16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.19 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,20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
These are perhaps the last words Jesus gave to his disciples before he ascended and went back to His Father in heaven. Jesus' last words belie his last wishes for his disciples to continue on the movement he started. Jesus knew that after he died, rose again, and went back to heaven his disciples would be the ones to continue the work he started. This was namely to bring the kingdom to earth as it was in heaven. So it is very important for us to look at this passage which is called, the "Great Commission". If it was important for Jesus to give these parting words to his disciples, it would be equally important for us as he disciples today to understand what they mean.
Jesus really gave the disciples three things to do as he was leaving them and would some day return to them. First, he gave them the same authority God had given him to carry out the Great Commission. They would go with the same power Jesus had been given as they "made disciples of all nations". A disciple is a "learner", or "follower". The disciples spent three years in Jesus' "school of life". Now they were being called to teach others how to live theis same life.
Importantly Jesus commands them to, "make disciples of all nations". All people are made in God's image and God wants all people to be saved regardless of their ethnic background. Jesus tells the disciples to go and reach everyone regardless of their ethnic background about God's love. It reminds us of John 3:16, "For God so loved the WORLD!"
Secondly, he says to baptize everyone in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The word baptism means to "cover or immerse". So in baptism we are covered by God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are completely covered by God's grace in Christ Jesus. Baptism is about identity. To be baptized means you are part of God's family.
Finally, Jesus tells them to teach the disciples to obey everything Jesus commanded him. To be a disciple means to be obedient to the one your are following. None of us are perfect, but our desire is to obey Jesus. This is not legalistic in the way of rule-keeping. This is a way of life constantly asking the question, "How would Jesus live my life if he were me?" Jesus was basically saying to the disciples, "I showed you how to live by demonstrating a way of life as I was obedient to my Father, go and teach people to live likewise."
These were the last words Jesus gave to his disciples and they will always be our marching orders as well.