Sunday, May 18, 2008

Matt.28.16-20, Trinity Sunday, May 18, 2008

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20 ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Well, there it is, “The Great Commission” Go and make disciples. It couldn’t be plainer than that. Jesus commands us to get out there and witness. Jesus wants us to go beat on doors. Jesus wants us to quit our jobs, move to China and be missionaries. “Go… and do it.” Jesus says. Right? Maybe the JWs and the Mormons have the right idea. Ok gentlemen, time to get out your white shirt and black tie and name tag…

But wait… before we get all in a tizzy maybe we should look at what Jesus says again. In fact, let’s look at the whole passage again. It says the disciples had gathered on the mountain to wait for Jesus. When he showed up they worshipped him… but some doubted. That “some doubted” is an interesting phrase. There’s lots of discussion among scholars about exactly what it means and who it refers to… but I think it’s really just asking a question. By the way, you’ve asked the same question yourself.

Here they are standing on the mountain in the presence of Jesus. After all they’ve seen and heard, Jesus healing people, Jesus preaching sermons that they’ll never forget, Jesus feeding the multitudes with 5 loaves and 2 fish, and 12 baskets left over. Jesus arguing down the religious leaders. Jesus arrested. Jesus crucified dead and buried. Jesus alive again in spite of their disbelief. Here they are standing in front of Jesus waiting for what he’s going to do next. The question they have to be asking is, “Now what?”

You’ve asked it too. “Now what?” Something big happens in the church and when it’s over, “Now what?” We celebrated 125 years of God’s love among us, when it was over, “Now what?” Every time you get a new pastor, “Now what?” New children are born, baptized and confirmed “Now what?” Sunday after Sunday you sit in the very same spot and listen to the God’s Word and sing hymns about Jesus and when it’s over you say, “Now what?” Just like those eleven frightened men on the mountain, we say, “Well God, we see what you’ve done in the past but… Now what?” What Jesus says here next is an answer to that question.

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

Now what? Well Jesus is going to tell us, and what’s more what he says carries some weight. After all he has authority; in fact he has all authority. That means what he says goes. That means what he says happens. That means it’s not an idle wish, or vain hope Jesus is talking about here. Jesus has authority. You want proof. Just look at what he did. He healed the sick with just his words and his touch. He stopped storms on the sea. He multiplied bread and fish. He rose from death alive again. When Jesus says he has authority, all authority, you can be sure that it’s true. The next two words are important but as important as the first is I think the next is even more so. The text says “go therefore.” But we might understand it a bit better if we change the order around. “Because I have all authority, therefore... go...” do it because I’m telling you to do it. Do it because I have authority and I promise to make it work. Therefore, Just do it... as the commercial says.

What are we to do? Now what? That’s exactly what’s next. Make disciples. You know we very often get caught up on that word “go.” But it’s not really the most important part. Make disciples is the main point. You might even say it like this, while you are going… make disciples. While you are living… make disciples… while you are doing what you do every day… make disciples. It’s not the going that’s important it’s the making disciples that’s important. Jesus command to his disciples was to make disciples. Now those guys aren’t standing on that mountain by themselves. St. Matthew wants you to see yourself standing with them. When Jesus gives the command to them he’s giving it to you too. We as the church are to be about the task, the commission, of making disciples. That’s the answer to the question, “now what?” Now what? Make disciples.

Well that’s all fine and good. But we are pretty poor stewards of that task. We haven’t donned a black tie and white shirt in decades. We don’t even have an evangelism committee. The favorite phrase around here (and by the way most churches) is… let the pastor do it. We are afraid. We don’t want to be seen as religious zealots. We don’t want to be accused of “sheep stealing.” But I’m afraid that as much as it is the pastor’s job to do carry out this task, Jesus doesn’t leave you out. Every day you don’t follow his command to “make disciples” is a day you sin. Every time you skip the opportunity to speak about Jesus is a day you fall short of God’s desire for your life. Every day you don’t put Jesus first in your heart and on your lips is a day you deserve only God’s wrath and punishment. It’s sinful not to do it, and we are all guilty of this sin. And don’t forget, the wages of sin. What we earn for disobeying God’s command is death and hell. So welcome to the club. I deserve it to. I am no less a sinner than you. It’s enough to make you think that you’re not really a disciple after all. ‘cause what Jesus says happens and it sure doesn’t seem to be happing around here, through me, or through you either.

But Jesus doesn’t just leave us hanging with his command. He says make disciples because he has authority. He’s going to make sure it happens, that’s what authority is. Next in the text he tells us how to do it. And at first it sounds pretty obvious but then it sounds a little bit surprising. How are we to make disciples? Now what? By baptizing. That’s God’s evangelism program, baptism. He doesn’t talk about knocking on doors, he doesn’t talk about white shirts and ties; he talks about Baptism. And not just any baptism either; baptism into God’s name. Martin Luther puts it clearly:

What benefits does Baptism give? It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

And here’s the good news for you, you are a disciple of Jesus Christ. The proof is in the water. Your sins have been forgiven by Jesus death on the cross. Jesus made sure that you know it is yours because you’re the one who got his head wet. You’ve been connected to the Triune God through God’s promise to you in his Word and water. Your sin is washed away. You are made clean. It is nothing short of a miracle. Hey, I guess your parents were doing what Jesus said to do. In fact, the church has been doing what Jesus said to do ever since that mountain in Galilee. And God is faithful. We are all living proof of that.

But there’s more. Jesus continues his instruction. He also says to teach. This week I heard a new (to me) definition of a disciple. A “disciple” is a “learner.” I love that definition. It is a great way to think about it. Baptized children of God continue to learn about God’s love for them in Jesus. As a disciple of Jesus you never stop learning about Jesus. That’s what the gift of the Holy Spirit is all about. He takes the Word you hear in your ear and plunges it into your heart. He helps you to understand in your head the faith you hold onto in your heart. God does all that with teaching. Christians, disciples, learners, learn every time they hear God’s Word about Jesus. The church is to teach. Martin Luther called it “God’s mouth house,” the place where God speaks. When God speaks, his people listen and learn. Our task in fulfilling the commission, the task we’ve been given to do is to make sure what’s being spoken agrees with what Jesus said, “all I have commanded you.”

It’s going on here all the time. The Great Commission. Baptizing and teaching. Jesus promised it. Jesus makes it happen through his Word. Hey I just realized something. Jesus also promises he’s going to be with us forever. That’s no idle promise either. What he promises is true. And he is not just promising some vague invisible presence either. That wouldn’t mean a thing. His presence with us is as real as my voice, as real as water, as real as bread and wine. Jesus keeps is promises.

Now what? Well, it’s a good question. Got family? Got friends? Got neighbors? Got milk? Jesus isn’t asking you to quit your job and go to Africa. He’s asking you to listing and learn right here. He’s actually given you a pastor to teach you. He’s asking you to support his work here. He’s asking you to point your family, friends and neighbors to Jesus right here. You don’t have to say the right thing you just have to point. You don’t have to give a witness of Jesus in your heart you just have to speak God’s promises in Jesus. Jesus has authority. He makes it happen. He is present here with us forever. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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