April 12, 2015 | Sermon text: Matthew 28:16-20
Notice that the eleven disciples, not twelve, were on their way to Galilee. Judas Iscariot, one of the hand-picked disciples chosen by Jesus to become an Apostle, had betrayed Jesus and later hung himself. He had listened to the same sermons, witnessed the same miracles – perhaps even healing the sick or casting out demons himself – but then sold out the Son of God for 30 pieces of silver. It is often the people closest to us that hurt us the most. It could be a family member, a church leader or a business partner, but don’t be surprised if “one of your own” turn against you some day. Jesus himself was not immune to it, but it’s worth noting that even this great betrayal helped bring about the plan and will of God. He has ordained the events of history and works all things together for good.
Even when the disciples saw him alive and well again, they worship but some doubted. During the crucifixion their fear and uncertainty was understandable, but when confronted by the resurrected savior how could their be any room for doubt? Consider the boy with the unclean spirit in Mark 9. When the disciples could not cast out the unclean spirit, the boy’s father brought him to Jesus. He asked Jesus to have compassion and heal his son if he could. Jesus told him that all things are possible for one who believes. The man replied “I believe; help my unbelief!” He held out hope that perhaps Jesus could help him even after his Apostles had tried and failed. There must be at least a little bit of faith for us to ask God to answer our request even if we don’t expect much. It is never wrong to ask for more faith. The grain of mustard seed that Jesus uses as an example needs time to grow before birds can nest in its branches. Each time God supplies and meets our needs our faith is bolstered that he can do it again. The disciples worshiped Jesus even though some were not sure; they didn’t understand all that had happened and had no idea what was going to happen next.
“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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
There is more to making disciples than preaching the Gospel. Jesus is calling for more than evangelism; making disciples is a process that involves a commitment. We must invest time and build relationships. Discipleship is an ongoing process for the believer that will actually take the rest of our lives. We each grow in our walk with Christ even as we lead others to follow him and walk with us.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8
Making disciples of all nations and to the end of the earth is a big task. This verse reminds us to start locally. We can’t focus on international mission projects on the other side of the globe and ignore our friends, family and neighbors across the street. We must begin in our own neighborhood and then spread out in various stages to the whole earth. Witnessing is the first step; any Christian should be able to tell another person what God has done. Making disciples involves teaching people all the commands of Jesus. We must make sure we know them ourselves before we can teach others. We’re all at a different place in the journey but on the same journey, and the goal is to take as many others with us as will follow.
Jesus told his disciples to go. In this information age we can reach around the globe in a fraction of a second. Individuals and churches need to take full advantage of all resources available. That includes online, such as blogging and social media, but also with prayer and financial support of missionaries in the field. And of course it never hurts to go. We live in such an insulated world and sometimes it’s good to remember that the whole world is not the United States. There are other people and other places that are not like “your world.” But there is one unifying factor that all people, of every language, culture, color, nationality and race have in common: They are made in God’s image. We see 7 billion people and he sees his children, individuals he loves and that Jesus died to save. The glorious mystery of the Gospel has been reveal to his followers. To you to whom it has been freely given, freely give.
Peace and God bless.