The Great Commission and Ronald Reagan

It was a sentimental sight. With a spring in his step, yet surely an ache in his heart, the 40th President of the United States walked toward the helicopter that was to take him. 

He didn’t look back, only clung to Nancy’s hand and pressed forward as he had done so often during the past eight years. Just as he started to ascend the stairs, a reporter timely asked the question on the collective heart of America –“Any parting words of advice Mr. President?” The “Great Communicator” simply responded, “Carry on.”

Mr. Reagan’s answer took me by surprise. As if suddenly in an E.F. Hutton commercial, I had tuned out the world and stared at this man who was on center stage for the last time. Yet all he said was, “Carry on.” I felt let down. Surely he could do better than a military expression. But that was it. Having said his piece, the former Chief turned, saluted President Bush and ducked into the helicopter.

With this picture of America’s past and future suspended in my mind, I suddenly recalled an incident in the life of the world’s greatest communicator. And I realized that Reagan had not let me down but, in fact, had issued a challenge in the tradition of Jesus Christ.

About 2000 years ago our Lord was in a situation similar to Ronald Reagan’s. Remember the moments just prior to Jesus’ ascension into heaven? While on the mountain top with His apostles, Christ too was faced with the task of leaving his followers some words to ponder. With no reporters to speak for the lot, the Lord felt that collective heartbeat and commissioned the eleven to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nation…,” or perhaps more simply stated, “Carry on.” Surely Jesus and Reagan were on the right track, as both men yielded their last moments in the spotlight to the greater good of challenging and encouraging the masses.

But what does it mean to “Carry on?” I suspect Reagan meant to alleviate any sadness over his departure. And his short, pithy statement was likely an attempt to focus America on the future amidst the backdrop of the past. Indeed the message from Jesus’ parting commission is much the same.

How easy it must have been for the Apostles to dwell on physically losing Jesus instead of rejoicing over His indwelling presence. And certainly the eleven were tempted to view the death, burial and resurrection of Christ as the end instead of the beginning. With such anxiety in their hearts, the Apostles needed a farewell from their friend that would bring everything into focus. And surely that’s what the “Great Commission” did for them and continues to do in this age for Christians everywhere; therefore, brothers and sisters, “being confident that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ,” let us “Carry on.”

Written by Carol Smith