The Great Commission

by The Most Reverend Sean Alexander, DD, OSB | [Click to Listen]

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

My dear brothers and sisters, my beloved children in Christ – I come to you today with a heart full of joy and a spirit burning with urgency to speak about a Scripture passage that has transformed my life and ignited my ministry as your Archbishop. Our Lord Jesus Christ gave the Great Commission to his disciples in Matthew chapter 28, verses 16 to 20. I firmly believe that this great mandate from our Savior is just as world-changing and soul-shaking for us today as it was for those first apostles nearly 2000 years ago.

I invite you to quiet your hearts and open your minds, to listen carefully with me to the words of Jesus, and to ponder their profound meaning for each of our lives: “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted it. Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and 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.'”

Whenever I read or recite this passage, I am stunned into respectful silence by the extraordinary trust Jesus places in his followers – in you and me. I want you to think about this with me for a moment. Here is Jesus, the eternal Son of God, the divine Word through whom the entire cosmos was spoken into existence. This is the Jesus who calmed the raging storms and roaring seas with a mere word, who healed the sick with a touch and raised the dead with a command. This is the mighty Lord who went head-to-head with the forces of evil, the powers of sin, death, and hell – and emerged victorious, rising bodily from the grave and ascending in glory to reign forever at the Father’s right hand. And yet, this Jesus, this King of Kings and Lord of Lords, looks at mere human creatures like you and me and says, “I am entrusting YOU with the supreme task of spreading my Gospel to the ends of the earth.”

My friends, I am humbled to my core every time I ponder this. What an unimaginable honor, what an incredible and weighty responsibility, that the Son of God would place such sublime faith in humble servants like us! He is entrusting us, commissioning us, anointing us to be his hands and feet, his voice and heart in the world. He is sending us out as his ambassadors, in his name, and with his authority, to share the Good News of God’s love and saving power with everyone, everywhere, no matter who they are or where they come from. I don’t know about you, but this takes my breath away. It brings me to my knees in wonder and worship before the incredible love and grace of our Savior.

And where exactly does Jesus tell us to go in fulfilling this Great Commission? Not just to our churches and Bible studies. Not merely to our neighborhoods and communities. No, our Lord commands us to “go and make disciples of ALL nations.” I want you to really let the revolutionary scope of that sink in, my dear people. Jesus calls us to share the Gospel with everyone, everywhere – crossing all boundaries of geography, language, ethnicity, race, class, and culture. There is no corner of the globe, no people group that is beyond the reach of his saving love – or beyond the mandate he has given us as his disciples.

I know this can feel like an overwhelming responsibility at times. In all our frailty and failings, how can we ever hope to carry out such a monumental, history-altering mission? But here is the glorious, good news – we do not undertake this great task alone or in our strength! Immediately after giving this Great Commission, Jesus makes a precious promise to his disciples and to us: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Oh, what comfort and courage this gives me! The same risen and exalted Christ to whom “all authority in heaven and on earth” belongs has promised to be with us always – guiding us, empowering us, working in and through us to fulfill the mission he has given us. We are not mere servants but beloved friends of God, united intimately to Christ as members of his Body. And so we go forth in his name, in his strength, with his anointing – and nothing is impossible for us. No stronghold of darkness can stand against the light of the Gospel we carry. No hardened heart is beyond the reach of God’s love flowing through us. With Christ in us, the hope of glory, we can scale any mountain, weather any storm, and see the Kingdom come in power in our families, our communities, and to the very ends of the earth.

So, I want to leave you with both a challenge and an encouragement today, my brothers and sisters. If you have never really stepped out in faith to share the Good News about Jesus with those around you, if you’ve been content to keep your faith as a private, personal thing – then I urge you, I commission you in the name of Christ to embrace your calling as his ambassador starting right now, today. Please don’t wait for your Archbishop or priest to do it! YOU are anointed, YOU are called, YOU are sent to be salt and light, to let your gospel light shine before all people that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

And suppose you’ve been faithfully trying to live out the Great Commission but are weary and discouraged by the challenges and opposition you face. In that case, I want to lift your chin and strengthen your feeble knees with the promise of Jesus that we heard today: “I am with you always.” You are not alone, my friend. You do not labor in vain. The risen Christ goes before you, behind you, and alongside you. His Spirit fills you, and his power upholds you. Keep sowing seeds of gospel truth and love, keep shining the light of Christ wherever he has placed you, and trust that the Lord of the Harvest will bring forth an abundance of kingdom fruit.

I am praying for each one of you, my spiritual children, that “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better… that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.” (Eph 1:17-18). And I am standing with you, as your brother and shepherd, as together we seek to spend and be spent for the sake of Christ and his coming Kingdom.

Let’s pray together:

Father, thank you for the precious gift of the Gospel and for entrusting us with the sacred task of sharing it with the world. Fill us afresh with your Holy Spirit today, that we may be cleansed and consecrated for your service. Please give us a fresh passion for the lost and a renewed commitment to the Great Commission. Anoint us boldly to speak your word and demonstrate your love and power to all we meet. And do in us and through us more than we can ask or imagine for the sake of your Kingdom and glory.

We ask all this in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.

Raises hands in blessing over the congregation The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift His countenance upon you, And give you peace. Amen.