Jesus’ Power and Presence Make All the Difference in the World
Jesus’ Power and Presence Make All the Difference in the World
Text: Matthew 28:16-20
For 40 days the disciples were reveling in the resurrection glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. How wonderful it had been! They touched him. They talked with him. They were taught by him. Their minds were opened to finally understand the Scriptures. This was not just their Teacher, this was their Savior!
Yet Matthew reveals an interesting insight from the 40th day: “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” Really, disciples? Really? You have been walking and talking with the God of all whom you witnessed risen from the dead. But you are still going to doubt? You still are hesitating and wavering in your faith? To make things worse, Jesus rises up into the heavens and, POOF—he’s gone! If they were doubting before, when they saw Jesus, how much were they doubting after he had left!
This sounds a little too familiar. Easter was grand this year. Here at Christ the King we set an all-time record once again for attendance. The church was packed. We had great music. We belted out great hymns. In fact, in one of the Easter services 43 days ago some might remember we sang the hymn we just finished, Crown Him with Many Crowns. It is hard not to walk away from Easter with joy and confidence in your heart, and a pep in your step.
Yet here we are some 40 days later. Like the disciples, somehow we’ve slipped back into some bad habits. We may have been worshiping the risen Savior these last 40 days, but doubts have been racing through our minds every day. Really? We praise the risen Jesus on Easter, we acknowledge his power and glory, and we don’t even make it 40 days (some of us barely made it 2 days after Easter!) without doubting him! And then, to make things worse, we are reminded on Ascension Day that Jesus has risen up into the heavens and, POOF—he’s gone! And then, as if it couldn’t get any more challenging, he sends us off to make disciples for him!
The angels who spoke to the first disciples could ask us the same question (depicted on the service folder cover), “Why do you stand here looking into the sky?” Like the first disciples, we stand dumbfounded, wanting so badly to see Jesus again and to have him here. So we do all we can to remember him. We wear cross necklaces. We put “Jesus Fish” on our cars. We get crown-of-thorns tattoos. But it doesn’t seem to help, does it?
I want Jesus! I want the real Jesus here—now! That would make all the difference in the world! What if we could sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to him in person? Who wants to listen to some young, crazy pastor or a younger, more handsome vicar preach and teach? I want Jesus! Who wants to go to counseling and work on problems? Couldn’t Jesus help me better? I want Jesus! Who wants to solve conflicts? Who wants to work hard every day? Who wants to pay bills? What wants to ache? Who wants to cry? And who wants to go and make disciples of all nations while suffering through all of that? I want Jesus! That would make all the difference in the world!
Such sinful and shameful doubts and worries! How quickly our minds filter out the most impressive of promises that Jesus gave to us just before he ascended. We remember often Jesus’ important words in what we call the “Great Commission,” “Go 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 I have commanded you.” That we remember. But quickly we forget that Jesus sandwiched this command with two beautiful promises.
Here’s the first: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Many people want power in our world today. Businesspeople fight to become CEOs and COOs of major corporations. Politicians battle to be voted in as leaders of cities, states, or countries. Celebrities claw and climb their way to the top of the race to become the most famous, the most glamorous, and the most rich. In our world, those with the most votes or the most money or the most land or the most oil or the most missiles—those are the most powerful. Yet they really have no power at all, because all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus.
Here’s why that is challenging though: Jesus doesn’t show his power the way others do in our world. Jesus doesn’t have the most magazine covers. He doesn’t own the biggest mansion in Miami. He isn’t the CEO of Apple or Google.
No, Jesus’ power is a hidden power. His power is hidden at the cross. His power is hidden under sweat and blood. His power is hidden behind groans of, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” His power is hidden in a tomb.
These things seem weak, not powerful. But they most surely are. Hidden behind all that suffering is a God who was carrying the weight of all your wrongs. Hidden behind all that blood is a God who was washing away your every sin. Hidden behind that closed tomb was a God who died to take your place. Hidden, there we see power that crushed Satan and conquered death. Hidden, there we see power that flung wide the gates of heaven for you and for me to enter through.
So also today, Jesus’ power is a different kind of power. It’s a hidden power. It’s hidden in a book, a book that looks like other books. It has a cover and lots of pages and lots of words. But these words are God’s words. Everyone one of them is. And this Word of God has the power to change lives. Then we see his power hidden with water as he washes people and adopts them into his family in baptism. We see his power hidden with bread and wine as he comes to us and tells us, this is my body and blood for you, for the forgiveness of sins.
There is no need to doubt. There is no need to worry. There is no need to stand dumbfounded, gazing up into the sky. Jesus has all authority and all power over heaven and earth. It may be hidden for now, but that power is with us every day, and that makes all the difference in the world!
As if this promise were not enough by itself, and knowing how we frail humans think, Jesus gives us one more amazing promise of comfort. Here’s the last sentence of this paragraph, the last sentence of the book of Matthew, and perhaps the last words Jesus spoke while he was here in this world: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Family members visit from out of town, but then need to pack up and go back home. Neighbors get new jobs and leave town. Children grow up and move out. But Jesus is with us always, to the very end of the age.
Like his power we may not see his presence, but he’s here. He’s here with us today. He’s with you at home. He’s with you at work. He’s with you when you’re crying and desperate. He’s with you when you’re trying to figure out your problems. He’s with you when the world seems against you. He’s with you when you have all the friends in the world, and he’s with you when it feels like you have no friends in the world. The God who loved you enough to die to take away your sins, who loved you enough to give you life forever in heaven, who loved you enough to promise you his power, also loves you enough to be with you always, to the very end of the age.
There is no need to doubt. There is no need to worry. There is no need to stand dumbfounded, gazing up into the sky. Jesus is with you every step, every day, and his presence makes all the difference in the world!
Just like bread is the important outsides, but the really good stuff is the peanut butter and jelly on the inside . . . or just like the two cookies are so important, but the really good stuff is the cream inside an Oreo . . . so now after these two important promises of substance we come back to the really good stuff on the inside—the Great Commission. “Go 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 I have commanded you.”
Note how Jesus isn’t giving us a suggestion here. “If you are ever in the mood for it . . . If you have a little spare time . . . If the timing is right . . . then go and make disciples.” No! Jesus gives us a command: “Make disciples!”
Scary, isn’t it? Difficult, isn’t it? It doesn’t sound like a fun task. It doesn’t sound like an easy task. There are easier things to talk about. Wouldn’t you rather talk to someone about the election? “Can President Obama stick his nose out any further trying to win again?” Wouldn’t you rather talk about the NBA playoffs? “Will LeBron James and the Miami Heat choke again? What happened to all the championships they promised?”
Yet Jesus didn’t command us to talk about politics or sports or the weather. He commanded us to share what he has done and thus make disciples. As we do that, there are two important ways we can continue to make disciples—by baptizing people and by teaching them everything Jesus told us.
This is one of the reasons Jesus visibly left and ascended into heaven. He has work for us to do. Important work. Where would you be today if no one took the time to share the good news with you? Who was it that baptized you? Who was it that told you the truth about Jesus and forgiveness and heaven? I’m so privileged to say that for many of you, I was the one. Maybe it was a different pastor. Maybe it was your mother or father, your grandmother or grandfather. Maybe it was a teacher. Maybe it was a friend. Maybe you were baptized and taught a long, long time ago. Maybe just a little while ago. But where would you be if no one told you that Jesus is your Savior who washed all your sins away? Better yet, where would you be eternally if no one told you about Jesus?
So we can ask the same about others. Where will they be eternally if no one tells them? Jesus wants to use you and me (of all people!) to share the good news with others. He wants you to tell your neighbor, your friend, your cousin, your coworker, the person next to you at Walmart (yes you can talk to those people in those really long lines!). Without Jesus they are eternally lost. With Jesus they will join us in eternal life. And Jesus is giving us the privilege to share that good news!
This last week I was in Milwaukee for some meetings. Tuesday my father had a difficult task. He had a funeral service to do. But it was an especially tough one. It was the funeral for a baby that had lived only a few hours. The young mother had a heart attack and was briefly in a coma early in the pregnancy. Though the baby survived, not long after it became necessary for both that the baby be delivered at around 24 weeks. The child only survived a few hours.
But these were great young parents of faith. The father baptized the new baby and that child was certainly adopted into God’s family and shortly after welcomed into heaven. My dad visited them in the hospital and said, “How wonderful and how unique that all on one day I can tell you, “Congratulations, condolences, and congratulations! Congratulations on the birth and baptism! Condolences on the death! Congratulations on your child being in heaven forever!”
Someone took the time to share Jesus and carry out the Great Commission with these parents. They took the time to make their little baby a disciple of Christ. Someone took the time to carry out the Great Commission with you. Now Jesus wants you to carry it out and make disciples of others.
Sound scary? Sound difficult? Not to worry! We have Jesus’ power and presence, and that makes all the difference in the world!
Posted on May 21, 2012, in Church, Sermons and tagged Ascension, Baptism, Church, Disciples, Evangelism, Great Commission, Infant Baptism, Jesus, Jesus' Power, Matthew, Matthew 28, Outreach, Power, Presence, Sermons. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.