Sermon on Matthew 28:16-20
Text: 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.”
Authority can be something that causes people to bristle. When you hear the word “authority,” you might think that you lose your freedom. You must do what someone else tells you to do. As a result, you find many who fight against authority. It might be in major ways, such as an armed revolution. It might be in small ways, such as when a child purposefully leaves the milk out on the counter. They are fighting against authority. It is unfortunate that the word “authority” has such a negative connotation. Perhaps, part of the reason for this is the fact that those who are in authority over us are sinners. This morning, as we study God’s Word, we are reminded of authority. However, rather than chafing at being under this authority, we are thankful that CHRIST’S AUTHORITY IS PRESENT WITH US. 1. We Ponder Christ’s Authority. 2. We Proclaim Christ’s Authority. 3. We Live Under Christ’s Authority.
You may recall that, when the angel announced the resurrection of Jesus on Easter morning, these instructions were given to the disciples, “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.” (Matthew 28:7) At the time of our text, Jesus had appeared to his disciples on Easter evening and one week later, when Thomas was present. Now the disciples were in Galilee, on the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. They were away from the crowds. Jesus could spend some time with them reinforcing what they had seen and heard.
Jesus began by saying to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” *Verse 18) The word “authority” has the idea of a personal possession. It is the right and the ability to use what was at his disposal. Jesus had been given the right and the ability to use all things in heaven and on earth. We see many instances of this when we read the gospels. He showed his authority over the elements as he calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee. He showed his authority over the material things of this world when he changed water into wine and when he fed five thousand men plus women and children with the five loaves of bread and the two small fish. He showed his authority over the human body as he healed people of their blindness, leprosy, lameness, and other diseases. Time and again, Jesus showed his authority over all things in heaven and on earth.
Jesus also showed his authority throughout his Passion. To the outside observer, it looked as though things had gotten completely out of control. There was his arrest by the Jewish authorities and subsequent trial. He appeared before a human governor, who handed him over to be whipped and, eventually, crucified. Even to his disciples, it looked as though all was lost. Yet, as Jesus reminded Pontius Pilate, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” (John 19:11) All was going according to his plan. Jesus continued to be in control even during this time. He allowed these things to happen to him because it was necessary for our salvation. The Father demanded payment be made for sin. We know that we sin every day. One of the ways in which we sin is mentioned in our text: “Some doubted.” (Verse 17) How many times haven’t we come across a situation and, even though God has promised that he will take care of us, we doubted whether it really was true. To doubt, in this instance is to call God a “liar.” It is not trusting him above all things. To us, that might sound like a trivial thing. However, even for our sins of doubt, we should be cast away from our God for all eternity. It was for this reason that Jesus came to the earth and carried out this plan, which called for his suffering and death on the cross to pay for our sins. Jesus was still displaying his authority at that time.
Jesus further showed his authority on Easter morning. Death could not keep its hold on Jesus. At the appointed time, it had to open its icy grip and release him. In speaking of his life, Jesus said, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.” (John 10:18) Because Jesus took up his life again, our sins have been forgiven. The devil’s power over us has been broken. Death is, for the Christian, but a sleep from which we will awaken on the Last Day. Jesus, the almighty Son of God, took on our human flesh and blood and lived on this earth. However, he never lost the authority which is his. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection show us his authority. By God’s grace, we have been shown that authority. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, we have been brought under his authority as he reigns in our hearts.
This knowledge of Jesus’ gracious authority is not for us to keep to ourselves. Jesus came to be the Savior of all people. That is why he gave his Church these marching orders, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” (Verse 19) This is what the disciples that were on the mountain were to do. It is also what our Lord tells us to do. Please note how these disciples are made. So many times, we might catch ourselves thinking that if we tried this program or had this to offer, people would join us. If we were only more exciting, we would draw more attention. This is not to say that we should not use all the opportunities that are given to us. This does not mean that we are to be stale and stagnant. We do not want to get in the way of the means that God has given us. Yet, we need to remember that we cannot add to them, either.
How do we make disciples of all nations? Jesus said that we do so by, “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.” (Verses 19&20) We use the Means of Grace, which God has given to us. First of all, we baptize. Through the water applied with the Word, faith is created in the heart of the infant. Faith is strengthened in someone who has been taught the truths of God’s Word. When it says that we are baptized “in the name of” the triune God, it means that we are adopted into his family. Just as when a child is adopted into a family and his birth certificate changes, showing that they are members of that family, so also, when we were baptized, we became a part of God’s family. We inherit the Father’s love, the Son’s redemption, and the Holy Spirit’s gift of fruitful faith. This is another reminder for us of how important baptism is for our children. It also is a reminder that our baptism is not just something that was done once long ago, and today has no bearing on our lives. Every day we go back to our baptisms and drown the sinful nature that still plagues us. Our new man is strengthened to live for God.
We not only are to baptize. We also are to teach everything that Jesus has commanded us. This means that we are not at liberty to pick and choose the teachings that we like and disregard the rest. We hold on to the entire counsel of God. This means that we boldly proclaim what he tells us, whether or not it makes us popular. We also continue to teach everything he has commanded to ourselves, as well. We need to be shown what God’s will is for our lives. God’s Word clearly points out the devil’s temptations, so that we can be aware of them. God’s Word helps us so that we will not go as close as we can to a temptation to see if we are strong enough to resist it. God’s Word helps us to set up our camp at a distance from these temptations. We also continue to need to hear the gospel because we need the reassurance that our sins have been forgiven. There are those times when it seems as though the guilt of our sins will overwhelm us. How wonderful it is to come to the Word and hear our Savior tell us that sin was also forgiven on the cross. The Word tells us how we can thank God for all that he has done for us. We continue to proclaim the authority of Christ to ourselves and those around us.
We remember that, when Jesus gave this command to his disciples, he would be leaving them soon. They would be left with a monumental task. We continue this task today. Lest the task seem overwhelming, Jesus made a promise. He said, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Verse 20) Jesus did not just return to heaven and say to us, ‘Well, I hope everything works out OK for you.’ He continues his authority over all things as he is seated at the right hand of the Father. Jesus told his followers that he would be with them every single day until the completion of time. Jesus’ disciples never travel alone as they go into all the world and proclaim the authority of Christ. What comfort we find in those words! There are so many times when it seems as though all is lost. Jesus comes to us and tells us he is right there beside us. He will provide all that we need for this life. When bad things happen to us, Jesus reminds us that he loves and that everything that comes into our lives is for our benefit. Though we may not see it at the moment, we can be sure that Jesus is even using this for our good. Because of this, we can confidently face each new day, with all its uncertainties. We have this assurance as the world does its level best to drown out the truths of God’s Word. Jesus assures us that his Word will continue to be proclaimed until the end of time. Jesus comes to us when the devil is attacking us on every side, tempting us to sin or doubt God’s promises. Jesus tells us that we do not fight him on our own. He is there beside us, fighting for us. The devil is defeated. He, too, is under the authority of Christ. How blessed we are to live under the authority of Christ, for there we are safe and secure, both now and for all eternity.
We have all had authority figures in our lives, those people that we respected and trusted to have our best interests in mind. It might have been our father, a teacher, or a coach. We looked up to them and wanted to be like them. As wonderful as those people were, they were not perfect. Though they did their best, they still made mistakes. Yet, we still wanted to emulate them. If that is true of the authority figures we find on this earth, how much more so our ultimate authority figure, Jesus who is perfect and loves us with an unending love. Rather than bristle at his authority in our lives, we welcome it and ask him to lead us through this life until we are with him forever in heaven. Amen.
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