Why Did the Disciples Show Up to the Great Commission?

This is part of our blog series from the free eBook Evangelism or Discipleship: Can They Effectively Work Together?.

An occupational hazard for you, the informed reader, is to scan or skip this section because you know what it says. While that may be somewhat true, we would be so encouraged by your careful attention. In this chapter, we’re asking three critical questions of this seminal passage.

We begin with the two verses before it:

“Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him—but some of them doubted!” (Matt. 28: 16-17, NLT).

1. Why did they show up?

The 11 disciples were afraid. They had failed Him. Yet they were His disciples, not anyone else’s. The resurrection had convinced them to stick with Jesus. They knew what was ahead. Jesus had already told them they would be hated and would die like He did. But they would also be raised like Him. So when He appeared to them once more, they worshiped Him. Still, doubt nagged at them. Was this real, were they imagining this, were they being tricked?

If a skeptic paid attention to this one simple fact about the disciples, it would erase any doubt about the reason for the creation of the church and the existence of the New Testament. The idea that these very ordinary men would have invented such a story and arranged for themselves to be killed is ludicrous. Belief and sacrifice didn’t come naturally for these 11 men; they don’t come easily to any of us.

This comes from the free eBook Evangelism or Discipleship, which you can download here.

Every Sunday, millions of disciples sit in services praying, thinking, worshiping and yes, doubting the whole thing. Asking the same questions as the 11 on that mountain. “Is this real, is God really interested, is He really here, and am I willing to go and do what He is telling me?” The good news is that doubt is integral to faith. It reinforces our faith; without strong doubt, faith cannot be strong. Worshiping while doubting is normal—and even essential.

Jesus knew their inner struggle; it was nothing new to Him. He, being fully human, had known many of the same struggles when He faced crucifixion. As leaders, we should expect people in our churches to have doubts about what we are teaching them, especially when it involves changing their schedules, their use of money and their professional and family lives. To rethink how you are going to live and then take risks that threaten any sense of normal security is daunting. Like the 11 disciples, you must have evidence and a source of authority to answer such a call. If your teaching on the implications of Christ’s call to make disciples doesn’t produce some fear, then you’re not teaching what Jesus taught.

In the next two blogs of this series, we’ll unpack the rest of this great commission with two additional topics:

  • What is our authority?
  • What is involved in making disciples?


Written by Bill Hull and Bobby Harrington

Bill Hull is a Co-Founder of The Bonhoeffer Project. Bill’s passion is to help the Church return to its disciple making roots. He considers himself a discipleship evangelist. This God-given desire has manifested itself in 20 years of pastoring and the authorship of many books. Two of his more important books Jesus Christ Disciple Maker and The Disciple Making Pastor have both celebrated 20 years in print. Add a third in the popular trilogy—The Disciple Making Church—and you have a new paradigm for disciple making.

Bobby Harrington is the Executive Director of Discipleship.org, a national platform, conference, and ministry that advocates for Jesus’ style of disciple making. He is the founding and lead pastor of Harpeth Christian Church (by the Harpeth River, just outside of Nashville, TN). He has a Doctor of Ministry degree in consulting and has spent years as a coach to church planters and senior pastors. He is the author of several books on discipleship, including DiscipleShift (with Jim Putman and Robert Coleman) and The Disciple Maker’s Handbook (with Josh Patrick).

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