As the Church makes her transition from the festive season into the season of Pentecost, the “Time of the Church,” it is fitting that we begin by focusing our attention not on the Church itself but on the Creator and Sustainer of the Church’s life, the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As we spoke in the Introit earlier, “Blessèd be the Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity. Let us give glory to him because he has shown his mercy to us.”
All three persons of the Trinity were present and active at the creation of the world, as we saw in our Old Testament reading from Genesis. Life cannot and does not exist apart from the divine life and cooperative work of the Holy Trinity. The Father clearly and decisively revealed His love for us and for all people by sending His Son Jesus, to live, die, rise, and ascend into heaven for us by sending His Spirit to bring us to faith in Jesus Christ, as we see recorded for us in the Book of Acts. Finally, as the Father sent the Son and the Spirit, so the triune God now sends us into the world to be His witnesses, assuring us that, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Our Gospel reading for today tells us that the disciples went to Galilee because Jesus told them to go and wait for Him. He told the women to have His brothers go to Galilee, that there they will see Him. When the disciples saw Him, they fell on their hands and knees, worshiping the Lord. This worship is the recognition of His deity, the adoration of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Only after the resurrection did the disciples engage in this form of adoration, for Jesus had died and risen again. He was no longer their Rabbi and friend, but He was now the Christ, the exalted Son of God, their risen Lord and Savior.
Jesus approached the disciples, some still worshiping and some doubting. He begins with a simple twelve-word sentence that sets up the rest of what He has to say to the disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Where does Jesus get such an authority? Satan tells Jesus in the Gospel of Luke when He is tempted that, “I will give You all their authority and splendor,” talking about the kingdoms of the world, “for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.”
Unfortunately for Satan, he has no authority to exercise. The true authority came when Christ spread out His hands and feet on the cross, said His last words, “Father, into your hand I commit my Spirit,” and then breathed His last.
This authority is like no earthly authority. Jesus Himself shows His disciples the kingdoms of this world after the cross had been borne and points out the conquest His sacrifice and love shall achieve through the Gospel. This authority reduced demons to beggars and caused fearful citizens to plead for Jesus’ departure. This was done to demonstrate the Son’s authority on earth to forgive sins.
But what authority does Jesus receive? We know that it is all authority in heaven and on earth, but what does that constitute? It is the authority over heaven, all that lives and has its being, authority over the angels and archangels, and the powers, principalities, might, dominion, thrones and the saints in glory. This is authority that no one but God could give and it was given at the price of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Our Gospel text for today provide the main reason of the disciples’ journey to Galilee: there is a job that is to be done and the disciples are the first that are tasked to do it. The job is nothing more than going out and making disciples of all nations. They are the make all nations followers of Jesus Christ. This was not an easy task to do. As the disciples traveled, they would come into contact with the various ethnic groups of the world. Some would be eager to hear their message of Jesus Christ, while others would be very hostile in their response. Regardless, the cure for sin was to be made known to each and every nation; for all nations are sinners, all have souls in need of redemption, and all are in need of and are capable of salvation through the grace of God that comes through Jesus Christ.
As we are given to call today’s text the “Great Commission,” we must remember that all things stem from the Father. Mission begins in the heart of God the Father and expresses His great love for the world. This heart of mission has been with God from the very beginning. In looking at the Old Testament reading for today, we see how God, along with Jesus and the Holy Spirit, create all things. In the next chapter of Genesis, we see how God’s creation revolts against God’s command and the length that the Father goes to in order to restore creation unto Himself. He makes a promise to creation that is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, as He comes to lay down His life in order to redeem this sinful and fallen world.
God’s mission centers in God the Son, Jesus Christ. He is the promised Messiah sent by the Father to reconcile the world to Himself by His life, death, and resurrection. By His life, He perfectly satisfied all the demands of God’s Law. By His suffering and death on the cross, Jesus atoned for the sin of the world, suffered the wrath of God for all people, crushed the head of the devil, and opened wide the gates of heaven.
Through the work of the Holy Spirit, faith is granted to the individual so that he may believe. He enables God’s people throughout the history of the Church to confess that “Jesus is Lord!” And so our Lord commands the disciples to make disciples from the people by baptizing and teaching. We baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. We teach of all that our God has done for us: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When you are baptized in the name of the Trinity, it conveys certain things. We inherit the Father’s love, the Son’s redemption, and the Holy Spirit’s gift of fruitful faith. We continue to spread the Gospel to others as we have heard it spread to us. We are privileged to go out and make disciples of all nations, of sharing the Gospel message that we ourselves have heard: Christ crucified for me and Christ crucified for you. Christ died for my sins and Christ dies for your sins.
As Christ prepares the disciples for this great task of making more disciples, He tells them, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Jesus assures His followers that He will be with us every single day until the completion of time. He assures the Church that she will never be alone in her work of spreading the Gospel.
As the baptized believers of Jesus Christ, we have been made His disciples. We continue in the long line of the saints gone before us of making disciples and adding to the ranks of the Church, that all would hear of the saving message of Jesus Christ, that they too would receive the gift of everlasting life that comes through what Jesus has done for us. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.