“The Great Commission”
Text: Matthew 28:16-20
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Nowhere in the Bible will you find the words Great Commission, and yet, we all know that the last 5 verses of the Gospel of Matthew are just that. Our Lord’s commissioning of the disciples to go about the work He’s leaving for them to accomplish. Specifically, to “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.” Bill and Stephanie, you probably didn’t realize when you chose today to have Landon baptized that you were participating in the Great Commission. It’s what the church is called to do, but each individual member of the church is also called to follow these commands. Delivering a child to the waters of Holy Baptism is part of the faithful following of this commission, but it’s so much more than just that.
Making disciples is about so much more than just baptizing them. If it was just about that, we’d simply focus our attention on making sure every person had those cleansing waters poured over them while speaking the Triune name of God. Jesus’ command to His people continues as He says, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Ted and Steph, your profession of faith today is the result of the observance of this command. A desire to learn and to grow in all that our Lord commanded His disciples, and thus each of us. Not just to get to this day where you will fully participate in the life of the church in Word and Sacrament, but that you might continue learning and growing through a devotion to all we are taught and led by in Holy Scripture.
As we often say, God doesn’t give commands without also including a promise to walk with us and empower us to follow His commands. And so, the very last verse of Matthew’s Gospel includes this promise, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” God will not leave us, nor will He forsake us, even in the midst of a mission that often seems overwhelmingly difficult. Coming to the font and standing before your congregation is the easy part. Living the life you’ve been called to for the next 10, 20, 50, or 80 years is the hard part. Even so, you have a God who promises to walk with you and never leave you.
All this is important to consider as we look at the Great Commission, but if that’s all that it is, we could very easily lose sight of the fact that behind this commissioning is an even greater mission, which is the combined, cooperative, and perfectly coordinated mission of the three persons of the Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A commission is the granting of the authority to carry out a particular task or duty. We have commissioned work right here in our sanctuary. These stained-glass windows were commissioned to be created for the glory of God and for the purpose of beautifying our worship space and directing our attention to God’s work among us. More recently, the words and art on the wall over here, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” were commissioned so that all who enter into this space will know that here is a place where all that troubles us, and all the sin that plagues us, can be laid at the feet of Jesus. The same artist was commissioned to create the art in our chapel which on so many levels reminds us of the work of Christ, beginning with His incarnation and continuing to today as He offers His body and blood to us in the Sacrament of the Altar. As a congregation, these works were commissioned so that someone with particular skills would carry out a task we wanted completed. God does the same with us. By His unique authority, He calls His people to carry out the work He desires to be accomplished.
As we, the church, are commissioned to carry out the work we’re called to do on earth, we’re reminded that our mission is rooted in God’s mission as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The church’s mission flows from God’s mission and finds its source and power in God’s mission. The key to the mission we’re given is to understand, confess and rejoice that our mission is in fact the mission of the Triune God who provides direction, strength and purpose for all that we do in His name. But it’s not about us. It’s about what God wants done for the sake of His kingdom, which is that all would come to know the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.
It’s a mission that begins in the heart of God the Father. It’s the heart that God has had for all eternity. From the moment He began creation His heart was to be close to us. To walk with us and grow in relationship with us. Sin corrupted this plan, but it didn’t change the heart of God. Over and over again, the Bible portrays God the Father as a seeking God and a sending God. One who seeks the lost and sends His very own Son into the world to save each and every one of us who cannot save ourselves.
And it’s in God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, that His mission has its center. The Bible, from beginning to end, points to Christ. It’s the message proclaimed in Peter’s sermon in Acts that Jesus is the promised Messiah, sent by the Father to reconcile the world to Himself by His life, death, and resurrection.
And of course, as we celebrate Holy Trinity today, we remember that God’s mission not complete without the work of all three persons of the Trinity and so we remember that God’s mission is empowered by the Holy Spirit. The Father and the Son together send the Holy Spirit as their mission partner in God’s great plan of salvation. His work of calling, gathering, enlightening, and sanctifying the whole Christian church on earth is essential to God’s mission and to our daily walk with Him. It’s an ongoing work that hs called Landon to the waters of Baptism today. It’s a persistent work that has gathered Ted and Steph into God’s assembly and our fellowship. And the Holy Spirit’s work is a constant presence in all our lives, assuring that when we lean on Him we will never be overwhelmed by the size of the task or the fierceness of the enemy. Because each day, God’s mission, that of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is also our mission. And when we understand God and His mission, only then can we understand the church’s role, and participate in it properly, joyfully, and confidently.
And we do so by living out our vocations each day because in each of these He has equipped us with the necessary gifts to be His church in the world. It looks different in each place where God is working, but today this is what God’s mission looks like. It looks like a little child being brought to the waters of Holy Baptism. It looks like a couple publicly professing their faith. And it looks like a congregation celebrating the work of the Great Commission, which is the church on earth, appointed by the authority of God to carry out a particular task or duty. We rejoice in the fact that our God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – allows and encourages us to work with Him in His mission. The church’s Great Commission. Designed by God for His glory and for the salvation of many. Do not trust in yourselves in this work, but in Him, as you share the Good News of the Father’s love in Jesus Christ with others by the power of the Holy Spirit. “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 obey all that I have commanded you. And behold, I will be with you always, to the end of the age.” Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.