Communication was very, very, hard. At first he scribbled weakly on an erasable tablet — just a word or two to help me understand. Eventually, I had to read his lips and check my understanding of what I heard with his head nods or shakes. By the end of a couple of hours, my dad passed into unconsciousness — a light coma they said. I didn't expect to see him alive in the morning.
That conversation and those last words are precious to me. They revealed faith and sadness and conviction. They were shared with a great outpouring of energy and effort through labored breathing and shaky hands. The primary messages I walked away with from that conversation were very simple:
- "I am not afraid being dead, but getting there is scary. But I have faith!"
- "Take care of your mom!"
- "Be a good daddy."
It's hard to believe that it took two hours to get those out. Yes, there were a few side discussions, but those three things were his primary messages to me. Even though he miraculously rallied in the early morning hours and lived another 18 months, those are still the last messages he had for me. They were unchanged over the next year and a half and these words are his dying legacy to me — he repeated them over and over.
When Jesus came to the end of his time on earth, he left last words. Yes, I know he has continued to communicate to and through his people in other ways, but what we call the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) contains the last words of Jesus ... and the first priority of his followers after he returned to the Father.
Some talk about the Great Commission as a great evangelism passage. In some ways it is, but Jesus' last words never mention evangelism. There is one clear command in his last words: "Make disciples!" Three other responsibilities help us fulfill Jesus' last words: "go ... baptize ... teach to obey ..."
I like to paraphrase the passage to help me clearly see our mandate from the Lord:
Now, my friends, go make disciples — help people become like me. Do this by going outside your safe culture and comfort zones to share the message about me. Baptize everyone who accepts this message. Walk beside them until they are trained to live my life in this world. And as you do this, you will find you are not alone. I will be with you ... always!
These words must be our first priority! They must become our identity and our mission statement.
And the focus of these words? Make disciples — help others mature to live the life of Jesus (Colossians 1:28-29) and partner with the Holy Spirit to help others become like Jesus a little more each day (2 Corinthians 3:18) and do this until Christ is fully formed in them (Galatians 4:19).
This is not a call for drive-by preaching or mass marketing dunk-a-thons, but a clear call for hearts that hear the last words of the Savior and yearn to see people transformed, lives changed, and people be given a new identity. It is a call for us to invest in people and not things. It is a commitment to not walk away from others when the new has worn off. It is the white-hot desire to see Jesus come alive among us and in us and those around us.
These are Jesus' last words. This is our first priority.