The Heart of the Matter
Post resurrection encounters with Christ
Week 6: Commissioned Hearts.
Read: Matthew 28:16-20
As we come to the end of the Gospel narrative as told by Matthew, we arrive at what is often called the Great Commission. Like John, Matthew ends his gospel without mentioning Jesus’ ascension. Mark includes a report of Christ ascending having commissioned the disciples, and Luke does likewise.
For the disciples their time as apprentices is over. They have spent three years with the master. Observing his miracles, listening to his teaching, enjoying time ‘behind closed doors’ questioning him and having his teaching explained, and getting involved in local mission work, healing, and preaching. Not to mention assisting Jesus with all sorts of practical tasks.
They’ve learned a great deal, sometimes understood, some times been confused. They’ve enjoyed the triumph of seeing the kingdom of God brought to bear in healing and deliverance, and they’ve endured the agony of the cross. And now as the Gospel report draws to a close they meet the risen Christ several times.
This time however is to be the last, because Jesus is preparing to return to the divine community of the God-head.
It’s easy to under-estimate the sorrow this may have caused the disciples. They’ve endured so many ups and downs. When they thought they’d lost Christ to death, he came back. But now having come back to them he is going to leave them again, this time for good.
Of course, as we read John’s account (John 14:15ff), we know that Christ has prepared them for his eventual leaving, and has told them that it is better for them that he does go, because if he goes then the Spirit will come in his place and testify to him, and even give the disciples power to do the very things he has done…and more! But hindsight sometimes means we fail to appreciate the feelings of those 11 men and handful of women who had lived with him and loved him.
And so as they disciples meet with Christ for the last time he gives them one final charge. In light of all that they have seen, and all that they have heard, and all that they have done, Christ commissions them.
So what’s the vision?
Quite often in Church leadership the question is asked ‘what’s the vision of the church?’. Likewise at seemingly endless conferences the importance of having a vision is extolled. Now there’s nothing wrong in either of these, but it does sometimes seem that people forget we already have the answer, and that it was given by Jesus.
We’re fond of mission statements and vision statements in church and in business. Businesses often change their mission / vision as they company or its product offering evolves, but the church is a little different.
When the question is asked of church ‘what’s the vision?’ the answer is simple and the answer remains unchanged from those words Christ uttered many years ago.
The vision for Christ’s church, and indeed for each of us individually is this:
“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…”
That’s the calling, mission, vision, of the church. Always has been. Always will be.
With the authority of Jesus…
It is rooted in the authority of Christ. The disciples are not sent out in their own authority but as ambassadors of Jesus. As ambassadors they carry no authority of their own, only the delegated authority of the one they represent.
An ambassador has confidence in the authority of the one who sends them. They trust that the authority of their sovereign is recognized, accepted, and carries weight. The authority of Jesus is absolute, for he is the one who will stand at the right hand of the Father on judgment day. He is the one to whom the kingdom has been given. He is the one who has power to command creation, disease, and even death itself. For those who carry his authority there need be no lack of confidence.
Sometimes of course ambassadors are dismissed, thrown out of a country, and so too it is with the ambassadors of Christ. But even this cannot undermine Jesus authority as we read in Phiippians 2:10 that ‘…at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on the earth and under the earth.”
With the presence of Jesus…
Neither are they sent out alone, in their own strength, with only the resources that they can muster up between themselves. Instead they are sent out with the promise of the presence of Christ with them. And as he is with them so they receive the resources, giftings, and power to do the work to which Christ has called and commissioned them.
Christ’s assurance of his presence is interesting. In our English translations it reads (ESV) “And remember, I am with you always to the end of the age.”
Remember. Remember that I am with you. Says Jesus. He knows that along the way there will be many opportunities to forget this foundational and deeply important reality. Whether it’s distractions, familiarity breeding contempt, pride in our own ability, doubt in the face of difficulty…during the journey of faith the disciples will certainly forget…perhaps that is familiar.
There are many reasons why we forget or grow cold towards this life changing reality. Maybe you are aware of one or several as you look back? But Jesus says ‘Remember…’
Stop. Pause. Deliberately bring to mind this truth and allow it to soak through your being, altering your view of situations, of difficulties, of yourself. “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
And so as we read this commission given to the disciples, we are in effect reading a commission in which we share. This is not a commission simply for them at that time rather it is the commission for us, the church, at all times and in all places.
“All authority in heaven and 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 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember that I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Simon Butler, 10/05/2013