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Saint John's Pulpit (June 7, Trinity Sunday) –
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 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. 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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
Where Is Peace with Justice Sunday?
It is June! Since the pandemic, it seems that our calendar and clock had been stopped! But green colored leaves and trees and hot weather make us feel that we are heading to Summer. Indeed, the service today has another title. It is Peace with Justice Sunday which is one of special mission Sundays by the United Methodist Church. However, Peace with Justice Sunday this year turned out No Peace with Justice Sunday sadly. Yes, still we are thirsty for peace and justice in our world. In that point, the first Sunday of June is very special. We Christians are asked to seek for the Grace of Trinity (yes, it is Trinity Sunday according to a church calendar!) to make peace and justice in our world.
The Great Commission
The text today is the last four verses of Matthew. These verses have been called ‘the Great Commission’ for long time. It is almost impossible to count on the impact of the Great Commission in a history of church. Lots of evangelists and missionaries were challenged by these verses and still are. Do you feel that your heart is being beaten when you read these verses, don’ you? However, the Great Commission has several lessons requiring our attention. From these verses, we see some messages from Matthew for all Christians including us.
Worshipers vs. Doubters
Let me ask a question. Who received this Commission? Please, look at those who received the Great Commission from Jesus. Were they ready to go to the world? Nay. In front of the Great Commission, we are surprised to see that there are people who doubted about Jesus Christ.
When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Matthew 28:17 NRSV
In general, the Great Commission had been regarded as a special mission manifesto for outsiders who are in a non-church world or mission fields. However, it also should be applied for those who are in faith community. Simply speaking, we need to concern not only those who be baptized but also those who baptize! Moreover, we should know that churches who are doing mission never be perfect, rather need their ongoing prayers. Sometimes we used to imagine a kind of happy ending for the verse 17 like this:
When they saw him, they worshiped him; they adored him and praised him.
This is the very verse we want to see! However, we know that there is a gap between our reality and our wish. Do you remember the story of Jesus’ birth in Matthew? When the good news of the birth of Jesus was delivered, the magi worshiped him, but some doubted. In front of the great news of the birth of the Messiah, there were believers and doubters there.
God: Giver of all authority in heaven and on earth
The Great Commission tells about God who gives all authority in heaven and on earth. It means that we need to ask God for His strength and power. Please look at the verse 18.
And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." Matthew 28:18 NRSV
As son of God, Jesus received all authority in heaven and on earth. Likewise, we as children of God, the same authority is given to us. It is not a deal or a formula of give & take. It is a special privilege and grace from God. However, this verse 18 reminds us of a story of Jesus’ temptation in Matthew 4. Why? Satan offered Jesus the same authority, but it was conditional. What was the condition? The Satan asked Jesus to kneel down and worship him.
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." Matthew 4:8-9 NRSV
God's love was unconditional. If so, Christian love should be too. All things practiced by the name of Jesus should be unconditional. It is Mission 101.
Immanuel, the Greatest Promise in the Great Commission
One last thing is from the last verse. The ending remark of the Great Commission is this.
And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20b NRSV
The last voice from Jesus from the last verse of the Book of Matthew was "I am with you always” which means 'Immanuel'. Isn't it amazing? This comment already was introduced in the first chapter of Matthew!
"Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us." Matthew 1:23 NRSV
The only one common word can be found from the first chapter of Matthew and the last chapter of Matthew. It is Emmanual, God is with us. Although we live in this world full of challenges and hardships, please remember this promise. God is with us. God is with all those who are suffering and crying for peace and justice. We begin our life with Immanuel and finish it with the same promise – Immanuel as Jesus was born with the promise of Immanuel and finished his ministry in the world with the same promise, Immanuel. It is the name we need. Amen.