Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Psalm 8; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . .” Commonly called the Great Commission, these words of Jesus present some lofty goals: all nations . . . teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. These parting words of Jesus are intense. Jesus puts “all authority in heaven and earth” behind them and says he’s going to “be with them always,” watching over our shoulders as we do this kingdom work.
The scriptures give us evidence of the disciples’ far-flung ministries. In recent decades, new generations of Christians have written books on evangelism and church growth. We attend seminars and teach classes in outreach ministries. Churches build family centers and put coffee bars and bookstores in their lobbies (the spaces formerly known as narthexes!) Pastors work tirelessly to instill an evangelistic fervor into the membership of their churches. Worship is constantly transformed to hold people’s interest and meet their needs.
This Great Commission stuff is a lot of work! Yet, we must reconcile this demanding work with the value of Sabbath rest that emerges from the Genesis story of creation. With each day, God’s handiwork is enumerated and God deems creation as good. On the sixth day, humanity is created and given dominion over all other creatures on earth.
Humanity is the crown jewel of God’s creation, which is poetically emphasized in Psalm 8. With the creation of humanity on the sixth day, God “saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.”
God not only rested after six days of creation, God hallowed the seventh day. This Sabbath rest is so important that it’s one of the “big ten” – the fourth commandment. We are not to do any work. No one is to work on that day: not even slaves or beasts of burden (Deuteronomy 5: 12-15). Today, if we are to truly enjoy Sabbath, we must stop the frenetic pace of life—including life in the church—so that those who are charged with the Great Commission can connect with the Source of that commission. Jesus gives to us tremendous purpose in sharing our faith, and Sabbath rest empowers us for this purpose. It’s what we were created for – and it’s very good.