“Holy, Holy, Holy”
Sunday, June 7, 2020
Scripture Reading Matthew 28:16-20
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.
When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
“Holy, Holy, Holy”
As parents, do you recall the first time you left your children with a care giver for an extended period? I am sure you made sure that the sitter had instructions and vital information, phone numbers, medications, names of doctors and medical cards. And then of course comes the assignment for kids to carry out. Those last words of instruction and advice were important. You wanted to make sure that the kids would be ok and that the house would run smoothly. As parents, those last words are important. Today, we heard Jesus’ last words. These are his final words of instruction to his disciples before he ascended into heaven. Like a good parent, I think we can see what Jesus thinks is important through his final words.
I have one other goal I want us to achieve today. As we read this text of Jesus’ last words, I also want us to get a sense of “before” and “after.”
If you watch T.V. for any amount of time, you will see a weight loss commercial. And almost every weight loss commercial will include pictures of people who have used their product. They take before and after pictures.
Advertisers do before and after shots for a reason. They want us to believe that the weight loss product they are peddling REALLY works. I find those picture funny. Why? Because if you believe the pictures in the commercial, you will believe that not only will you lose weight, you’ll also have the chiseled form of a weight lifter. You know something else I find funny? Underneath the individual photos, the advertisers will usually have written, “Individual results may vary.”
I share that story because I want us to approach today’s text from several angles.
Since these are Jesus’ last words, they are important. Like a good parent, he wants to make sure that his house runs smoothly while he is away. I also hope we see a snapshot of before and after in the life of the disciples.
I want us to see if “Jesus” really works. Even if individual results vary. Let me start off with “The Before:” Before: Jesus has risen from dead. In the process, he has appeared to Mary (his mother), Mary Magdalene, and Salome in front of the empty tomb. They hurry and report to Jesus’ eleven disciples that they’ve seen Jesus alive. The eleven fail to believe. Jesus appears to a disciple named Cleopas and another disciple while they travel on a road leading to the town of Emmaus.
When Jesus finally reveals himself to them, the Scriptures tell us that they run and tell the eleven that Jesus is alive. And yet, the eleven still doubt. Despite the testimony from a number of different sources, they believe Jesus is still dead. They don’t know what has happened to Jesus’ body, but they believe he is dead nonetheless. And they are downright terrified that what has happened to Jesus will happen to them. For clarity, look at what John, one of the eleven, writes in his gospel:
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 Jews.” It’s a BEFORE picture. Catch the motive for locked doors – FEAR of the Jews. The attitude is this. If Jesus is dead, we have reason to hide behind locked doors in fear. Jesus had been crucified by Rome at the request of the Jews.
The Jews said Jesus was an enemy of the Romans and Caesar. And we understand from history that Rome did not tolerate rebellion. Rebels were ruthlessly crushed by the power of Rome. The cross was the place where they ended up. And those associated with rebellious leaders were often rounded up to endure the same punishment.
It is in this context that we find the disciples in an upper room after Jesus has been crucified. It has been three days since that terrible ordeal. They have heard eye witness accounts that Jesus is alive, but they are still hiding behind locked doors. And John records that while they are hiding,
John 20:19 “Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” And he gives them proof positive that he is alive. He has them touch his hands and his side. He breathes on them. He eats some fish with them. The conclusion is that Jesus is not a ghost. His appearance is not some figment of their imaginations. Jesus is alive. And apparently, he gives them instructions to meet him at a place they all knew, on a mountain in Galilee. That is the before picture.
Let’s see the after picture as we look at Jesus’ last words.
Let me stop the narrative for a second. Place the story on pause. I read this text and I find something remarkable. While even now on the mountain the disciples still had doubts. And yet what does the text say they did? They still worshipped. Does that sound odd to you? I didn’t think doubt and faith leading to worship could co-exist. If I asked what the opposite of faith is, many of us would immediately say “doubt.” I want to suggest a different word as the opposite. I think the real opposite of Faith is Fear.
Have you seen the movie Shrek? There is a scene in the first movie where Shrek and Donkey come to a rope bridge that goes over a chasm of molten lava. And Donkey is terrified to cross the bridge. He won’t budge. He acts like a stubborn Donkey. Their mission requires them to cross the bridge to save Princess Fiona. Do you see the picture? Put yourself in Donkey’s hooves for a second. Doubt looks at a bridge and wonders if it can support you. When doubt turns into Fear, it looks at a bridge and says, “It WON’T support me.” Fear prevents us from crossing the bridge. It is fear that hinders faith, not simply doubt. I think we all have doubts from time to time. It is only natural. I think God understands.
There are things that He does because He is God that are impossible for us to wrap our brains around. There are times in our journey of faith that we will be left wondering, “How is God going to accomplish that?” That’s doubt.
But don’t’ let doubt grow into fear – it will. Doubt of Jesus resurrection (after several eye witness accounts) had turned into fear and kept the eleven hidden in an upper room….it was FEAR of the Jews. Jesus appears and says, “Peace be with you.”
Despite continued doubts, fear was gone. And the eleven “doubters” had left the locked doors to do as Jesus had instructed…they obey his command to meet him on the mountain in Galilee.
If you have doubts today, I want to encourage you to worship anyway. We can still take a step onto that bridge. And if we do, we will discover that God is strong enough to support us even when we doubt he can. So the eleven stand before Jesus and He gives them his final words of instruction. His last words. The words he is about to give are about our mission. They are the things he wants us to accomplish while he is away. And he assures his disciples that His last words are authorized by Himself. Jesus has the authority to give the mission.
Remember, I said earlier that if Jesus is dead, we have reason to hide in fear. But if Jesus is alive, we have authorization for the mission. And the mission is what we call it the great commission. We have been given an assignment to accomplish while Jesus is away. These are Jesus’ last words. And the commission starts with “GO!”
Have you ever sat behind another car at a stop light and when the light turns green they sit there? I find it frustrating. I’m patient. So I usually give them a second or two before I press down hard the horn and shout “Green means GO!” Green means go, right? You are authorized to proceed through the intersection.
For you science buffs, have you ever watched a rocket or shuttle launch into space? The control room gives final clearance. And what happens is that the technicians will look at their boards. If there are any indicators of a problem, there will be a red light. The launch will be postponed. If the lights on the board are green, they know that everything is okay. The launch is a go. Green across the board means there is authorization to launch. The mission is a go.
Jesus’ has just given the authorization to go – the lights are green across the board. The funny thing is that we reverse this sometimes. A lot of things we do for church reflects the idea of “come” instead of “go.” We come to bible study, and we come to church, and we come to Sunday school, and we come to meetings, and we schedule programs, come, come, come … and don’t hear me wrong, those are important to the life and health of the church.
But before we know it, we get locked into the idea that all Jesus wants us to do is come. And we miss the importance of Jesus’ last words. He has told us to GO! Launch the shuttle! Get the mission started. That’s scary isn’t it. It almost sounds like we have to sell everything we have and purchase a plane ticket to Africa. Some do. Jesus told us to go. It is a huge step onto the bridge. But some are not ready for that.
Can I suggest another meaning? The mission that Jesus wants us to complete is this. He wants us to complete the mission, “As we are going.” We don’t HAVE to buy a ticket to another country. Going can happen in the daily encounters of life.
As you are going to the grocery store; as you go to the movies; as you go to friend’s houses. The charge given us isn’t always to a foreign country; for some it is. But it is not their job alone. We are each charged with the responsibility of growing in influence with those who are lost AS we are going. And you know what? It works. I’ve seen it. It’s something we EACH can do.
Now the mission does not simply stop with GO. I know that’s a strange word picture. Stop with go. But as we are going we are to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and Holy Spirit, and we are to teach them everything that Jesus commanded. A disciple must know how to obey Jesus.
Can I carry that to a natural conclusion? Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded. That’s not just what Jesus said before his final words, but even the final words themselves. Which is? Go and make disciples and teaching them everything I have commanded.
There is a cycle taking place. There is the idea in Jesus’ last words that he wants disciples who make disciples who make disciples. It’s not disciples who sit there; it’s not disciples who make disciples who sit there; it’s disciples who make disciples who make disciples as they are going.
Farmers’ corn seeds are not always planted to produce corn to eat. Some corn seed is planted to produce corn plants that produce corn that produce corn plants that produce corn.
Not all corn is grown to eat. In a similar way the acorn that falls doesn’t fall to produce a tree; it falls to produce a tree that will produce more acorns that will produce more trees that produce more acorns. Is that an element of the great commission that we miss? Are we making disciples who make disciples who make disciples? Is that the core purpose of our bible studies; is that what we are hoping to do in Sunday school; is that what we are doing with our cooperate worship time together? Are we learning to obey and to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples as we are going? Or are we simply learning that Jesus wants us to be content in coming?
When we make disciples who make disciples who make disciples, do you know what happens? Two things. First, our mission becomes Jesus mission; our vision becomes Jesus vision. We accomplish exactly what he wants us to accomplish while he is physically away. We get hooked up into what I like to describe as the great CO-Mission.
Jesus comes alongside us through the Holy Spirit. He equips us to serve as we are going. Our gifting becomes a natural outcropping of the desire to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples. That’s the first thing.
Second, our mission has eternal value to the very end of the age. It’s a big picture. Don’t miss being in the big picture. What does our influence look like with those who are lost? We need to get involved in activities that have non-Christians attending? Reaching out to help our schools or our hospital. Are we as a church providing any ministries to those who are lost? Or do we expect ministry to be for us alone?
Is Jesus alive? Do we believe that? If Jesus is dead to us, we are going hide behind locked doors in fear; But if Jesus is alive, we are going to share his life with others, as we are going, to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples. Would you step out on the bridge?
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