Matthew 28:16 - 20
Dr. Chris White July 14, 2013
Remelle Mazych is out on bail right now, and I think he is reconsidering the inspiring idea that landed him in jail. As an official with the Arkansas Lottery Commission he was already making $76,500, but he saw something larger for his skills. He fashioned a plan that allowed him to use his security clearance code to help himself to promotional tickets. He then scratched the tickets, kept the under-$500 winners to avoid detection, and cashed them in at area stores. He did this with 22,710 tickets and pocketed just over $478,000. Needless to say, this point of inspiration is rapidly losing steam. (AP, 7/13/13)
Everyday people are inspired to take risks for reward, but nothing like the inspiration in what Christians call the Great Commission. As we read this, remember that these words have launched untold missionaries to cross the street and cross the oceans. Read along with me in Matthew 28:16-20. Someone’s faithfulness to this command is why you are here today. Someone decided to see Jesus as more than a secret or personal point of devotion. That does not mean that it was easy to share Jesus with you or anyone else. But he/she followed the Great Commission, and in doing so entered the waters of a movement.
Let’s begin with verse 16. Jesus meets the disciples in Galilee, his home region. And there on a mount they are confronted by the one they saw die on a cross. As it notes, some worship him, some doubt him. Those that doubt may fear that this seems too good to be true. As you would imagine, anything a formerly dead man says about life would strike your interest. But this is not just anyone. This is Jesus. And he’s speaking of himself as one with authority. What the gospels record is a commission. It is an assignment for those disciples. Who knows what they thought they should do after Jesus’ return? Here Jesus explains what should happen.
They are to “make disciples.” It is one Greek word, a verb. It is an action, something they are to be doing. They are to make disciples. We can speak of the many ways we share the gospel with the world—Bibles, preaching, sharing the plan of salvation, even movies about Jesus—but they are all just pieces in carrying out the commission. The commission is to Go, to move, whether it takes you around the world, across the street, or into your child’s bedroom for Bible reading at night. Wherever you go, as you go, in all of your going, the goal is to make disciples. The goal is to form the not-yet reconciled to Christ into followers of Christ.
And we are told how it is done. First, disciples are made by baptism (v.19). This is not to skip the obvious place of accepting Christ into your life and receiving forgiveness. With baptism, conversion is implied. The forming of a disciple, however, begins with baptism. As Paul writes in Romans 6:3, to be baptized into Christ is to be baptized into his death, to be buried with him as he died. It also means to be raised to newness of life, like Christ was resurrected. Baptism is a way to publicly and concretely align yourself with Christ’s experience of life and death. Going into and out of the water symbolically plays out what happens in us all in conversion. The old man dies, a new man is raised. And this is a confession. It is aligning ourselves with Christ. It is an open step of following Christ, forming a disciple. And this act is done in the name of the Trinitarian God: Father, Son, Spirit. It is a clear move toward God by one being made into a disciple.
There is also the second piece. He calls for teaching all believers to observe all that was commanded (v.20). We are not only to believe on Christ but to do as he taught. He teaches us to lay down our worries, for our Father in heaven knows what we need before we ask Him (MT 6:8). But he also teaches us to take up a cross and follow him (LK 8:34). The Sermon on the Mount offers very concrete expectations concerning the search for happiness, anger, sin, divorce, promises, and enemies. And that is just in the fifth chapter of Matthew. Formation includes confession, but it is never limited to confession. This is the part of making disciples that asks, “Where, when, are you actually doing what Christ requires?” It’s like calling on the people who say they read to offer a recently-read book list; for personal money managers to show their personal financial records; for singers to sing and runners to run. The kingdom of heaven is more than words.
This is the business of the church. Out there and in here, we are to be forming disciples. We are to be making one another into faithful followers. And yet we have to be honest about this: We are not so inspired. We do keep Jesus a secret. We do shy away from confrontations.
What might propel us past our inhibitions?
I think it is in the first piece of the story. The disciples worshiped him. In all that follows in the book of Acts and the history of the church, there really is no explanation for risking what was risked except for this. They believed he was divine and they worshiped him. And maybe nothing gets you moving forward in the Great Commission but worship.
It’s not a word we use anywhere but here, I suppose, and so it is hard to take it out of here. But that is the word. Worship is a sign of catastrophe to come when misdirected, but worship ushers one into a new relationship with God when rightly directed. In the case of Jesus, it seems to be related to friendship. And we know how far friendship will take us. (illustration) In the case of Jesus, it seems to be related to love. And we know how far love will take us. (illustration) But it is more than both of these. Worship is different because it requires a level of devotion that friendship and love cannot require by virtue of being friendship and love. Jesus rightly asks for more. The commission to share Jesus presumes, I believe, that we worship Jesus. And this is a hard thing to express.
Maybe the stories of the gospels will help us.
Worshiping Jesus is akin to the story in Luke 15 of the prodigal son who, presuming all is lost, limps home in the hope that his father will accept him as a slave. Instead he finds his father greeting him with a family ring and restoration to the family. This is a forgiveness that is so foreign to everyone in the story that no one knows how to act. It is off the charts, it changes your life, and it resembles the work of God. It is gratitude. It is worship.
Worshiping Jesus is akin to the experience of the demoniac of Gadarenes in Luke 8. Here a man who lived among the tombs finds in Jesus the healing no one else could bring him. In fact, when people find him clothed and in his right mind, they are afraid of Jesus and ask him to leave. The man, of course, wants to leave, too, but with Jesus. This is recognizing the one who helped you. This is worship.
And maybe worshiping Jesus is akin to the actions of Nicodemus in John 3 who keeps interrupting Jesus’ teaching with, “How can this be? How can this be?” Yet there is Jesus patiently answering questions in the night. To him Jesus will say John 3:16. And for Jesus Nicodemus will be first in line to take his body from the cross and take him to the tomb (JN 19:39), no matter the cost to him personally. This is trusting the one who is patient enough to carry you through your doubts. This is worship.
This is where we all begin. If we are willing to begin.