to persuade them otherwise. Perhaps not everyone will be persuaded. The emphasis lies on the task of the disciples to baptize disciples of all nations, and to teach them what Jesus has commanded. This became the established strategy of the missionaries of the Church, before the later Protestant emphasis on preaching rather than baptism.
Gracious God we thank you that by baptism we are made members of a world-wide Church – a fellowship of believers, all different, each with their own contribution to make. May we be ready to play our part. May we remember that Jesus challenged us to make disciples of all nations, not just individuals, in order to show more clearly that baptism makes us a diverse body of believers. Teach us to enjoy and appreciate our differences, without wanting to make everyone the same; in the name of the one who died for all, even Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Rev’d Professor David Thompson is a retired minister and a member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge.
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