If you’ve ever watched a track event or participated in a 5K or marathon, you know the building excitement at the start of a race. Runners shake their legs and arms in anticipation, line up at the start, and wait for the sound of the starter’s pistol. On your mark . . . Get set . . . Go!
In today’s passage, Jesus’ words are like a starter’s pistol for the church. Following His death and resurrection, He set His church on the evangelistic mission—more marathon than sprint—that will continue until He returns (vv. 18–20).
But before He tells them to “go” (v. 19), He invites them to come. Jesus beckons to the women at the tomb (v. 6) and then to the disciples in Jerusalem (v. 10), welcoming them to touch His resurrected body and to look into His resurrected face. Drawing them close, Jesus makes His followers witnesses and equips them to be evangelists.
The resurrection is a delight to Jesus’ followers, but it is a horror to His enemies. With biblical irony, when Jesus is made alive, the guards immediately “became like dead men” (v. 4). The Roman soldiers and Jewish teachers knew a resurrected Christ would threaten their power and authority, and so they enacted a plan of bribery and lies to hide the truth (vv. 12–15). If a teaching and healing Jesus had been dangerous, a resurrected Jesus was a hundred times more so.
In this context, then, Jesus’ followers hear His charge: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations” (v. 19). The disciples had certain knowledge of Christ crucified for sinners and made alive again, and in the face of lies, they were sent out to share the good news. We, too, receive Christ’s mandate to go. While the world around us tries to hide God’s love, we boldly proclaim what we know to be true.
We all receive God’s call to evangelize. Jesus tells His disciples that as they are going, they should be telling others about the gospel. We too share God’s love as we move through our days in the places where God has set us. And as we go, we do not go alone. Instead, we cling to Christ’s promise: “Surely I am with you always” (v. 20).