We started off this morning during our sunrise service talking about how the empty tomb changes everything. And I’d like to do something a little different; move away from the final hours of Jesus’ life before the cross and start looking at the last 40 days of Jesus’ time on this earth – those moments between the resurrection and the ascension.
One of the biggest questions we start to complicate when we look at this part of Scripture is this: Why would Jesus need to stay for another 40 days? He had spent three years equipping the disciples, He had paid the sin debt of all mankind, and He had proved victorious over sin and death in rising from the grave. What did He have left to do?
Jesus realized that He needed to remind the disciples of their purpose and to empower them to carry out their mission.
The 11 disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. When they saw Him, they worshiped, but some doubted.
If we were to look back at our passages from this morning, you’ll remember than an angel of the Lord came to Mary and her friends as they came to Jesus’ tomb. They were instructed to go and tell the disciples that Jesus had risen, and to go to Galilee, where He would be waiting for them.
And here they are, once again in the presence of Jesus. When they see him, they immediately begin to worship Him, but there has always been a part of this passage that has bothered me. It says that “some doubted.” How is that possible? How could they doubt that Jesus is alive? How could they doubt that He is the Messiah?
But the truth is that in this moment they didn’t. The word used here means that they hesitated or waivered. Instead of questioning the reliability of this man Jesus, they hesitated in the moment because they were uncertain about their course of action. They weren’t doubting Jesus; they were doubting themselves. They suddenly remembered all that Jesus had commanded them and were worried that they couldn’t carry out that mission. They were questioning whether they had what it took to reach out to the nations of the world.
Jesus knew this, leading Him into His next statement.
Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”
There is a special word here when it comes to the “authority” that Jesus is referring to. It’s the word “exosusia,” which means “the right to use the power.” Now, there are many people in this world that have power, but there are very few that have the right to use it. There are plenty of people that are capable enough to push a button and launch a nuclear missile, but there are very few that have the right to do that.
Jesus was given authority over plenty of things. Over the animals, over demons and, of course, over death. He had the authority to teach, to save, and to judge. The underlying assumption here is that Jesus is about to pass that authority over to His disciples. He knew that they were struggling and weren’t up to the task.
“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.”
There’s an important word you should note here: “therefore.” Whenever you see that, you should look back to what was written ahead of it. Because Jesus had been given all authority, He is now commanding His disciples to go and do what? Make disciples.
The truth of the matter is this: it doesn’t matter how our experience is on Sunday morning. If we don’t go with the Gospel, we’ll never reach our community. If we don’t go with the Gospel, we’ll never reach our city, much less our nation. There are less people coming to church today than in the history of the world. 40% of our nation says that the church means nothing to them. And yet, we believe that if we simply open the doors that people will come.
Sometimes the church does a lot of things that Jesus never asked us to do. This doesn’t mean that they’re bad, but there are things here at Mt. Roberts Baptist Church that we do that Jesus never asked us to do. But the one thing we have been asked (commanded) to do; that’s what many churches struggle with.
We are to make disciples. That’s more than just having someone pray a prayer. It’s more than just partnering with a church. It means becoming a fully devoted Christian who knows how to reproduce themselves in the faith.
In the days of Jesus, young men would come and follow a teacher, or rabbi. They would walk closely with them, start talking like they did, teaching as they did, loving as they did, giving, and serving. This is what Jesus is commanding His disciples: that they would love as He did, that He would invest into others as He did, that He would share the promise of God with all mankind as He did.
“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, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.”
Jesus releases that authority to us. He gives us the authority to go before all nations, proclaiming the Gospel and raising up new believers. The decision to follow Christ can be very private, but the decision to become a disciple of Jesus is very public.
“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
So, Jesus has passed this authority over to His disciples and to us. And then in a final act of encouragement, He reminds His disciples that He will be with them always, right to the end.
Most of us in this place are familiar with the Easter story. We’re familiar with all that Christ endured on our behalf, the price that He paid for our sins, the promise of a future home in Heaven. We’re familiar with how we are to enter this relationship with Jesus, to admit that we are sinners, to believe that Christ died for us and rose again, and to confess that He is Lord of our lives.
But I want to remind you: it doesn’t end there. Just as the story wasn’t over when they laid Jesus’ body in that tomb, the work of a believer isn’t over until we draw our last breath, or until Christ returns. Until then, we are to go out, to proclaim the Gospel, and to make disciples.