Although Matthew’s Gospel contains the most famous ‘missionary verse’ in the Bible (28:19: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…’ but perhaps better, ‘As you go, make disciples of all nations…’) it has a lot more to chew on than just the final few verses.

In his Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament Chris Wright does a great job showing how missional and downright exciting the Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus is.

More recently I’ve been struck by the missional boundaries of the sermon on the mount in chs. 5-7. We would be grossly mistaken if we think, ‘Oh, that’s not about mission, it’s about discipleship’ as if the former is an external matter and the latter, internal. The sermon, an inspiring, hard, radical call to following Jesus is framed by mission, setting it in context. I want to point out three things that illustrate this:

1. The beatitudes

Jesus’ discipleship manifesto opens with the big picture. He describes the Kingdom of God as a place of transformation. It is a place of reversal, of hope, of dignity and vindication. It is a place where things are right and are put right.

2. Salt and light

The purpose of discipleship is not merely conforming to certain standards (albeit God’s standards!). It is not merely an individual or a private matter. Jesus wants us to be more like him because he wants us to have an impact as we live out the Kingdom. Salt OF THE EARTH… light OF THE WORLD. This is not an exercise in navel gazing; the life of the community of God’s people has global purpose and consequence.

3. What happens next?

Don Carson calls his exposition of Matt. 8-10 When Jesus Confronts the World. In the chapters following the sermon, Jesus displays his authority in numerous spheres of life. He takes on the pain and mess of the world and wins. This is an inkling as to what will ultimately be achieved through his death, resurrection and glorification. But notice this: the second story in this whistle-stop tour of Jesus’ authority is his encounter with a Gentile in 8:5-13. This Gentile, a Roman centurion, amazes Jesus with his faith:

When Jesus heard this, he marvelled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. 11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (ESV)

So, mission is very much on Matthew’s mind. But what other aspects of mission do we find the his Gospel? Leave a comment with your suggestions.

2 thoughts on “Matthew’s Gospel and mission

  1. In Mt. 28:19 the Greek word for “go” is a participle, the reason I suppose you might prefer “as you go” to translate it. Yet Greek participles can be used as imperatives. In this context, the Greek word for “make disciples” is imperative. Since this context includes the new Lord giving his final instructions, especially to “make disciples,” probably the participles used here are imperatives.
    Compare 17:27, where the same Greek word for “go” as in 28:19 is again a participle, and is clearly used as an imperative in a context that includes an imperative verb, in this case both”throw (cast)” and “give.”
    In Mt. 5 Jesus’ mission is indeed focused on “the earth” and “the world.” In 5:16 he commands his disciples: “Let your light shine before the people so they will see your good works and glorify your Father.” As in 5:15 this light is not to be hidden, but to provide light to “all” in the house (world). Their good works like “meekness” (5:5)–meaning patient gentleness rather than impulsive violence–and “showing mercy” (5:7) on those in need, even outcasts like the Gentile of 8:5-13, will glorify their Father in heaven (and not themselves, or their fathers on earth, who hate and fight certain enemies and outcasts). Jesus is preparing his disciples to be fishers of people (4:19).

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