“Go” by planetlight, 2010 (CC BY 2.0)
Matthew 28:16-20 (NIV)
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Jesus entrusted his disciples with a special task.
The disciples were called to continue Jesus’ mission … They were called to go out into all the world and to live lives and speak in ways that shared the good news about who Jesus is and what Jesus has done. These disciples, and all the disciples who have followed them have been pushed out into a mission. From that mountaintop in Galilee the disciples were called into God’s mission … they were called for a purpose.
That mountain was a pretty safe place for the disciples. They were near Jesus. They were far away from the crowds who called for Jesus’ crucifixion. They were far away from the religious and political leaders who allowed Jesus to be killed. That mountain could have been a refuge from the terrible things they had been through, or something like a hide out from an uncertain and scary future.
In the verses just before today’s scripture reading we discover there was even a conspiracy to hide the news of Jesus’ resurrection. Intending to convince people Jesus’ resurrection was a lie made up by his followers, some priests and elders paid a large amount of money to the soldiers who had been guarding Jesus’ tomb. They wanted the soldiers to tell people that during the night, while they had been sleeping, Jesus’ disciples came and stole his body.
Life must have felt messy.
It would have been tempting to stay up there on that safe mountain.
But Jesus told his disciples to go.
Jesus sent his disciples away from that safe mountain and back down into the world that had been so set against him. The disciples weren’t being sent to a comfortable or easy place. These disciples were called to take a risk. They were called to teach resurrection, that God can bring new life from death, to a world primarily concerned with avoiding death. They were called to the dangerous mission of proclaiming life to a world that seems set on destroying itself and anyone who gets in the way. They were called to teach truth to a world that seems set on passing along lies. They were called to love in the name of Jesus, the one the world made up its mind to kill. They were called to baptize, to include people, to tell a world that seems set on excluding anyone for any reason it can find, that Jesus had gone to great lengths to include them in God’s family. They were called to teach God’s heart, God’s values and purposes to a world that was closed off and hostile to Jesus and his purposes.
The disciples were called to a mission on behalf of others.
The disciples were given a purpose, this mission of sharing good news and teaching people to follow and live Jesus’ message … the disciples were called to go.
As Jesus’ church, as Jesus’ disciples, we too, are entrusted with this mission … Jesus calls us to go …
One Christmas Sarah and I got on a kick of watching super-cheesy Christmas movies. I remember one about a busy, rich, big city family, driving somewhere exciting to celebrate Christmas … as luck would have it, the family’s car broke down and they were stranded in a tiny, sleepy, Colorado mountain town. It wasn’t anywhere near the place they wanted to be. They were sure nothing exciting would ever happen in that town. The parents complained everything was too slow. The kids complained everything was way too boring. At first the family couldn’t stand it and couldn’t wait to leave, but by the end of the movie, when the parts for their car had finally been delivered and installed, the family had grown to love the small town’s quiet charm and didn’t want to leave.
I don’t think that sleepy small town actually exists … at least, it definitely doesn’t exist in Fairplay. There is always something happening. There is always something we are working on. We are people on the go. Sometimes it can be a challenge just to keep up. I think as a congregation, we surprise a lot of people with how much we have happening. We are constantly moving … constantly going.
I read an article about our reading from Matthew 28, Jesus’ Great Commission, where David Lose, (another one of my favorite writers) made the claim, actually he made a bet, that often when congregations hear Jesus tell his disciples to “Go and make disciples of all nations … to baptize …and teach them to obey everything [Jesus] has taught,” most people wind up feeling guilty.
David Lose writes,
“I don’t have statistics to back this up yet, but I’m still willing to wager a considerable sum on the proposition that most [people], when they hear the Great Commission in Matthew, [feel] neither inspired nor encouraged but instead just a tad guilty. Why? Because day in and day out they do not perceive themselves as called and sent to bear witness to their faith and, even more, do not feel equipped to do so. So when they hear Jesus’ very clear instructions they are reminded of one more thing they should, but regularly do not, do — which is as sure a recipe for guilt as I know” (David Lose, “Reclaiming the Great Commission”).
Maybe this sounds like one more thing?
Maybe we don’t know how we could possibly add something more?
Maybe we feel like we are already going in a million directions all at once and how in the world are we supposed to go and do all this?
I promised myself that as a pastor, I wouldn’t use guilt as tool to motivate people to do anything … and I admit I get this tight-gut-feeling when I hear about one more thing to be doing … and still, I want to be a person who takes Jesus and his claim on our lives seriously – so how does this work? How do we go … how do we live into Jesus’ Great Commission to go and make disciples?
What if it isn’t so much about doing something more?
What if it is about doing the things we are already doing differently?
What if it is about letting Jesus’ Great Commission form and give a greater purpose to the things we are already doing?
Jesus deeply engaged with the things of every day life. He didn’t avoid the reality of life. For Jesus, everyday, real life is the arena where God is active and moving and meets people. Jesus walked his disciples right through all the messiness life could dish out.
Sure, he gave some sermons … his most challenging sermons have to do with regular things, farmers planting seeds, women baking bread, relationships between fathers and children, relationships between employers and laborers that point toward God and God’s kingdom. Jesus also taught some of his most powerful lessons through his actions … he would notice things happening around him and make connections to God, make points about God’s kingdom and what it looks like to live by God’s values. Jesus would pause to interact with people … he didn’t seem to mind interruptions … He had an openness to the people around him … he valued and cared for people no one else seemed to care all that much for.
Sometimes Jesus’ call to “go” means a change in career, or a mission trip to Kenya, or helping out with vacation bible school. Sometimes, his call to go, and make disciples, to baptize, and teach Jesus’ way, means doing the things we are doing, with a greater purpose, with openness, and expectancy that God can use any moment, any task, any relationship to get someone’s attention, to meet someone, and to invite them into a journey of discipleship … this life of growing in relationship with God.
Go with purpose – God is working in you and through you, God is using this church to make a difference in people’s lives.
Go with a sense of expectation and hope – God is present and working all around us.
Go with openness – God can and does encounter people in the things of everyday life.
Go with love – with assurance that God is with you, wherever you are, whatever you are doing, whoever you are with … Go … God is with you always, until the end of the age.