Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Great Commission -- April 29

 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. 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 t he 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.’ Matthew 28:16-20

Matthew’s gospel includes only a few brief moments with the resurrected Jesus. In Matthew 28, the women go to the tomb, which is guarded by Roman soldiers, and suddenly an angel of the Lord descends from heaven and rolls back the stone. The soldiers pass out in terror. As in Mark’s gospel, the angel tells them “He is not here; he has been raised, as he said,” and instructs them to go tell the other disciples and to go to Galilee.  In Matthew’s gospel, as the women run from the tomb, Jesus suddenly appears before them and says, “Greetings!” After they fall at his feet and worship him, he says, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” 

And that’s it, until we get to today’s passage. The disciples apparently decamped from Jerusalem and hurried back to Galilee, where Jesus was waiting for them just as promised. If it all feels hurried and confusing, I think that was probably the disciples’ experience as well. After all, even as they worship him, we are told, “some doubted.” Even the evidence of their own eyes was not enough to expel the bewilderment they felt. 

But Jesus doesn’t chastise them, or wait for everyone to get with the program. Instead, he tells them to go and make disciples of all nations, to baptize and teach. Perfect understanding, utter certainty, and a well-developed theology of salvation do not seem to have been pre-requisites for this new commission.
Instead, what they receive is a promise: “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Resurrection means the work continues, but we do not have to undertake it alone. We may struggle. We may doubt. But there is no longer reason for despair. No matter what roads we find ourselves on, the Risen Christ has gone before us. 

As we move through Eastertide into Ordinary Time, we may find the experience of the Eleven on a mountain in Galilee to be the one that best approximates our own experience.  It may not aways be clear to us what we are doing, or what we should expect. We may be there because someone else has told us that Jesus will show; we may find, even in the midst of the experience, that we have doubts. 

But perfect clarity and a fully articulated theology are not the essential ingredients for going out to share the Good News. What is needed is an openness to meeting Jesus in unexpected places, in the midst of the work that has been given to us to do.

The first disciples took their first steps away from the mountaintop feeling the same mix of confusion and hope we so often feel today. They did not wait for everything to fall into place, instead trusting in Jesus who promised to be with them. If we follow their lead, we may well find that it is in the telling of tale that we begin to see where we were going all along. And we will certainly discover that he is with us in the midst of it, to the very end. 

No comments:

Post a Comment