The Most Neglected Word in the Great Commission


The Lion King is a 1994 animated Disney film about a lion cub named Simba who is to succeed his father, Mufasa, as king. The story opens with the two side-by-side on a mountain ledge overlooking the African plain. There King Mufasa commissions young Simba. The conversation goes like this:

Mufasa: Look, Simba. Everything the light touches is our kingdom.

Simba: Whoa . . .

Mufasa: A king's time as ruler rises and falls like the sun. One day, Simba, the sun will set on my time here, and will rise with you as the new king.

Simba: And this'll all be mine?

Mufasa: Everything . . .

Simba [awe-struck]: Everything the light touches . . .

What makes this commissioning so significant is that word everything. Had Mufasa told Simba, “One day some of the things the light touches will be yours” it would not have evoked the response it got from Simba.

And when King Jesus commissioned his disciples on a mountainside, he used that same word everything. “Go and make disciples of all nations,” he says, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20).

As disciples of Jesus, the kingdom we’ve inherited includes everything the light of his Word touches. Everything he taught us through word and deed is now ours to be obeyed and passed on. Everything.

Michael Wilkins, author of Following the Master: A Biblical Theology of Discipleship, writes, “We have a relatively good strategy for accomplishing the first two attendant participles, ‘Go’ . . . and ‘baptizing’ . . . but a nearly non-existent strategy for accomplishing the final participle: ‘and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’”[1]

And if we’ve neglected that last phrase, then surely that word everything at the heart of the phrase is the most neglected word of all. We read it but we don’t hear its significance. Once we do, we can’t help but respond as Simba did: “Whoa . . .” Suddenly we realize, as J. I. Packer and Gary Parrett did, that “This task requires the ministry of serious, sustained, systematic, and substantive teaching.”[2]

In more than one way, to neglect that word is to neglect everything. If we settle for obeying some of the things Jesus commanded we end up with a lackluster vision of discipleship that will not invoke the response King Jesus intended.  


[1]Michael J. Wilkins, “An Outline Study Guide to Issues in Biblical Discipleship to Jesus” (Doctor of Ministry: Discipleship to Jesus for the Twenty-first Century, Year One Residency class notes, Talbot School of Theology, 2010), 13.

[2]J. I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett, Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-fashioned Way (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2013), Kindle Electronic Edition, location 911.