Jesus’s Final Instructions as Found in the Four Gospels
Consider what Jesus expects of his followers—and us
A while ago we looked at the final words in each book of the New Testament. This provides us with interesting information. However, more enlightening is to look at the final words of Jesus in each of the four biographies of him in the Bible. While you may be most familiar with what Matthew records as Jesus’s final instructions, let’s start with what John says.
John Writes to “Follow Jesus”
The Gospel of John ends, not with any profound instructions, but instead Jesus focuses on reinstating Peter to the group. Twice Jesus reminds Peter to “follow me” (John 21:19, 22). By extension we can apply this to us today. Jesus’s most essential instruction, the foundational starting point, is for us to follow him.
Luke Writes to “Wait for the Holy Spirit”
Now let’s move to the book of Luke. Dr. Luke writes that Jesus reminds his disciples that he will send them a gift (the Holy Spirit) from Papa and that they are to return to Jerusalem and wait for that gift (Luke 24:49). Then Jesus ascends to heaven.
Dr. Luke picks up the story in Acts. There he writes that Jesus’s followers were in constant prayer as they waited for Jesus’s special gift (Acts 1:14). As they paused and prayed, the Holy Spirit showed up in an awesome display of supernatural power (Acts 2:1-13).
Mark Writes to “Go and Preach”
Mark’s account of Jesus has three different endings. As a writer I get this. It’s sometimes difficult to know how to end a book. So I’m okay with a few different attempts to get it right.
The oldest of manuscripts of Mark ends without Jesus giving any final instructions. It stops abruptly at Luke 16:8 with the women standing at Jesus’s empty tomb and an angel instructing them to tell the disciples. But they’re afraid and don’t. That’s not a good ending.
A few manuscripts of Mark, tack on an added passage after Luke 16:8: “After this, Jesus himself also sent out through them from east to west the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.” This helps some, but it feels rushed and is an unsatisfying ending.
Other manuscripts of Mark don’t contain that extra passage, but they do include versus 9–20, which reads like an epilogue. In this text, we do hear Jesus’s final instructions. He essentially says, “Go everywhere and tell everyone about me” (Mark 16:15).
Matthew Writes to “Go, Make Disciples, Baptize, and Teach”
Last, we get to Matthew’s more well-known account. In what’s often called The Great Commission, Jesus tells his followers, “Go everywhere, make disciples, baptize, and teach about me (Matthew 28:19-20).
Putting It All Together
Can we combine these four thoughts from John, Luke, Mark, and Matthew to provide one comprehensive instruction? How about a three-step procedure?
Jesus’s final instructions are to:
- Follow Jesus.
- Wait for Holy Spirit power.
- Go, make disciples, and then baptize and teach them.
It starts with us following Jesus, but we need to make sure we don’t do anything without the Holy Spirit. We need to make sure we don’t do anything without the Holy Spirit. Click To Tweet
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.