Armodoxy for Today: The Commission Here
The “Great Commission” as it is called, is the direction Jesus gives to his Apostles just before he ascends to heaven.
Saint Matthew records the event, remembering that only eleven of the original twelve disciples (less Judas) made up the disciple’s group. We read:
“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 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 of 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.” (Matthew 28:16-20)
Jesus commissions the eleven to continue his work, beyond the world they were accustomed to. Here, the Christian message is projected to the world, to all nations. There is no exception. There is no “favored nation status” for any one or any country. It is a command that his message is universal. Furthermore, he sets baptism as the entry point for the community and emphasizes that his commandments are the fuel of the Christianity. His commandments were summarized, “Love God with all your heart, mind and soul and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:36-40) And finally, he gives his unfailing word that he is with us forever. His love and care is unwavering and is ours beyond time restrictions.
Yesterday we read the narrative of the Ascension, today we read the actions, the descriptor of what Jesus expected from his church. It is important to note that this commission is not given to all of the inhabitants of Jerusalem or anywhere else. He does not include the rest of the students, often referred to as the 72 disciples, in this group. No, it is directed to a very special group that will soon become the nucleus of the Christian Church.
When we refer to the Apostolic Church, we are talking about the Church that links itself to this event. Each of those eleven (and later 12 with the addition of Mathias) went to different areas in the world. Peter went to Rome, Thomas to India, Matthew to Ethiopia, Jude Thaddeus to Armenia, just to mention four of them. Each of carrying out the commission. They ended in hostile areas, and all of them, except for John, were martyred. John, ended up exiled on an Island.
We will explore their individual stories, but for our discussion today, it is important to note the Apostolic Commission. It is the foundation of the Christian Church. And as we approach the feast of Pentecost, we will see how this small band of diverse people, who were considered appalling by the system, whose leader was sentenced to death, became the ones who carried the most influential and important message of all human history.
The Ascension is Jesus ascending to heaven. Yesterday I asked you to look not up to heaven, but all around. Today, with Jesus’ message and commission to the disciples we start understanding that the direction of life is in the here and now. The mission of the Apostolic Church was and is to bring people to the message of love that Jesus taught. And yes, in that love we find that Jesus is with us now and forever.
Cover: Hills surrounding Datev Monastery