Jesus came up and said to them, "All authority (all power of absolute rule) in heaven and on earth has been given to Me."
This is the first verse of three verses (Matthew 28:18-20) in which Jesus spoke, giving us The Great Commission. But we tend to put more emphasis on the last two verses, which are our specific instructions: to make disciples of the nations, baptizing them, and teaching them to follow His commandments. Rarely, do we give any further thought to this powerful opening statement.
But I want to discuss its importance in "the big picture", if you will. What I believe Scripture is trying to tell us in this passage is that this was a great day in Jesus's ministry! This is prior to His ascension, during the time He appears to the disciples after His resurrection. He is announcing that He has successfully completed His mission from the Father.
We must remember that prior to His death and resurrection, He refrained from claiming His own Authority that He possessed as Deity. He had agreed with God to work as a human, working only through the authority that the Father gave Him. Can you see that Jesus was a man under authority? We see that in the following Scriptures: John 14:31: I do exactly as the Father has commanded Me [and act in full agreement with Him]; John 4:34: Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to completely finish His work; and Jesus makes it clear that He has accomplished His task in John 17:4: I have glorified You [down here] on the earth by completing the work that You gave Me to do.
And as the featured Scripture shows us, the Father has now chosen to turn over all heavenly and earthly authority to His Son in repayment for Jesus's obedience. It is also important for us to understand that this Authority from God is restoring the authority that was lost through Adam. Remember that we (mankind) were made in the image of God and given dominion over all the earth. Our position at Creation was far above all created beings (including the angels and Satan!) -- we were essentially intended for second place in the universe! But Satan being jealous of that authority and power to rule, convinced Adam and Eve to transfer that authority to him, which they did when they chose to obey him rather than God.
Now, God has given that Authority back to man -- by way of our union with Christ through the Holy Spirit! In that process He has united us with Him for all eternity. Have you ever given thought to the idea that in His ascension, Jesus never went back to simply being God? He is still one of us and will be until the end of this world! I think we have a hard time grasping that fact... Jesus truly was both God and man. And I believe in my heart and soul that when we see Jesus after our own resurrection, we will see Him as the slain man, with His beard pulled out, holes in his hands and feet, and bloody scars on His back. It is this "lamb who was slain" that the apostle John beheld during his presence in the Throne Room of God in Revelation 5:6. And I cannot prove it, but my spirit thinks we will not see Him in His position of Deity until the new heaven and new earth are ushered in, and all things will return to God's intended and original state.
But the point that I wish us to understand is this: God trusted Jesus, the man, with His divine authority to accomplish His work on earth. And guess what? Jesus now trusts us! When He left this earth, He gave us the Holy Spirit, predicting that those who choose to believe in Him and follow Him "will do what I do -- yes, and even greater things" (John 14:12).
The authority that God gave Jesus, is now available to us, through our union with Him in the Holy Spirit, and through the appropriate use of the power of Jesus's name. When we carry out our mission, Satan's kingdom on earth and in the spiritual realm trembles! They know that we have been given the means to reclaim our original place of authority (second place!) and they must obey! If only we would recognize how much God and Jesus want us to seize the authority and power that rightly belong to us! If only we would realize that this authority is recognized by God and by the enemy in the spiritual realm as being an inherent part of our created being! We possess this authority from the moment we accept Christ as our Savior and we are joined to Him and the Father through the intimacy of the Holy Spirit. It then becomes our choice ... will we follow the model of Jesus, the Son of Man, and be obedient as He was? Will we use our authority as given to us by God to carry out His work and His purposes in our lives?
Just as Jesus obeyed His Father and received the Holy Spirit at His baptism, and launched into His earthly ministry of love, power, and authority, so are we to obey Jesus's command by being filled with the same Holy Spirit that empowered our Lord. When we recognize that we share that same authority and power, we can begin our own ministry and actually do what He did, and even more. He told us so, Himself: I assure you and most solemnly say to you, anyone who believes in Me [as Savior] will also do the things that I do; and he will do even greater things than these [in extent and outreach], because I am going to the Father (John 14:12).
We can use our authority as Jesus did -- to bring about whatever is in accord with the Father's will -- by following His example of spending time in prayer and intimate fellowship with God; aligning our wills with His. We will then find that we will receive the appropriate authority and power to accomplish the task He has set before us.
It is my prayer that all Christians would come to understand this "big picture"; to truly use Jesus as our model; and to see who we are really designed by our Creator to become. I fear that we spend too much time serving on Church councils, finance committees, and other religious diversions that keep us from doing the Father's will. Is that really what He had in mind when He made us in His image and positioned us above the angels? Don't you think we have a higher purpose? When Jesus made His pronouncement of having received "all authority (all power to rule)", He was affirming that from His position as a man (remember He had not yet ascended). He was announcing that He had reclaimed (for man) the authority that Adam had lost. So now that we once again have access to that Authority and Power, how are we going to use it (if we use it all)?
As we enter these Last Days, how are we to best serve our Lord and His Kingdom if we don't use that which has been restored to us? As for my husband and myself, we are being convicted to serve those who God puts in front of us; using our position as a co-heir of Christ, infused with authority and power from on high, and as befitting our rightful position in Creation. That probably doesn't look like the average Christian, but that's OK. God created us in His image, and there's nothing average or ordinary about Him!