Michael Brady was a stuntman for Universal Studios. He specialized in skydiving. Michael was in Benson, Ariz., preparing to parachute onto the top of a moving train. Climbing up the ladder on the side of the train to check some rigging, Michael accidentally fell, hitting his head and dying instantly. Michael’s body was taken to the University Medical Center in Tucson. His heart was placed inside the body of another man, Bill Wohl, who had been kept alive for the previous 159 days by a temporary artificial heart.
Six months and one day after getting a new heart, Bill Wohl received a letter from Michael Brady’s family with a picture of Michael enclosed. Bill was surprised to find that he had the heart of a 36-year-old Hollywood stuntman.
“I looked at this picture,” Bill said, “at this incredibly good-looking, super-fit, super athletic guy, and I thought, ‘Are you kidding me? That’s whose heart I’ve got?'” Before his heart transplant, Bill Wohl had been a Type-A, overweight, money-obsessed businessman pursuing a jet-setter lifestyle. Today, he works part-time, spending most of his new-found energy winning speed and performance medals in swimming, cycling and track.
Recently interviewed by a reporter in his Scottsdale condo, Bill Wohl leaned forward in his chair, glanced up at the bronze, silver and gold medals he has won, lowered his voice, and said, “Every day, all day, I thank God for Michael Brady. When I ride, when I work out…the biggest thing is to honor him.”
A new heart changed him.
Is the heart of Jesus Christ beating in you? When His heart beats in your chest, the biggest thing in your life will be to honor Him, and you’ll have the same passion for the gospel that He has.
In Matthew 28, we find the Lord Jesus and His disciples on a mountain in Galilee. Throughout Scripture, mountains were places where God revealed Himself to men and women. In Matthew’s Gospel, we learn Jesus conquered the devil’s third temptation on a mountain; that Jesus preached the greatest sermon ever preached from a mountain; that the Lord lingered in prayer by Himself on a mountain; that He revealed His glory to Peter, James and John on a mountain; that He unfolded the endtimes to His disciples on a mountain.
It’s no surprise, then, that the Lord Jesus issued the Great Commission from a mountain. We don’t know the name of this mountain, but we might call it Heartbeat Mountain, because the Lord revealed His heart so clearly there. Listen to His Words: “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen” (Matt. 28:18-20).
Is the heart of Jesus beating in your chest? If it is, then His Great Commission will be your great obsession. Did you notice that some form of the word all appears four times in the words of Jesus? First: “all authority”; second: “all nations”; third: “all things”; fourth: “always.”
Consider with me what some have called the four universals of the Great Commission.
All Authority: The Power for Our Mission
Read Jesus’ words in verse 18 and 19: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore…” The power for our mission is His authority. The word translated authority here is the Greek term exousia. It means “to have permission.” The word also can be translated power or right. It means “the right and the power to make something happen.”
Throughout His ministry, the issue of the Lord’s authority kept coming up. When the Lord taught, the people were astonished because He taught as One having authority (Matt. 7:28-29). He had the right to teach new and original revelation from God directly to the people, because He is God. When four men lowered their crippled friend through the roof into the presence of the Lord Jesus, He forgave the man’s sin and healed the man’s body because He has the authority to heal and forgive. “When the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power (authority) to men” (Matt. 9:6-8).
When He sent His disciples out in His name, “He gave them power (authority) over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease” (Matt. 10:1). He could delegate His authority because it was His authority. One day the religious leaders came to Jesus and asked, “By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave You this authority?” (Matt. 21:23). Jesus basically said, “I’m not going to tell you.” Do you know why He didn’t have to tell them? Because He had authority!
When the time came for Jesus to go to the cross, He made it clear He still was exercising His authority. He said, “Therefore, My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have the power (authority) to lay it down, and I have the power (authority) to take it again” (John 10:17-18). The Romans did not take His life. The Jews did not take His life. The devil did not take His life. The Lord Jesus willingly laid down His life. His death was an act of authority.
One day, He will judge all of humanity and all of history by His authority. He said: “Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man” (John 5:25-27).
Every person on earth has an appointment with Jesus. You can reject Him now, ignore Him now, curse Him now and ridicule Him now; but one day, you will stand before Him, and He will judge you by His authority. He had, has and always will have authority as the only begotten Son of God.
Notice the extent of His authority. He says, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” The word authority carries with it the idea of jurisdiction. Jesus wanted His disciples to understand how far His jurisdiction went—which was to the highest heights of heaven (all authority has been given to Me in heaven)—and reached across the oceans and continents, scaled mountains and plumbed the depths of every square inch of planet earth (all authority has been given to Me…on earth). In other words, Jesus was saying, there are no boundaries to His authority.
When I was 10 or 11 years old, I had a standing appointment every week to watch Bo and Luke Duke on television. If you’re brave enough to admit you remember the show, you know Bo and Luke always were being chased by Sherriff Roscoe P. Coltrane. He’d come after them in his patrol car. They’d try to outrun him in their stock car.
Bo and Luke always had the same destination—the Hazzard County line. They’d drive hard, go airborne a couple of times, and finally cross the county line, pull over, get out of their car, and Roscoe would ride up to the county line, get out of his patrol car and stop. He’d be so frustrated that he couldn’t stand it. He couldn’t arrest them. He couldn’t keep chasing them. There was nothing he could do. Why? They were out of his jurisdiction.
No part of this universe exceeds the jurisdiction of the Lord Jesus. His authority reaches across every line—every cultural line, institutional line, organizational line, social line, racial line, ethnic line, political line, geographical line, linguistic line, attitudinal line, religious line, ancestral line, financial line, educational line and spiritual line. No one and no territory is beyond His reach. His authority extends beyond the ends of the earth.
His authority is the power for our mission. No barrier and no boundary can thwart His authority or ours when we go in His name. When we go in His name, we can say boldly, “Nothing can stand against me. For nothing can stand against Him!” His authority extends everywhere. His authority overcomes everything, and we have His authority. Our challenge is to go and exercise that authority to win souls for Jesus Christ.
Ask yourself: Is the heart of Jesus Christ beating in me to go in His power? This brings us to the next universal in the Great Commission, all nations.
All Nations: The People of Our Mission
Matthew 28:19 gets at the center of the Great Commission. Based on the authority Jesus has given us, He commands: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” (Matt. 28:19). You may have heard before this verse contains only one command in the original language of Scripture: “Make disciples of all the nations.” Every other part of the verse relates back to that command. It’s surprising: Go is not the main command; baptize is not the main command; teach, in verse 20, is not the main command. All those words support the main command, which is to “make disciples of all the nations.” From all the nations—from every type of person on earth—go make disciples. A disciple is a follower. A disciple is someone who is instructed and trained by the master. The goal is to find people who are not following Jesus Christ, tell them the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, then encourage them to become passionate followers of Jesus Christ.
Some preachers and teachers have made the mistake of saying that because the verb go is a participle in the original language that what Jesus meant was “as you go,” or “while you are going,” or “because you are going,” make disciples. That’s not the way Jesus should be understood. Go carries the force of a strong command in this sentence.
If you look in Matthew 2:13, you’ll find Matthew used a similar construction in that verse. He said: “Behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, ‘Arise, take the young child and His mother, flee to Egypt'” (Matt. 2:13). Here, the word arise is a participle, but it would be ridiculous to think the angel was saying, “Joseph, because you’re getting up anyway, take the child and flee to Egypt.” No, the angel spoke with urgency. There was danger. Action had to be taken.
In the same way, Jesus spoke with urgency when He said: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.” Jesus loves people so much that He died on the cross for them and rose from the grave for them. Then He sent you and me to them with His gospel. Do you love people enough to go?
Imagine that you pulled up to your house to discover your family was being attacked by home invaders. You see what’s happening from the driveway, grab the cell phone and call 911. The police come to your house with sirens blaring, walk up to the house, and then stand and watch the harm being done. They polish their badges, make speeches about the need to help people being attacked, sing songs about their authority. All the while, your loved ones are suffering, and the police refuse to use their power to help. You may say that scenario never would happen, but it would be an outrage and a crime if it did happen.
Tragically, that scenario does happen repeatedly in churches today. How much more outrageous and criminal is it for us as the church of Jesus Christ—empowered with His authority, entrusted with His gospel and indwelt by His Spirit—to sing songs about the power of the cross, preach sermons about winning the lost, and hold meetings dedicated to reaching the world, yet to allow thousands—millions—of people whom Jesus loves to die and go to hell?
I thank God for people and churches that are willing to take the risk to go to the nations with the gospel. There are hundreds of creative and inventive ways to go. Home Bible studies, evangelistic dinners, singles meetings, radio and television ministries, short-term and long-term missions, prayer breakfasts, men’s retreats, women’s meetings, sportsmen’s dinners, Internet sites, athletic gatherings, camps, conferences, music ministries, drama, arts and crafts, free medical clinics, college campus discussion groups, children’s ministries, special needs ministries, divorce recovery, substance abuse programs, neighborhood prayer walking, military ministry, hospital ministry, nursing home ministry, Christian movies, videos, publishing, ministry to different career groups, Christian schools…the list could go on and on.
I increasingly am convinced there is practically no wrong way to go and make disciples, and absolutely no right way not to go and make disciples. Let’s get out there and reach people. Millions are plunging into eternity without Christ right now. If we are standing still, we are backing up. Is the heart of Jesus Christ beating in your chest? His heart beats for lost people, for unreached people, for people hastening each day toward hell.
As we move to verse 20, we find a third universal in the Great Commission:
All Things: The Process of Our Mission
What’s the process of making disciples? Jesus said the process involves “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20). Notice the two load-bearing words here: baptizing and teaching. These words show us that our mission is an event and a process.
Baptism is an event. It is a picture of the spiritual reality that occurs the moment we trust Jesus as Savior. It signifies our entrance into a relationship with God. The triune Godhead works to save the sinner. God the Father calls believers to salvation. God the Son redeems believers with His own blood. God the Holy Spirit applies salvation to the believer through Jesus Christ. That’s why Jesus commands us to baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
As our bodies are lowered into the baptismal waters, we show we have died to our old lives. As our bodies are raised from the waters, we show we have come alive to a resurrected life in Christ. Can a person be saved without being baptized? Yes, but should a genuinely born-again person refuse to follow Christ in baptism? Absolutely not. Baptism is a big deal because it portrays the most significant event in our lives—salvation through faith in Jesus.
Jesus goes beyond the event of baptizing disciples to talk about the process of growing disciples. The church is called to teach disciples “to observe all things that I have commanded you.” The discipleship process involves ongoing instruction in the teachings of Jesus. Notice the Lord Jesus does not give us the luxury of picking and choosing the truths that are most convenient for us to teach and obey. All things means the whole of Scripture—all of which Jesus affirmed and commanded.
In so many areas of our lives, an event only has its fullest meaning if it’s followed by a process. For instance, a wedding ceremony is an event—an event some ladies dream of from the time they are small girls. More than one young man has proposed marriage to his sweetheart, only to discover he is just the small, final piece in a puzzle she’s been putting together since she was 8 years old.
A wedding is an event! No matter how ornate a wedding is, no matter how gorgeous the flowers and the wedding gown is, how wonderful the music, how moving the exchange of vows, it’s all for nothing if the husband and wife don’t commit themselves to the process of marriage. Too many couples have beautiful weddings followed by ugly marriages.
Marriage is just one example. You probably can think of others. Getting admitted to your dream college is an event, but unless you go through the process of going to classes and studying, you’ll never get an education. Joining a gym, paying the fees, and getting a membership card is an event; the only way to get in shape is to go through the process of exercising. In the same way, in the Christian life, there’s an event: leading people to salvation, signified by baptism. Then there’s a process: teaching believers to obey the commands of Christ. They go hand-in-hand.
We disobey the Lord Jesus, and we dilute the effectiveness of our evangelism if we neglect the process of disciple-making through teaching God’s Word. Is the heart of Jesus Christ beating in your chest? His heart beats for us to follow Him in discipleship. His heart beats for us to teach our children, new believers and one another how to follow Him.
Jesus said: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…” He gives us His power (all authority). He sends us to lost people (all the nations). He calls us to a process (teaching them to observe all things). Now, I want to direct your attention to one more universal in the Great Commission.
Always: The Promise of Our Mission
Matthew ends his Gospel with these words of Jesus: “and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen” (Matt. 28:20). At the beginning of his Gospel, Matthew introduced the Lord Jesus as Immanuel, God with us (Matt. 1:23), and he concludes with the Lord’s promise that He always would be with His disciples. Then, Jesus spoke words that reach beyond the mountain in Galilee 2,000 years ago, through space and time to where we are right now: “even to the end of the age.” Until the end of time and this world, Jesus promises His presence with us as we share His gospel.
As we go in His name, as we make disciples, as we baptize, as we teach His commandments, Jesus is always with us. Always literally means “all the days.” Every day between now and the end of time, Jesus is with us. Nothing can nullify that promise. Nothing can separate us from that promise. It’s not a conditional promise. It’s not a provisional promise. It’s simply a promise—an unbreakable, unshakeable, forever promise. He’s with us.
Bill Wohl traveled to see Michael Brady’s family, with the strong heart of that young man beating in his chest, invigorating his body, pumping blood to every cell. He met Michael’s parents. He learned their son was a man who loved God and cared about people. Then, he met Michael’s brother, Chris.
At their first meeting, Chris brought a stethoscope. He held it in his hands and asked Bill Wohl, “Would you mind? I want to connect with my brother one more time.” Bill said, “Of course. Yes.” Chris pressed that stethoscope against Bill’s chest, and he could hear his brother’s beating heart.
I pray that if God were to put His ear upon my chest or your chest that He would hear the heartbeat of His Son, beating to win the world to faith in Him.
Adapted from David Leibowitz, “Change of Heart” in Phoenix Magazine (accessed Oct. 22, 2009).
Adapted from Carla McClain, “Some Heart Recipients Report Strange Changes” in Arizona Daily Star (accessed Oct. 22, 2009).