(The First Sunday after Pentecost) June 7, 2009
Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40
2 Corinthians 13:11-14
41, 250, 245, 15
The text you are about to read takes us back to the days after the resurrection, but before Jesus’ final address on the Mount of Olives. Before His suffering and death, Jesus told the disciples that He would meet them in Galilee on a certain mountain. On the day of the resurrection, Jesus reiterated that plan with the women He met on their way back from the tomb. So the eleven disciples made the journey back up to Galilee…
Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.
Do you suppose that the disciples thought Jesus would meet them with marching orders such as these? “Go out into all the world and make disciples of all nations?” [v.19] It must have come as a bit of a surprise. More importantly, it must have seemed outrageous, impossible, and ridiculous to think that these eleven sparsely educated, financially ill-equipped men—with perhaps some help from a larger group of Jesus’ followers—could have any kind of saving impact on the world!
And yet, that is exactly what happened. They did as Jesus’ commanded and had great success. The keys to that kind of success are contained right in Jesus’ words. It worked because they did not attempt to bring glory to their own name, or bank on their own reputation for success. It happened because they went forth in the name of the Triune God, proclaiming His glory and work. May we also be willing students and true disciples as we go forth, O Lord, in Your Name, remembering the great power and promise that lies behind that name.
O Father, we go forth as children of a gracious God. Help us to keep this in mind as we face a world that longs to know You!
As Jesus approached His disciples that day in Galilee, we’re told that they worshiped Him. Literally, they “bent the knee” in honor and reverence of Him. Why did they worship Jesus? They worshiped Him as the One sent by the Father. They recognized that Jesus was more than merely human. He was in fact, the Son of God, and they honored Him because they honored the Father. No less honorable than the fact that He came from the Father, was the mission for which the Father had sent Him. God, the Father, had a plan for mankind.
It is important to remember what kind of a world it was into which Christ came. It is the same world today—filled with every sort of sin and wickedness. Most of all, it is world where people live in sinful ignorance of God. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1). Mankind has no excuse for not worshiping God and honoring Him as our maker. We have no excuse for living as if every one of us won’t have to give account. Into a world that was bound to perish for its sins, You, O Father sent your Son.
Jesus understood the purpose of His mission. He told Nicodemus: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3.16).
God loved the world—that is the Father’s fundamental quality for “God is love” (1 John 4.16). Grace—undeserved love—is the machinery of God’s plan for mankind.
So when we worship the risen Jesus, we worship the One who sent Him. And now, He sends us with the good news of His gracious will for all mankind. Paul writes that “[God our Savior] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). He has made us His agents to bring this knowledge to our family members, our neighbors, our co-workers. We have come to know God in Jesus Christ and we have the privilege of sharing this knowledge with people whose picture of Him is spotty, distorted, or non-existent. For this reason, our gracious Father sends us into the world. Even in the throes of the reformation, Luther recognized that we are sent to make God known to the heathen:
May God bestow on us His grace,
With blessings rich provide us,
And may the brightness of His face
To life eternal guide us
That we His saving health may know,
His gracious will and pleasure,
And also to the heathen show
Christ’s riches without measure
And unto God convert them.
O Jesus, we go forth certain of Your salvation. Comfort us with the promise of your presence.
In our everyday lives it is so easy for the material circumstances of this world to set up an insistent racket that makes us forget that our true reality—our true life and world—is all bound up in Jesus’ salvation. When the eleven arrived on the mountain, they saw Jesus. They even fell down to worship Him and yet, we are told, some doubted. The circumstances of everyday living which tell us—for example, that people who die stay dead—were so hard to see past for some of them that they were still in doubt.
Jesus had been through the “it’s really Me, feel My hands and feet” routine a few times by now, so He just moved on to bigger and better things: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” [v.18] Their true reality about who controls things and who get things done was completely wrapped up in this one Jesus. That is the one thing they needed to know to move forward with their lives.
With the resurrection we come to understand how Jesus brought glory to His Father through obedience, and how the Father brought glory to His Son by making Him the Champion who defeated death, banished the guilt of sin, and overcame the Devil. The Father gave Him the name above all names, that “…at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth” (Philippians 2:10).
That name is the treasure of our hearts, our true reality because it means that our standing with God—and truly, what else can possibly matter more than that—is certain because Jesus finished the work of redemption. We may have our uncertainties about life: Will I be working next year? Be married next month? Have a home? Have my health? How shall I vote? Conduct my life? There are a lot of questions out there, but knowing for certain that the everlasting God is on my side in all things means all the world to me. This is not to mention the peace of knowing that I will spend eternity in His joyful presence and not banished from Him in the torment of Hell. My redemption in Christ is my one completely secure treasure.
So now Jesus sends us to proclaim that His name is the name of salvation and eternal life, and in the same breath He promises to be with us every moment of every day until this age comes to an end. He is with us with His love and truth. He covers our sins with His precious blood. He guides us in whatever situation may arise. There is never anywhere where life can take us that He is unwilling to go. In the hymn “Jesus Priceless Treasure,” we sing:
Hence, all fear and sadness!
For the Lord of gladness, Jesus, enters in.
Those who love the Father,
Though the storms may gather,
Still have peace within.
Yea, whate’er I here must bear,
Thou art still my purest Pleasure,
Jesus, priceless Treasure!
O Holy Spirit, we go forth, quickened by your power.
The fact that Jesus had any disciples at all to meet Him in Galilee is evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said earlier that the Father had given them to Jesus (cf. John 17:6ff). Through the Spirit working in their hearts they became disciples, or pupils of Jesus. They threw in their lot with Him and His ways and rejected whatever He showed to be false.
But these disciples were sent to make other disciples for Jesus and they were to do so in every land and to people of every tongue. That was a big task. How were they to do it? Jesus made it clear that they were to use methods that employed the Holy Spirit and not lean on man’s wisdom. “Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe (keep, or cherish) all things that I have commanded you.” [v.19-20]
Baptism essentially brings home to an individual the covenant promise of the Triune God. Through the washing of water, combined with the promise of God’s Word, the Holy Spirit works and confirms faith. He creates a disciple-to-Master relationship with Jesus Christ through which the baptized “puts on Christ” (Galatians 3.27), receiving Jesus’ perfect righteousness and shedding confidence in his own corrupt righteousness.
The Holy Spirit works through the Gospel testimony that all three persons of the Godhead are creatively and actively involved in our eternal salvation. He works true saving faith for “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12.3). He is the One who causes us to see and find hope and joy in Christ’s redeeming work on the cross; and He is the One who keeps the true Church focused on that truth. When we seek to teach all things that Jesus has commanded us, we know that the Holy Spirit who brought those things into the mind of the people who wrote the Scriptures is the same One who unlocks them for us in our own study of the Word.
O Holy Spirit, we go forth in Your name, quickened by Your power. What a great privilege You have given that we should speak these things in Jesus’ name. What an honor that we should go forth in the footsteps of the apostles and proclaim the same Gospel.
Thou holy Light, Guide Divine
Oh, cause the Word of Life to shine!
Teach us to know our God aright
And call Him Father with delight
From every error keep us free
Let none but Christ our Master be
That we in living faith abide
In Him, our Lord, with all our might confide
We go forth, O Lord, in Your name. Come with us and prosper our work. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.