“Make Disciples, Baptizing Them”
“All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth. Go therefore and make disciples of people 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 the things I have commanded you. And, look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.”—Matt. 28:18-20.
1. Who heard the command of Jesus to “make disciples . . . baptizing them”?
JESUS CHRIST spoke those words on a mountain in Galilee following his death and resurrection. They were heard by his disciples, including Matthew, who recorded them for our benefit. How many of Jesus’ disciples heard him give this command is not certain. The eleven faithful apostles were present, but there may have been many more. (Matt. 28:16) Numerous Bible scholars believe that the five hundred mentioned by the apostle Paul as seeing Jesus personally at one time after his resurrection had to be in Galilee because that is where Jesus had disciples in such large numbers. (1 Cor. 15:6) Some believe that Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:10, “Go, report to my brothers, that they may go off into Galilee; and there they will see me,” were told to more than the eleven faithful apostles. However, of that we cannot be sure.
2. Why did Jesus’ command come at an opportune moment, and what did it open up before his disciples?
2 Nevertheless, it is certain that Jesus Christ was resurrected and there were witnesses to the fact that he commanded his followers to go and make disciples, baptizing them. These words of Jesus came at a very opportune moment, a time when his disciples were needing guidance on what they were to do. Jesus’ command opened up before them a great educational and expansion work that would take place throughout the nations. How it must have thrilled them to receive such a command accompanied with the assurance that Jesus Christ himself would back them in this great worldwide activity!
3. (a) Why could there be no misunderstanding about what was to be done? (b) What is a disciple?
3 Could there be any misunderstanding about the work that Christ Jesus said was to be done by his true followers until the conclusion of the system of things? Hardly so. For the men who heard him speak were his disciples. They knew that a disciple is a learner or a taught one. They must therefore teach others to be followers of Christ such as they themselves were.
4. Referring to John 1:35-42, show how Andrew and Simon became disciples of Jesus.
4 The first disciples of Jesus were taught by John the Baptist, who prepared them to become disciples of Jesus. Andrew was one of those disciples of John the Baptist who was introduced to the teaching of Jesus by John personally. After Andrew spent some time listening to Jesus, he spread the word to his brother, Simon, who also became a disciple and an apostle of Jesus Christ.—John 1:35-42.
5. According to John 1:43-51, how did Philip and Nathanael become disciples?
5 Philip was another who, early in the ministry of Jesus, learned how to be a follower of Jesus Christ. As soon as Philip became a disciple he showed the right spirit of wanting to tell others the good news, and so interested Nathanael in becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ.—John 1:43-51.
6. (a) How did Jesus, early in his ministry, indicate that he had in mind that his disciples would make disciples of others? (b) How were they being prepared to do that work?
6 There is no doubt about Jesus’ having in mind from the beginning of his earthly ministry the disciple-making work to be carried on by his followers. That was the significance of his words to Andrew and Peter who were fishing in the Sea of Galilee: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matt. 4:19) James and John were other fishermen who left their boats to follow Jesus and personally heard his teaching and preaching, also witnessing miracles he performed. (Matt. 4:21-23) So by their association with Jesus they learned how disciples are made. The early ones saw Jesus invite others to be his followers, as, for example, Matthew, who left tax collecting to be a follower, and they were able to benefit by the teaching methods Jesus used.—Matt. 9:9.
7 Telling people who are gathered together about God’s purposes is a step toward making disciples that was used by Jesus. The Gospel accounts tell of many occasions when Jesus spoke to groups or crowds. He preached in cities or villages, in the synagogues, wherever people were to be found. (Matt. 9:35) He spoke at the seashore. (Matt. 13:1) Matthew himself was very much impressed by the sermon Jesus gave on the hillside near Capernaum, the city where Matthew was when invited to become a follower of Jesus. This sermon is recorded in Matthew 5:3 to 7:27 and is an outstanding example of Jesus’ teaching men to observe commandments. The nine happinesses show what disciples should seek, what they should know and what they should do. Jesus included such subjects as adultery, divorce, loving one’s enemies, how to pray, how to look upon spiritual things as compared to material things, how to deal with others, the importance of following the narrow way to life, why they must produce good fruit and the importance of building on the solid, spiritual foundation by doing what Jesus said. What a marvelous session of instruction it was and what an example of how the discipling work can be done by talking to crowds of people such as at a public lecture!
8. (a) Where did Jesus do the teaching recorded at Luke 4:16-21, and did he often teach in such a place? (b) According to John chapter 5, what are some things Jesus taught at a festival time? (c) Mention some things Jesus said at the temple, as recorded at Matthew chapter 22.
8 The synagogues were places where people customarily gathered to listen, so Jesus preached and taught in synagogues. (Matt. 9:35; 13:54; Luke 4:16-21, 44; 6:6) He also took advantage of the larger assemblies of God’s covenant people at festival times to do preaching and teaching. (John 5:1, 19; 7:14; 10:22-30) It was customary for crowds to gather at the temple in Jerusalem, and Jesus did not miss the opportunity to teach there. (Matt. 21:23–23:39) Thus he became known everywhere as the Master or Teacher.
MAKING DISCIPLES AT HOUSES
9. Why was it practical for Jesus to talk to people at their homes?
9 The great Master knew how to talk to people in their homes and thus gave many the opportunity to become his disciples. Is there a better place where a person can learn from a visiting teacher? There is a measure of privacy and one can talk about things with no outside interference. The disciples of Jesus observed how Jesus took advantage of occasions to enter the houses of people and there teach them.
10. (a) What teaching work did Jesus do at a house in Bethany? (b) How did Jesus teach the need for faith in connection with the death of Lazarus?
10 At Bethany, Martha received Jesus into the house, which made it convenient for Martha, Mary and Lazarus to learn from Jesus. Jesus gave them to understand that the spiritual things were more important than the material ones, saying that “Mary chose the good portion” by listening to his word. They became believers, full of faith. Later, at the time of Lazarus’ death, Martha openly acknowledged, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that you are the Christ the Son of God, the One coming into the world.” Such faith has its reward, and Jesus there performed the great miracle of resurrecting Lazarus from the dead. By this experience the disciples had a foretaste of the resurrection that would occur in the future. What a faith-fortifying demonstration for all the disciples there to see personally!—Luke 10:38-42; John 11:19-27.
11. Why did Jesus go to the house of Zacchaeus, and what are some things he taught there?
11 Another person who received Jesus’ instruction at his home was Zacchaeus of Jericho. By teaching there Jesus was able to build up faith that would lead people of that house to salvation, for he said: “This day salvation has come to this house . . . For the Son of man came to seek and to save what was lost.” A portion of what occurred and what he taught there about the kingdom of God is recorded at Luke 19:1-27.
12. According to Mark 7:17-23, what did Jesus explain to his disciples in the privacy of a house?
12 Often the disciples themselves were able to ask questions and receive valuable information while in the houses. Examples of this are found at Matthew 17:25-27, where the disciples got to know why taxes should be paid. Also at Mark 7:17-23, where they asked for explanation of an illustration Jesus had used, and at Mark 10:10-12, where they learned more about marriage and divorce.
13. How did Jesus command his disciples to speak to people at their homes?
13 When Jesus sent out his disciples to preach the Kingdom message in cities and villages, he told them to find lodging for themselves in local homes. While in the house the disciples would be able to speak to the people, for Jesus said: “Wherever anyone does not take you in or listen to your words, on going out of that house or that city shake the dust off your feet.” They were to stay only where people would listen to their words about the Kingdom. Evidently some householders would listen and become disciples and others would reject the opportunity to learn. (Matt. 10:7-14; Luke 10:1-7) So by both the example of Jesus and personal experience the disciples learned how others could be discipled in the privacy of their homes.
TEACHING BY SPEAKING BEFORE PROMINENT MEN
14. Give examples of what Jesus spoke before prominent men.
14 The disciples of Jesus were witnesses to many things said to scribes, Pharisees, priests and rulers. For example, Jesus’ words to some of those men from Jerusalem, as recorded at Matthew 15:3-11, contrasted commandments of God with traditions of men; the disciples learned with what importance the commandments of God should be regarded. Luke 15:1-10 shows Jesus talking with illustrations to Pharisees and scribes about a lost sheep and a lost drachma, but for the benefit of his own followers. The disciples learned as Jesus spoke to Sadducees about the resurrection. (Luke 20:27-40) John 18:19-37 tells how Jesus spoke to the chief priest and the governor, by which they learned not only how to speak to rulers but also how their actions were affected by the fact that the Kingdom is no part of this world. And there are many more examples in the Gospel records. His followers too were destined to speak before prominent men.—Matt. 10:17, 18.
MEETINGS TO TEACH DISCIPLES HIS COMMANDMENTS
15. Describe an occasion when Jesus held a meeting and taught his disciples.
15 The apostles who associated so closely with Jesus were able to learn from him on many occasions when he gathered them together at a certain place. The instruction session recorded at Matthew chapter 10 might be called a service meeting at which Jesus presided. Matthew 13:36 tells of a meeting to explain some illustrations. Mark 9:1-13 gives an example of a small group gathered for special instruction on the future, as Peter, James and John saw the transfiguration vision and afterward received some words of explanation about Elijah. A meeting was held on the Mount of Olives, where Jesus answered their question about the ‘sign of his presence and the conclusion of the system of things.’ Today, followers of Jesus are benefiting from the same information while sharing in carrying out his command to preach the good news of the Kingdom in all the inhabited earth.—Matt. 24:3-14.
16. When Jesus taught his disciples to observe the evening meal commemorating his death, what are some other things he taught them at that meeting, as recorded in John chapters 13 to 17?
16 In an upper room in Jerusalem a faith-strengthening meeting occurred as Jesus spoke with his loyal apostles who had assembled for the last meaningful Passover. He began celebration of the evening meal, to commemorate his death. On that occasion Jesus gave the new commandment identifying true Christians, namely, that they have love among themselves. (John 13:34, 35) This was followed by what John records at Joh chapters 14 to 17 of his Gospel account, showing among other things how those who love Christ observe his commandments, how they could bear much fruit as vine branches, that they were no part of the world and would be hated and persecuted as Jesus was, that holy spirit would come as a helper, and much more. The prayer of Jesus on that occasion not only was moving, but was very instructive as well. It indicated to them that there would be others (new disciples) who would put faith in Jesus because of the words spoken by the faithful disciples, and that all should be united together. (John 17:20, 21) Jesus thus showed them some of his commandments that he knew would later have to be taught to people of all nations in the great disciple-making work.
THEY KNEW WHAT TO DO
17. (a) What is the example Jesus provided for disciple-making work? (b) Give an example from Acts of Apostles to illustrate how the disciples used working methods similar to those of Jesus.
17 Jesus used all kinds of places and methods to accomplish disciple-making work, taking into account the customs of the people and where they would be assembled together and hear things. Wherever he had an opportunity, publicly or in private, Jesus spoke the truth to the people and let the light shine, with the result that some became disciples. The extensive record of disciple-making work done by Jesus and how he taught his disciples to observe his commandments assures us that the apostles understood what Jesus meant when he told them to ‘make disciples.’ He made it possible for them to copy his example by taking the lead in the work: “Now when Jesus had finished giving instructions to his twelve disciples, he set out from there to teach and preach in their cities.” (Matt. 10:5–11:1) Acts of Apostles contains an outstanding report of the disciple-making activities of many of Jesus’ followers. They spread the good news by all practical means throughout the Roman Empire.—Acts 1:8; 16:30-34.
18. Since those in the disciple-making work in the first century employed methods appropriate to their day, what are some of the practical means that can be used to make disciples in this century?
18 Now in modern times a similar work must be done and we too know how to do it. We have the accounts of Jesus’ ministry and how the disciples successfully carried out disciple-making work in the first century of our era. Today we are practical also and have used all productive possibilities for spreading the good news to make disciples, including such modern facilities as the printed page, electrical voice-amplification equipment for large meetings, radio broadcasting, telephones, photography, recordings, and so forth. However, one of our most effective ways of making disciples is by going from house to house, locating interested people and arranging to study the Bible with them in the privacy of their own homes. Additionally, people are spoken to while traveling, at places of business, during lunchtime, in parks, on public streets, at schools, or wherever opportunities present themselves. With so many different ways open to share in giving the witness, all Christians can find means to participate in it. In some instances the work of making disciples is a cooperative effort of more than one person, just as it was in the first century when Paul explained that he “planted, Apollos watered, but God kept making it grow.”—1 Cor. 3:6.
19. What is the evidence that Jehovah God has blessed the use of these many ways to make disciples?
19 With the blessing of Jehovah God upon this disciple-making activity, the work has now spread to 208 lands around the world, to people of all the nations, and the number of those sharing in the work has increased to more than 1,650,000 Christian witnesses of Jehovah.—Matt. 24:14.
[Picture on page 271]
Jesus spoke to others about God both in private homes and public places, as when Jesus met a woman at a well in Samaria