GOD’S PROPER WORK: ALWAYS THERE FOR YOU!
A Sermon by the Rev. Dr. Samuel Zumwalt, STS
The Feast of the Holy Trinity, 11 June 2017
Matthew 28:16-20 [English Standard Version, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers]
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
GOD’S PROPER WORK: ALWAYS THERE FOR YOU!
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.
With Judas dead, the eleven remaining disciples (named in Matthew 10:2-4) went to the mountain in Galilee to see the Crucified and Risen Jesus. These are the ones to whom He had given authority (10:1) to cast out unclean spirits and to heal every disease and affliction. The eleven went to Galilee, because Jesus had appeared on Easter morning to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (28:1) who had come to the tomb. First an angel (v. 7) and then Jesus (v.10) told them to tell His brothers to meet Him in Galilee.
17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.
When the eleven saw the Crucified and Risen Jesus, they worshiped him. The Greek word is, again as we have heard several times this year, “prosekynesan” (from “proskuneo”), which is to fall down on one’s knees to do obeisance to Jesus. The Magi did this (ch.2). A leper did this (ch. 8) and a synagogue ruler (ch.9). The disciples did when Jesus walked on water (ch.14). A Canaanite woman did (ch.15). The women at the empty tomb did (28:9). Are you aware that, when you come to the altar to receive the Blessed Sacrament, you are actually kneeling in worship before that same Crucified and Risen Jesus, just like the women at the empty tomb and just like the disciples in Galilee?
Please remember that Gnosticism (from the Greek “gnosis” for knowledge) had no belief in an Incarnate God (God in the flesh). Far too many Christians, who think themselves quite orthodox or traditional or even conservative in their beliefs are Gnostics when they worship. Standing or dancing or swaying in ecstasy to music that stirs the spirit could be done by anyone, anywhere. Worshiping the Triune God begins with falling down in worship before the Crucified and Risen Jesus present in the Host and Cup. We worship the Triune God, one God in three persons, because the Crucified and Risen Jesus teaches us to do so. Jesus alone reveals the one God we in three persons.
But Matthew tells us some of the eleven doubted. The Greek word is “edístasan” from the Greek verb “distazo” which means literally “to have two ways.” Some wavered. Some hesitated. Some vacillated. Were they suddenly ashamed in Jesus’ presence having failed Him when He was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane? Were they so awed to actually see the Crucified and Risen Jesus with the marks of the nails in His body that they couldn’t believe their eyes? Were they like the later Gnostics who had such a spiritualized picture of Jesus that they could never imagine Him actually Crucified and Risen in His own body? Or did they suddenly grasp they could never be the same again now that Christ is risen? He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Jesus’ resurrection means change!
Do we doubt, hesitate, waver, vacillate in our own worship of Jesus, because if we believe that He is indeed actually, palpably, really with us always in the Host and the Cup, then we can never be the same either? In Alcoholic Anonymous, they say that going to meetings messes up your drinking. When we fall down in worship before the Crucified and Risen Jesus actually present in the Host and the Cup, He messes with our worship of all the people and things in our life…especially that god who stares back from the mirror!
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me…”
“All authority” (“pasa exousia” in Greek) has been given to the Crucified and Risen Jesus by His Father. Since Jesus gave His disciples authority to cast out demons and authority to heal in Matthew 10, we can deduce that the Father gave the Son all authority from eternity. As John tells us, He is the Word who was from the beginning with God and was God; the Word who, then, became flesh (1:1,14). Jesus is King of creation and Lord of the nations as we sing in “Beautiful Savior” (LBW #518). If our church is to be filled with worshipers, we cannot be of two minds about His authority!
It is not only the resolutely unbaptized who resist Jesus’ authority. The old sinner in you and me (the old Adam or Eve) resists Jesus’ authority, because that old sinner still wants to be in charge…even of religion. Satan’s pride is also at work in us when we resist Jesus’ authority over every inch of the universe. No, my body is not mine. No, my time is not mine. No, my money is not mine. No, my talents are not mine. No, my relationships are not mine. No, my thoughts and feelings and inclinations and beliefs are not subject to my ownership and will. The Lord Jesus has all authority. So, hell has any part of me that keeps resisting Jesus’ authority and excluding Him. Anything that is not His is hell-bound.
19 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,
When the disciples worshiped the Crucified and Risen Jesus and were not of two minds anymore, Jesus gave them a clearer picture of their calling. Their earlier work casting out demons and healing diseases was preparatory for their ultimate calling to make disciples. Having followed Jesus, having walked with Jesus, having abandoned Jesus to His rejection, suffering, death, and burial, and now having gone to Galilee to see the Risen Jesus, they were to keep going no longer only to their fellow Jews but to all the ethnic groups of the earth. As best as I can tell, there were no Germans, Danes, Swedes, Norwegians, Finns, Poles, Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians, Czechs, or any other Europeans or even Anglo-Saxons among the eleven. They were ethnic Jews as is our Lord Jesus born from His Jewish mother’s womb. God’s promise to Abram and Sarai in Genesis 12:1-3 to make of them a great nation, to be a blessing to all ethnic groups, was fulfilled in His Incarnate Son Jesus. God’s promise to David in 2 Samuel 7:11-13 to create for Him an everlasting dynasty was fulfilled in His Incarnate Son Jesus.
So, then, beginning with the Jews and then extending to every ethnic group on earth, the Lord Jesus sent His disciples to make disciples of all ethnic groups. How? There are two verbs in v. 19 and one in v. 20. The first verb is “poreuthentes,” meaning “having gone” or “having made their way.” So, then, you can’t make disciples if you never leave worship…or if you are waiting for Lutherans to immigrate from somewhere else. Then, the second verb in v. 19 is “baptizontes” meaning “baptizing.” So, then, you make disciples by leaving worship to find people from any and all ethnic groups and then baptizing them in the name of the one true God (in Greek “onoma” is singular, “the name” and not “the names”). So, then, you baptize (wash with water) in the name of the one true God, whose name is, according to Jesus, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
Disciples are made not by evangelistic rallies or by seeker services or by televangelists leading people in the sinner’s prayer or even by asking Jesus to come into your heart. Disciples are made by Baptism with water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Risen and Crucified Jesus, who has all authority in heaven and earth, tells His disciples to make more disciples of every ethnic group by baptizing. Then what?
20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
The third verb related to making disciples is in v.20 “teaching” (in Greek “didaskontes” from the verb “didasko”). Having gone and having baptized all ethnic groups including Jews, Jesus sends His disciples to teach the newly baptized all that He has commanded. Having examined closely the Greek, I see no mention of sporadic Sunday School attendance and no mention of this command being exhausted by three years of Confirmation classes. In short, teaching all that Jesus has commanded (Matthew’s gospel has five major blocks of teaching) cannot be exhausted by two Bible classes at a church college or by four years of seminary. To be Jesus’ disciple is to be a lifelong learner. It’s only taken me 63 years of life and 41 years of church work to figure out how little I still have learned as a disciple. A good start for those present would be to register for Vacation Bible School and to commit to Sunday School, Confirmation classes, and Crossways Bible Study in the fall! Don’t ever stop learning from Jesus!
Finally, our Lord Jesus, who has all authority in heaven and on earth, has promised to be with us always to the end of the age. He is most clearly present in the Host and the Cup, in the preaching of the Gospel of His saving death for us and all sinners, and in His words of forgiveness spoken by pastors. So, then, don’t be a stranger to the services of God’s house. Go invite your friends and family to worship with you!
In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
©Samuel D. Zumwalt, STS
St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church
Wilmington, North Carolina USA
God’s Proper Work: Always There For You!
“Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit, live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen” (The Daily Prayer of the Church, 614).
Matthew 28:17 “And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted..”
St. John Chrysostom [late 4th – early 5th century Patriarch of Constantinople; Doctor of the Eastern Church]: “This seems to me to be the last appearance in Galilee, when he sent them out to baptize. And if ‘some doubted,’ herein again admire the evangelists’ truthfulness. Even up to the last day, they were determined not to conceal even their own shortcomings. Nevertheless even these are assured by what they see” (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Matthew 14-28, 313).
Matthew 28:18 “…All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
St. Jerome [late 4th – early 5th century translator of the Vulgate Bible]: “This authority was given to one who had just been crucified, buried in a tomb, laid dead and afterwards had arisen. Authority was given to him in both heaven and earth so that he who once reigned in heaven might also reign on earth through the faith of his believers.” (313).
Matthew 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,baptizing…”
St. Jerome [Doctor of the Church]: “They were baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit so that the three who are one in divinity might also be one in giving themselves. The name of the Trinity is the name of the one God…he added ‘all that I have commanded you,’ so that those who were to believe and be baptized in the Trinity would observe everything they had been taught” (313).
Matthew 28:20 “…And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
St. John Chrysostom: “Observe the excellence of those who were sent out into the world. Others who were called found ways of excusing themselves. But these did not beg off. Jesus reminds his disciples of the consummation of all things. He seeks to draw them further on, that they may not look at the present dangers only but also at the good things to come that last forever…Having invigorated and roused their minds by the remembrance of that coming day, he sent them out. Those who live faithfully, with good works, should strangely desire that day even as those who lack good works should fear it. So let us not fear and shudder. Let us repent while there is opportunity. Let us rise out of our sins. We can by grace, if we are willing” (314).
1. Am I continuing to learn from Jesus? Am I bringing others to be baptized?
(Read this aloud daily until everyone in your home can say it from memory.)
Christian Questions with Their Answers
Prepared by Dr. Martin Luther for those who intend to go to the Sacrament
[The “Christian Questions with Their Answers,” designating Luther as the author, first appeared
in an edition of the Small Catechism in 1551, five years after Luther’s death].
After confession and instruction in the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and
the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the pastor may ask, or Christians may ask
themselves these questions:
8. How many Gods are there?
Only one, but there are three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
9. What has Christ done for you that you trust in Him?
He died for me and shed His blood for me on the cross for the forgiveness of sins.
10. Did the Father also die for you?
He did not. The Father is God only, as is the Holy Spirit; but the Son is both true God and
true man. He died for me and shed his blood for me.
11. How do you know this?
From the holy Gospel, from the words instituting the Sacrament, and by His body and blood given me as a pledge in the Sacrament (Luther’s Small Catechism).
1. Pray for every unbaptized child and adult you know and for the child’s parents, too.
2. Pray for your unchurched loved ones and friends. Invite one or more of them to worship!
3. Discuss with your spouse, your family, or a friend why God wants us to examine our hearts prior to our receiving the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar. If we are not sorry for our sins or do not believe ourselves to be sinners in need of Christ, what are we, in effect, saying to the Lord Jesus as He comes to us by His Word of Promise in His Holy Meal?
4. Make a habit of taking a Bible from the cart outside the door and, before communing, read through all Luther’s questions and answers on pp. 1065-1066.
For Husbands and Wives
Repeat daily: “I (name) take you (name) to be my wedded wife (husband), to have and to hold from this day forward; for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish until death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance, and thereto I pledge you my faith.”