Devotional Thoughts on Matthew 28:16-20
April 6-12, 2015
Monday, April 6, 2015
“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them? (Matthew 28:16).
Those of us who live in democracies are somewhat spoiled. We get to elect representatives who we think will vote in a way consistent with our values. We also have the ability to voice our opinions on the laws that come before our legislative bodies. If we don’t like the laws that are passed we can again let our voice be heard and express our opposition. It isn’t a perfect system, but it is probably the best one humankind has come up with for governing ourselves.
There are situations, though, when democracy doesn’t work well. Though our military defends the democracy in which we live, it is not a democratic institution. It is difficult to imagine a platoon leader taking a vote as to whether or not the soldiers in his platoon want to go out on patrol on a particular morning. In the heat of battle, it would be disastrous for a private to respond to an order by replying, “Sarge, I think I have a better idea.”
Christian discipleship isn’t a democracy either. Jesus didn’t ask his disciples if they wanted to go to Jerusalem. Nor did the disciples offer alternate meeting places to the mountain on which Jesus appeared to them. A disciple is a follower and a follower does just that–follow. The Holy Spirit doesn’t just give us the peace that passes understanding or comfort us in in the midst of sorrow. The Holy Spirit leads us. Usually the Spirit leads us out of our comfort zones and along paths that others might consider foolish. Once we discern the Spirit’s guiding, though, our response of faith is to obey.
Lord, our God, forgive us when we hesitate to follow you, or even rebel against your leading. By your Spirit give us the will and the ability to obey. Amen.
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
“When they saw him, they worshiped him” (Matthew 28:17).
Several popular hymns like “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” and “In the Garden” stress the idea that Jesus is our friend. Friendship is an important dynamic in our relationship with Jesus. Friendship is expressed by being present for each other and helping each other through difficult times. Encouragement, honesty and trust are also elements of friendship. Friendship doesn’t fully describe our relationship with Jesus, however.
When the disciples saw Jesus after his resurrection they did not call out, “Hey Jesus, pull up a chair and grab a beer!” (Though in the gospel of John Jesus does share a fish breakfast with the disciples.) No, indeed! Instead they fell down and worshiped him. By his resurrection Jesus had demonstrated that he was exactly who Peter had said he was–the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus might not have been the Messiah that the disciples expected or perhaps even hoped for, but Jesus was the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Jesus was worthy of their worship and praise.
Our lives as Christians are sadly lacking if Jesus is only our friend. Jesus is bigger than a friend, more than a friend. Jesus is the Lord of lords and the King of kings. When we enter into Jesus’ presence we enter into the presence of the Holy.
Holy Lord, May our songs and prayers be acceptable to you, and may our words and lives give you honor and praise. Amen.
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
“But some doubted” (Matthew 28:17).
Some of Jesus’ disciples, some of his closest followers doubted. What do you think they doubted? Perhaps they couldn’t grasp the theological concept that Jesus was fully God and fully man. Maybe they questioned the authenticity of Mary’s claim that she was a virgin when Jesus was conceived. NOT! What they couldn’t accept was the reality of the resurrection. The resurrection was so different from their previous experiences with death and so beyond their imaginations that they doubted. The disciples didn’t doubt for long. Tradition has it that all of the disciples were martyred for their faith. But, their initial response was doubt.
Doubt has been given a bad rap by the church. Many believe that doubt is the sign of a weak faith–that doubt is the opposite of sin. Some Christians even believe that doubt is a sin. Many of us grew up with the instructions that if we couldn’t accept something intellectually–if we doubted–we just had to believe.
Doubt can be viewed from a different perspective, though. Doubt can be seen as a sign of growth. It was necessary for some of the disciples to struggle with the reality of the resurrection. They had to get passed the “it’s too good to be true” stage. Once they wrestled with their doubt and resolved it, their faith was stronger. As disciples of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit will often lead us out of our comfort zones. Our natural response is, “You have got to be kidding me!” or “This will never work!” In other words our natural response is to doubt. In the face of our doubt, we take a step of faith and as we follow the Spirit in faithful obedience our doubt is resolved.
Gracious Lord, Grant us the courage to face our doubts, to wrestle with them, and to live out our lives as your servants in their presence. Amen.
Thursday, April 9, 2015
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).
Jesus is Lord of all. He demonstrated his authority over heaven and earth throughout his life and ministry. He had authority over nature to calm the storm and still the sea. His authority over the forces of evil can be seen in his casting out of demons and standing against the forces of Rome and the religious hierarchy. Jesus taught as one with authority, and his authority was validated by his resurrection.
Creation doesn’t seem to have a problem with Jesus’ authority. As far as we can determine galaxies, black holes and nebula are totally compliant with divine authority. Rocks and trees don’t seem very rebellious, either. It is only humankind–us–who struggle to submit ourselves under Jesus’ authority.
As disciples of Jesus Christ we identify ourselves as children of God–under the authority of our divine parent. We say that we are servants of God–submissive to the will of our master. As disciples our lives are an acknowledgement of Jesus’ authority over us as it is over all of creation. Accepting God’s authority over us is transforming for us and for the world around us.
Oh Lord our God, we acknowledge your authority over us and ask that yourSpirit would empower us so that we may obediently serve you in our words and actions. Amen.
Friday, April 10, 2015
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).
At certain times in the history of the Church Christians have taken this commission a little too seriously. Well meaning Christians sought conversions at the point of a sword. While getting the short-term results of increasing the membership of the church, the long-term effects of inspiring discipleship were minimal.
We are now challenged to live out this commission in the face of great diversity. For many this means to acquiesce to the popular, “You believe what you want to believe and I’ll believe what I want to believe.” Perhaps we can do more than merely tolerate those who believe differently from us. Living out this commission may challenge us to acknowledge the validity of other faiths, enter into a dialogue with them in order to learn from each other while at the same time holding on to the teachings of Jesus.
This is not the first time in history that Christians have sought to be witnesses in societies with great diversity. In those situations it was soon discovered that arguments and theological debates did little to spread God’s kingdom. What really made a difference was lives that shared God’s love and grace with others. As the song goes, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”
Loving God, you touched our lives by your life. May you empower us to touch the lives of others through our love–that love that you first gave us. Amen.
Saturday, April 11, 2015
“Teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20).
Pastor Nancy looked at her desk and surveyed the seven confirmation curriculums before her. She wanted to update the curriculum that she had been using for several years. After all times had changed and the kids had changed. Curriculum that taught the ageless truths with freshness and a little pizzaz appealed to her. In the midst of her search for just the right curriculum, though, she had begun to ask herself what she really needed to teach that unruly group of adolescents that would equip them to be disciples of Jesus Christ.
If you were in that situation, what would you select to teach your class? Jesus instructed his followers to teach them to obey EVERYTHING, but what does everything include? Could you cram it into a course that doesn’t take a lifetime? At various times Christians have decided to teach a long list of do’s and don’ts–You’re a good Christian if you do these things. Such lists may make Christians look good on the outside, but rarely do they make disciples.
Perhaps the task before us isn’t as complicated as it may seem at first. What did Jesus teach his disciples? He first taught them that God was a God of love–whose love encompassed everyone. Jesus then commanded his disciples to love one another as he had loved them. That seems to sum up the “everything” quite well. Now, when we begin to work on a lesson plan let’s remember that actions speak (and teach) louder than words.
Day by day Oh dear Lord three things we pray, to see the more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day. Amen.
Sunday, April 12, 2015
“And remember, I am with you always to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
Clair loaded all that she was taking to college with her in her parent’s minivan. It was her first year and as she packed the car both her excitement and her trepidation grew. With her grades in high school Clair felt confident that she could handle the course work. She was, though, going away from home and doing something she had never done before. What lay before her in the days ahead wasn’t as clear as it had been for her as a high school student.
We all face the future and new situations with a little fear and trembling. Certainly Jesus’ disciples felt that way as they heard Jesus commission them to carry on with his ministry. All nations was a lot bigger than the Galilee and Jerusalem with which they were acquainted.
Jesus’ promise, however, encouraged them and later sustained them. Jesus assured them that he would be with them. Jesus would guide them and protect them. Jesus would be their constant companion; they would never be alone. Later they realized that absolutely nothing could ever separate them from Jesus. Such knowledge gave them the ability to shine brightly for Jesus and to change the world, just as it does for us today.
Stay with us, Precious Lord, and use us to accomplish your will and to spread your kingdom. Amen.