What Precedes the Great Commission?

By: Joshua A. Waggener

What precedes the Great Commission?

For anyone here at the “Great Commission” seminary, that may sound like a trick question! Can anything take precedence over our calling to “make disciples” as we are going into all the world, baptizing, and teaching?

But consider for just a moment the actions that led up to Jesus’ giving of the commission in Matthew’s account. First, his faithful eleven disciples obey a specific command to go to Galilee (28:16). This instruction fulfills Jesus’ promise from Matthew 26:32: “But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Here the order is spoken first by an angel to “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary” (v. 7), and then repeated by Jesus himself to the women (v. 10).

Upon receiving the word, the disciples followed their orders to return to Galilee. This was their home! And the mountain where they returned to was possibly the very place where Jesus had first called them to be his disciples. By obeying this instruction, the “twelve less one” demonstrated their faithfulness to Jesus’ words, even those relayed by others.

But what happened next? The text says “they saw him.” What a glorious moment! To see the risen Lord Jesus must have been an astonishing experience. Although the message they received from the women back in Jerusalem affirmed that “there they will see me” (v. 10), to actually set eyes on Jesus provoked a response of the heart and the body.

What was their response to seeing Christ? As verse 17 states: “they worshiped him.” The Greek verb used here – proskyneo – means, in general, to “kiss the hand” or “by kneeling or prostration to do homage.” In our English Bibles it is translated as “fall down,” “knelt,” or simply “worshiped.”

So, to alter the initial question slightly, “What preceded the giving of the Great Commission?” Answer: The disciples came to Jesus in a posture of worship. How appropriate! Although “some doubted” (v. 17) – or at least hesitated – as the encounter began, Jesus’ words would confirm that he had been given “all authority in heaven and on earth” (v. 18). His Lordship deserved to be shown homage. His disciples were to wait in humility for his next command: the Great Commission.

What precedes the Great Commission today? As Jesus’ disciples, we are to approach our Lord just as the Eleven did on that mountain in Galilee. With our hearts humble and our wills ready to do His will, it is in the posture of worship that we are to receive the Great Commission.

Dr. Joshua A. Waggener is Assistant Professor of Music and Christian Worship at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.