Christ calls each of us to preach and to bring others to God in and through these personally unique, particular gifts and callings.
This passage is from the very end of Matthew’s Gospel. This event takes place post-resurrection and these are Jesus’ last words to his 11 remaining Apostles. It is clear that, though Jesus’ earthly ministry is complete, this is not the end of the story. Rather, it is a commissioning, a commencement. And it is full of tension and importance.
This passage represents a very important turning point in the preaching of the Gospel. It is the moment that Jesus commissions his disciples to begin to preach the Word beyond the original parameters of the Jewish nation. They are to take the Gospel to the rest of the world now, and to bring the whole world to Jesus. Jesus tells them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
There is so much to unpack here in these words. First, Jesus reveals that all authority to make such a commissioning resides in him. It is an authority that spans the vast realms of both heaven and earth. The disciples cannot doubt the fact any more…This truly is God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, speaking to them. They were already dumbstruck with the still recent and fresh events of the Cross and the Resurrection. And now this! Take the Gospel to the world! Most of these men had never traveled more than a couple days walk from their homes in their entire lives. And now they are to take the message to the whole wide world! What a huge thought.
Christ gives this same commissioning to all Christians today. True, most of us are just ordinary folks. We are not ordained, that is, we do not bear the duties of the sacred, ecclesiastical ‘professions’ of preaching and baptizing. But we all have different callings and different gifts appropriate to those callings. Christ calls each of us to preach and to bring others to God in and through these personally unique, particular gifts and callings. We are challenged here to reflect on how we live our lives in the public square. Are we teaching others to ‘obey everything [Jesus has] commanded us’ by the way we live our lives?’ Do we encounter all others with love and compassion? Do we forgive injuries freely? When mercy is asked of us, do we give it sincerely and without expecting anything in return? Do we truly make ourselves present to the poor and all those who are disenfranchised in any way? Are we doing justice and walking in the ways of Christ’s peace at work, and in the many social encounters we have in our daily lives? This is what Christ has commissioned all Christians to do in all places and at all times. Yes, it is a big job. It can be full of fear and it sometimes crowds our minds with self-doubt, but we are also to remember the last words of Jesus here: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” This we can trust. After all, it is God himself who promises this.
Lord, increase our faith and our confidence. Help us to love your commandments so much that they become the life-giving force of our daily lives. “For in [you] we live and move and have our being…” (Acts 17:28) Make of us your true disciples, teaching the world about your love in everything we do. We ask this in your name, Jesus. Amen!
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