Catch and Release

In Matthew 28, Jesus declares the ‘Great Commission’.

“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.” Matthew 28:19-20

It is likely that you are familiar with this passage. I’ve read it so many times that I breeze right past it, many times not even taking the time to contemplate it. Other times, I think to myself, “What does that even mean?” and I give myself permission to pass it over. But more recently, I have been intensely convicted regarding Jesus’ last commandment, because I believe I have willingly ignored it. But, if you really ponder the passage and its context, you soon realize how important it is.

Consider the situation. Jesus has finished his earthly ministry, teaching and making the 12 disciples who they were, suffered through his crucifixion, bringing salvation to all mankind and is meeting his disciples in Galilee after his resurrection from the dead. Many of them were undoubtedly troubled by what has happened the last few days. Peter, having denied him three times, is likely full of guilt and remorse. These are the last words Jesus will speak to his disciples before he ascends to heaven and the Holy Spirit comes.

Whatever Jesus says, it’s going to be important. I don’t know about you, but I would probably be like the disciples in this moment, ready to hang on every word he speaks. “What Jesus? What are we to do? What do you want to say to us? Tell us!”

And so he gives the Great Commission. His last words are a command to all. Go and make disciples. Teach them to obey everything he has commanded.

“Wait. What? You aren’t going to set up a kingdom and rule? We’re still under Roman occupation? Make disciples?”

God’s plan for his kingdom, just like in Genesis 1, is multiplication and reproduction through people. In Genesis, he created man and woman and told them to be fruitful and multiply. He didn’t just make more people. His plan was to use people. In the same way, Jesus asks us to make more disciples. Just like Genesis 1, we need to reproduce to fulfill this command. He’s not going to spontaneously create more followers. It’s not someone else’s job.

With real, specific intention, we are to reproduce. There are no sterile or barren followers of Christ. Every one of us is created and commanded to reproduce. We should be investing ourselves in relationships with others, growing deep together in love, teaching and holding ourselves accountable them to obey all of Jesus commands. The ultimate goal of discipleship is to release people to do the same process with others. It is reproduction.

In Robby Gallaty’s book ‘Growing Up’, he writes, “The gospel came to you because it was going to someone else.” The gospel did not come to you just to save you. It’s more than salvation. It’s transformation. It is a maturing, growing relationship with God. And it’s reproduction. It’s heading somewhere else and you are the conduit. God wants to use you to spread that gospel to someone else.

In the context of discipleship, I heard another pastor say, “I’m convinced a Christian will hit a plateau in their relationship with Christ for as long as they are inwardly focused. Until our focus shifts from ourselves to others, we will not grow into who God has called us.” What has God each and everyone of us to? It’s to discipleship.

Do you recall what Jesus said when he called the first disciples?

“Come, follow Me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19

That simple statement captures the entire heart of discipleship. When he said “follow me”, he’s asking for us to believe in Him and make a decision to follow him. When he says, “I will make you”, he is implying that we will be changed by him. We will pattern our lives after him. And when he says “fishers of men”, he’s asking us to reproduce.

It is a fishing analogy. Catch and release. Catch. Transform. Release. Don’t stop. Throw your line back in. Catch another. Reproduce.

Jeff Hughes
Connect Group Ministry Leader 

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