Summary: There's no greater comfort than knowing we are not alone...yet let's not get too comfortable, for our Savior has work for us to do!
How comforting to know that as we make our way through life we are not alone. Jesus is with us…yet don’t get too comfortable; He has work for us to do!
Here at the close of Matthew’s Gospel we see disciples who’ve been through a lot. They’ve seen their Master die, only to rise from the tomb, and now He’s leaving them again. Here in Galilee He gives some final words of encouragement, sorely needed because “some doubted.”
The word “doubt” means hesitation, not unbelief. Jesus does not rebuke them. He knew they were uncertain as to how things would continue. “How will Jesus be with us? Will we be left to our own devices? What are we to do when He departs?” It’s the same hesitation students have at graduation, about to face unknown challenges ahead. “It was only after Jesus had left His disciples that they were able to grasp what He truly meant to them” (Henri Nouwen). They felt powerless, but were soon to receive power. In spite of their uncertainty, they “worshipped Him.”
To them, and to us, Jesus has much-needed words of reassurance, and a promise of power. Jesus is passing the torch to His followers. His work is now ours. We see how this played out in the Book of Acts, and throughout church history. We see how we too have a mission to take the Good News to others by what we say and by how we live. Jesus has issued us our marching orders!
“All authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to Me”…the authority of One who defeated the tyranny of death, an authority demonstrated by word and deed. The original language is emphatic. Christ’s authority is unique, divine, and demands worship. He declares the right to exercise His sovereignty. No area of life is excluded from His authority. The whole universe is embraced in the authority delegated to God-the-Son. During His temptation, Satan offered “all the kingdoms of the world” (4:8), something he could not have given because they were never his in the first place. King Jesus is already reigning; yet one day “every knee will bow” before Him, “and every tongue will confess” that He is Lord (Phil 2:9-11). We are “living between Jesus’ accomplishment of the reign of God and its full implementation” (N.T. Wright). His universal Lordship means we have a universal mission.
“Therefore go”…Or “as you are going; on your way.” This is the “Great Commission.” Wherever life takes us, we plant the flag of our faith and proclaim the Good News; whether it is next door or to another country. We have a new direction, not just a new destination. This is a mission-mandate, but Jesus is not just talking to missionaries here. He speaks to us. We don’t wait for a “calling”; we start now, sharing our faith to all. As you exit the church by the side door, there’s a sign that says, “You are now entering the mission field.” If we take our task seriously, we depart with an urgent awareness that people need the Lord.
We are in the Christmas season. What does this special time mean to you? It means family, songs, presents…and it also means we have an opportunity to point people to the Reason for the Season. Amid the festivities we can communicate the Message of the Incarnation--the reason for “Peace on Earth, good-will towards men.” Next Jesus says…
“make disciples” … Someone said about a co-worker, “If you talk to him, he’s going to talk to you about God.” Would anyone say this of us? We are lifelines of the Gospel to others. This soul-saving work is not optional. We’re to take His Kingdom-rule forward into every sphere of life. When we pray “Thy Kingdom come,” we are part of the answer to that prayer. How do we disciple people? By helping them to grow in their understanding of Jesus and what it means to follow Him. Discipleship is giving all to Christ and Christ to all. We are a people on the move. We go in the Name and authority of the risen King as His ambassadors, for as long as there are people dwelling in darkness.
“of all nations”…Jesus is defining the scope of His kingship and our mission; He’s expanding the borders to include all people. The call to ministry transcends all boundaries (race, gender, nationality) in order to form a new community of faith--the Church.
“baptizing them”…under the Lordship of the Triune God. Baptism is an act of initiation, a public witness, and a key step in the process of becoming new creations, transformed by God’s grace as His covenant people. In baptism we are marked out with the holy Name of the Three-Personed God; an ordinance that signifies our true identity as God’s people. Baptism represents an individual’s introduction into the Name…whose Name?