Preacher: Rev Kevin Kim, Bible Reading: Matthew 28:16-20
While the resurrection is certainly life-changing news, the disciples receive that news secondhand. They have some time – all the time it takes them to travel from Jerusalem to Galilee – to settle into it. And once they arrive in Galilee, Jesus surprises them with another life-changing moment. This is the first time that the eleven disciples have seen the resurrected Jesus, according to Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus gave every one of them the same commission.
The disciples heard the good news of Jesus’ resurrection and then are commissioned to be messengers of the good news themselves. They were transformed from the students to the teachers and leaders. But, Jesus did not leave them entirely to their own devices. He promised his original disciples and disciples throughout all the ages, including us: “I am with you always.” That promise holds true for us, today. We are transformed by the good news and are called to make disciples, assured in the promise that Jesus is always with us, too.
How do you conclude a Gospel? How do you close the story of Jesus’ abundant life, stirring death, and transformative resurrection? After so many acts of healing, the wonderful vision of Jesus’ kingdom, and a triumphant defeat of death, how do you write, “The End?”
Mark famously concludes with a cliffhanger, the air lingering with fear and confusion. Luke’s conclusion forms a bridge to the beginning of Acts, linking the two texts with Jesus’ ascension and serving as a narrative hinge between the two volumes. John notes the many stories he could have told but didn’t. S Matthew’s Gospel closes with a commission.
The Gospel writers were probably composing these theological narratives for the sake of insiders, people who already knew the story of Jesus. When Matthew, Mark, Luke and John composed their narratives, they were thinking of their sisters and brothers in their own communities.
In other words, S each of these Gospel writers had an agenda and intention. We could say with some confidence that Matthew’s Gospel dealt with a community facing internal division and strife, but also a community in need of a sense of mission and call. And in the closing verses of the Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus voices that mission and that call.
However, this is not a strictly triumphant conclusion. The mention of the “eleven disciples” in v. 16 is a lingering reminder of Judas’ betrayal. Surely, this commission was meant not just for those eleven individuals full of faith and doubt who gather around Jesus. S After all, these eleven individuals and the absence of the one is a reminder of our frailty and weakness even among Jesus’ own followers.
Moreover, although some worship the risen Jesus, S “some doubted” (v. 17). At least for these disciples, faith and certainty are not the same thing. This should meet us right where we are. We often find ourselves torn between belief and doubt. We believe but we wonder at times if we are believing rightly.
The grounds upon which Jesus builds the Great Commission appear in v. 18; Jesus claims, S “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” On Friday night Bible study at Ross & Alison’s place, we were wondering what the word “authority” might mean. S Here, the word “authority” is the translation of the Greek word exousia. Sometimes this word is translated as “power.” (KJV) All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
This word, exousia has wide usage in the Greek language. It can be used to indicate jurisdiction, privilege, capacity, freedom, influence, force, and right, besides authority and power.
The authority of Christ extends to all aspects of life. It includes teaching (Matthew 7:29), healing and forgiving sins (Matthew 9:6-8), casting out demons (Mark 1:27), and determining the ultimate destiny of men (Luke 12:5). The word exousia is used in all these verses.
In these short four verses in today’s reading, the Trinity is presented as the defining and lasting legacy of Easter, all that is done in the name of God: Father, Son and Spirit.
So as people who have experienced the Risen Christ what do we do next? WE share the story. We go out and tell what God has done. And in the process we invite people to join the community. We go out to widen the community, to bring more people in to the fold.
Some of us might have a challenge with these marching orders. After all they sound so…evangelical. And some of our church communities are so very uncomfortable, seeing ourselves as evangelists.
Still that is what Matthew challenges us to do. Go out and be evangelical. Go out and share. Go out and make disciples.
I believe this little, but profound book can give us some tips how we can be missional people. How we can go out and make disciples in today’s world.
Michael Frost, as many of you would know, is an internationally recognized missiologist and one of the leading voices in the missional-church movement.
In this book, he talks about the BELLS model. First, he talks about Paul’s twofold approach to evangelism in the church S (Table)
READ Colossians 4:2-6
For evangelists, Paul asks for opportunities to share Christ and for the courage to proclaim the gospel clearly (verse 3-4). But he doesn’t suggest the Colossians pray as much as for themselves. Rather, evangelist believers are to pray for the evangelists’ ministry, to be wise in their conduct toward outsiders, and to look for opportunities to answer outsiders’ questions when they arise (verses 2,5-6). When it comes to the spoken aspect of their ministries, evangelists are to proclaim, and believers are to give answers.
Michael uses an interesting phrase – ‘live questionable lives’ – If all believers are leading the kinds of lives that evoke questions from their friends, then opportunities for sharing faith abound, and chances for the gifted evangelists to boldly proclaim are increased. In brief, our task is to surprise the world!
This twofold approach literally transformed the Roman Empire. While evangelists and apologists such as Peter and Paul were proclaiming the gospel and defending its integrity, hundreds of thousands of ordinary believers were infiltrating every part of society and living the kind of questionable lives that evoked curiosity about Christian message. They surprised the empire with their unlikely lifestyle.
These ordinary believers devoted themselves to sacrificial acts of kindness. They loved their enemies and forgave their persecutors. They cared for the poor and fed the hungry. Their influence was so surprising that the fourth-century emperor Julian (A 331-363) feared they might take over the empire. Their conduct raised a curiosity among the average Roman.
Jesus and the New Testament writers saw powerful integration of faith and action, so much so that they found it impossible to separate them. Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung once said, “You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.” South African missiologist David Bosch wrote, “Mission is more than and different from recruitment to our brand of religion; it is the alerting of people to the universal reign of God through Christ.” In other words, mission derives from the reign of God.
BELLS: The five habits of highly missional people – Table (p22)
The first habit for you to consider embracing is that of blessing others. I will bless three people this week – at least one of whom is not a member of our church. The term “to bless” can have various meanings. For Christians today, “to bless” is “to add strength to another’s arm.” In this respect, to bless others is to build them up, to fill them with encouragement.
Blessing another generally takes three different forms – “Words of Affirmation”, “Acts of Kindness” and “Gifts”.
The second habit is “Eat”. I will eat with three people this week – at least one of whom is not a member of our church. English pastor Tim Chester once posed the questions, “How would you complete the following sentence: “The Son of Man came …” There are three ways that the New Testament completes that sentences:
- “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give this life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45)
- “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10)
- “The Son of Man came eating and drinking” (Luke 7:34)
How did Jesus come? He came eating and drinking. The table ought to be the primary symbol of the Christian gathering.
The Third habit is “Listen”. I will spend at the least one period of the week listening for the Spirit’s voice. We need to find at least one chunk of time, to stop and create space to commune with God the Holy Spirit. S Some advice in fostering an openness to the Spirit’s promptings – Set Aside a designated Time, eliminate distractions and Centering prayer.
The Fourth habit is “Learn”. I will spend at least one period of the week learning Christ. We need to know him of we are going to share him as the reason for the hope we have. 1. Study the Gospels – read and reread again the four canonical Gospels. 2. Read many scholarly and popular works written about Jesus. 3. Watch some good Jesus films.
The fifth Habit is “Sent”. I will journal throughout the week about all the ways I alerted others to the universal reign of God through Christ. The final habit is to begin identifying yourself as a missionary – a sent one. For this fifth missional habit, he wants you to start journaling all the ways in any given week you have alerted others to the reconciling aspect of God’s reign.
Can we do that?
Well maybe we are not sure. Maybe we are afraid. Maybe we think this is just beyond us. Well Matthew’s last words offer the cure for that as well: ” remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age”. In a Gospel tradition that does not have a Pentecost story this is the closest we get to the bestowing of the Spirit. And it is a word of great comfort. The Gospel began (well after the genealogy) the announcement of the birth of Emmanuel…God-With-Us. The Gospel ends with the promise that the Risen Christ will continue to be with us.
That should help us live out the commission to teach and preach and baptize.
we are to go in name of the Triune God. This includes the names of all three members of the Trinity. Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (verse 19). When we go in the name of God, we represent Him and His authority.
But, Jesus did not leave them entirely to their own devices. He promised his original disciples and disciples throughout all the ages: “I am with you always.” That promise holds true for us, today. We are transformed by the good news and are called to make disciples, assured in the promise that Jesus is always with us, too.