Food for thought:
As we read this passage in English it seems like the imperative (or the command statement) is the word “GO!” However, in the Greek, the word “go” is in the passive participle, which should be read, “as you are going” or “having traveled.” The imperative word in the Greek is matheteusate which means “MAKE DISCIPLES!” Jesus’ great commission to the initial eleven disciples was to go out and duplicate themselves in the world. Actually, the commission was to go out and duplicate Christ in them in other people.
Jesus was asking them to do to others what He had done to them. Jesus made these eleven into disciples — people who were fully grounded in Jesus’ teaching and fully committed to living in His Kingdom. Jesus called a group of “sinners” together and spent three years pouring into their lives through friendship, teaching, shared experience, and role modeling. After the training period was over, Jesus told them to go out and do the same thing for someone else. “As you are going, make people into the disciples that I’ve made you to be. Those, in turn, will then go and make others into disciples in the same manner.”
How were they to make these disciples? First, they were told to baptize them. Baptism was the initiation rite — a symbol of repentance and cleansing — that brought a person into the community of the Kingdom of Heaven. The connotation here is that a disciple is brought into community. Second, they were to teach the disciples to obey Jesus’ teachings.
Thus, there are two sides to the disciple-making process. If we are to make disciples we need to first have a community in which they can be fostered and nurtured to grow. Second, we need to have solid teaching about who Jesus is and what He expects from those who follow Him.
Let’s try to, “as we are going,” provide these two things for all the people with whom we are sharing the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let’s be a disciple-making community.