Summary: The Great Commission flows out of the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, and it gives purpose and meaning to everything!
We’ve just come through the season of Lent, the season of preparation, preparation largely for Holy Week, with the high point being Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It is a process, a journey that the Church of Jesus Christ has gone through for the better part of 2000 years.
I think the point of that preparation is to get us ready to more deeply and more fully appreciate and maybe even in a sense experience the suffering and death, and then the glorious resurrection of Jesus. For many of us, it does just that. Easter Sunday, Resurrection Sunday, does just that.
But now we’re here. One week after the high point. And we can be left with some questions, if we’re the questioning type. Was that it? Is the point of Lent and Holy Week and Good Friday and Easter Sunday all about stirring up in us greater faith? Greater devotion to Christ? Greater love for God?
If that were the sole point, that would be good enough, I think for many of us. It is good to have our faith strengthened.
It is good to let in (gesture) at a heart level the profound and incomparable love that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. It is good to appreciate even more of the details surrounding Jesus’ decision to go to His death, to understand that as much as Jesus did what He did because God loves the whole world, He also did it, He suffered and died and rose triumphantly, for each of us personally.
So emotionally and intellectually, corporately and individually, we can benefit a lot from paying attention to the Passion of Jesus.
But, I still have to ask, is that it? Does God just want us to have greater faith, greater passion for Him, or is there more? Were the gospel accounts of Jesus Passion solely to strengthen my, our, faith, so that we can live our lives in greater confidence of God’s love? Is that God’s bigger purpose?
I think the gospel of John is helpful here. Immediately after his account of the crucifixion and resurrection, without missing a beat, John takes us to the post-resurrection continuation of the story.
We have the discovery of the empty tomb, the appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene, who mistook Him at first as the gardener, and then we have Jesus’ appearance to the disciples in a house.
John 20:19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
Now there’s more that goes on here, including Thomas’ difficulty accepting the news of Jesus’ resurrection, and his eventual joy at seeing the risen Christ himself and his immediate choice to bow down and worship Him, admittedly another good sermon topic. But for now I’d like us to focus on 10 words that belong to Jesus:
“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” I want to focus on this, because it is the real answer to the question: “What next?” that quite naturally follows the high point of the Resurrection.
And it’s actually the answer to most any question that might arise for us, including questions we might have about our own personal readiness to live as witness for Jesus and even fitness to obey God in some of the basics, which we can all struggle with at times.
Even more basically, it might be the answer to questions like: ‘Why am I here, really?’
“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Jesus said that here, and then, as Matthew recorded in chapter 28 of his gospel, we hear this:
Matthew 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
So after the resurrection, what we don’t hear from Jesus is: “Everything is ok now. If you believe in me, you are saved, and that’s what matters”. We don’t hear Jesus saying: “Your personal wellness is what matters, and it’s why I went to the cross”.