In a previous paper I have explored the centrality of the phrase “make disciples” in the Great Commission as given by Matthew. The understanding of the Great Commission was greatly enhanced by linking both the commission and its major terms with the narratives and discourses which preceded it. “The theme of discipleship is central to Matthew’s gospel and to Matthew’s understanding of the church and mission” (Bosch 1991:73).
More than any other text in the Bible, Matthew’s ‘Great Commission’ has been used by the Protestant missionary movement to inspire and shape its outreach to people across the globe. This important text has often been lifted out of its context and has been subject to either limited or wrong understandings.
Although there is no consensus by scholars regarding the exact nature of the structure of Matthew, it is clear that both the narrative and discourse material are carefully constructed and linked together both by a number of structures and common themes. These themes are developed throughout the gospel and are encountered one final time in the giving of the Great Commission.
The theme of Christ’s authority and Lordship is central to the gospel and the final commission. The right of Jesus to rule is both attested and contested in Matthew. The same questions raised by the religious leaders of the Jews will no doubt be raised by the leaders of the nations as well. As such, Matthew has provided the missionary disciples a wonderful compendium of material on how Jesus handled questions of His authority.
Disciples are to be made through responding to the call to be baptized and then follow the teachings of Jesus. Again, Matthew has given a wealth of didactic material which the disciples can use as they go forth in obedience to the Great Commission. The calls to follow Jesus in commitment are both frequent and diverse.