The Great Benediction

The word “benediction” is not a word that we use in our everyday conversations, but it carries weighty implications for living our lives every day in service to God and man. Google defines the word benediction as “the utterance or bestowing of a blessing”. This past weekend I had the honor of offering my first benediction to the people at our church; as a newly ordained pastor, this is one of the most exciting and humbling privileges afforded to me.

As I have thought about this incredible privilege, I started contemplating the benedictions in Scripture. One of the most famous benedictions from Scripture comes from Jesus himself. It is often called The Great Commission. Here is what Matthew, a friend and disciple of Jesus, recorded as Jesus’ “Great Benediction”:

16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on Earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” - Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV)

Notice the PEOPLE who are receiving this benediction. This is the first time we see “eleven” disciples, because the twelfth disciple, Judas, has betrayed Jesus and is no longer a part of this world. This benediction comes during a time of intense struggle and confusion, yet also a time of intense power. They are standing before the risen Jesus!

Notice the PLACE where this benediction takes place: “the mountain”. Knox Chamblin noted that “Matthew viewed mountains as a place of divine revelation.” The location is significant to the proclamation; we are meant to see this commission on the scale of grandeur that mountains embody! God has taken his disciples and He wants to take you to the “mountaintop” of His great power, purpose, and presence.

Notice the POSTURE of the disciples: “they worshiped him” and “some doubted”. In every group of believers, and in the heart of every disciple, you find two responses: worship and doubt. Both are related to fear. They just witnessed this man die a brutal death on the cross. Now, He is alive and standing and giving them this blessing. Worship is the right response.

But doubt is also an understandable response. Now that Jesus is risen from the dead, what does this mean for our lives? How will this affect the way we relate to people? The questions of confusion and doubt are many! As one commentator writes, “Matthew understands that the fluctuation between worship and indecision is every disciple’s struggle. What is needed is confidence that Jesus is Lord of all and present with them at all times.”

Now notice the POWER that Jesus blesses them with: “All Authority in heaven and on Earth has been given to me”. We have assurance that God rules and reigns, and King Jesus will accomplish his purposes in heaven and on the Earth. The Greek word translated as “all” literally means “everything belonging to,” “every kind of,” and “all sorts of.” What kind of Authority does Jesus have? ALL!

When you think of authority, you probably think of someone with power (military, relational, financial, etc.), resources (money, property, possessions), networks (connections, relationships, influence), and skills (abilities, gifts, training). Jesus has all of this and more! His realm of authority is heaven and Earth. The totality of the cosmos is the place where he exercises the totality of his authority.

Next, Jesus gives the PURPOSE for which this blessing and power are to be used for: “Therefore, go make disciples of all nations”. The need, as clearly stated by King Jesus, is for more followers. He has given us this incredible task and privilege. A disciple is one who learns not only from us but more importantly from the Teacher Himself. Jesus tells us to “make” disciples, which carries with it the idea of effort, intentionality, and responsibility. And, these disciples are to come from “all nations”. Since Jesus has total authority over heaven and Earth, it is only fitting that he should have followers that come from every tribe, nation, and people on the face of the Earth.

Lastly, notice the PRESENCE that Jesus assures us with: “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age”. This is our assurance that he will never leave us or forsake us, that this incredible task of discipling the nations will happen because He will be with us every step of the way!

In summary, if you are in a posture of worship and humility, then this is the benediction that Jesus gives to you: all power in heaven and Earth has been given to Jesus that He might empower His people to live out God’s international disciple-making purposes on the Earth. The final assurance that this purpose will be fulfilled is the all-encompassing presence of the Lord Jesus Himself!

So go forward, people of God, in the power of His Presence, to fulfill the purpose for which He has called you and sent you!

Will Witherington