Welcome to our final podcast of the week, and the conclusion of Matthew’s Gospel. I hope that you have found it helpful to reflect on the events of Easter, during the season of Advent.
Next week, Liam will bring us 5 thoughts on the opening chapters of Luke’s Gospel – giving us the chance to read again the story of Christmas, as we begin the final week of preparations before that great day of celebration!
Today though, our Bible focus is Matthew 28 verses 19 and 20: the last words that Jesus spoke before he ascended back to Heaven. In them he says, “Therefore 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.”
Our theme is: Jesus – the One who sends us.
Traditionally, the kings of Israel were seen as chosen people, anointed representatives of God on earth. They were the ones expected to uphold the kingdom of Israel as a kingdom of faith, and to ensure that the people kept the covenant and observed the laws associated with this.
However, Jesus’ words in verse 19 and 20 reveal how he intends that this concept should be completely flipped on its head.
Instead of anointing a single king to establish His kingdom on the earth; Jesus says we are all anointed, expected, to take on the role of sharing the good news of the Gospel…….Jesus is choosing us.
And even more than that, this role and purpose is not simply about maintaining a kingdom.
Whereas the remit of the kings of Israel was the spiritual leadership solely of the Jewish people; we are told to set our sights on something much greater, much larger. We are to go and make disciples in ALL nations……Jesus is sending us.
Our purpose – our lifelong mission – is all about expansion of the kingdom.
How do we do that?
I used to be a History teacher, so I’m going to draw on a few examples from the past to think about how we are a sent people, with the purpose of expanding the kingdom of God on earth…..
Firstly, kingdom expansion can come through battle – think of William the Conqueror, Richard the Lionheart or a number of King Henrys and King Edwards fighting the Wars of the Roses.
I am obviously not suggesting that we physically fight – however we are called to do battle in prayer.
Are we regularly praying for people of peace? Praying for friends, neighbours and colleagues that don’t know Jesus, to come into a relationship with him? Jesus is not sending us ill equipped (he promises the Holy Spirit), but as we saw on Wednesday, we are called to prepare. And when it comes to expansion of the kingdom, that preparation is through prayer.
Secondly, kingdoms can be expanded through royal proclamation. The first Royal Proclamation was issued by King George III in 1763 to claim territory in North America after Britain won the Seven Years War. In that Royal Proclamation, ownership over North America was issued to King George, and his kingdom expanded.
Proclamation is a vital aspect to the expansion of Jesus’ kingdom here on earth.
The expansion of that kingdom relies on us declaring who the one true monarch is. It involves us telling people who sent us.
When was the last time that you told someone that you were a Christian? Have you ever chatted to someone and told them the difference that Jesus makes to your life? Have you invited anyone to come on Alpha and find out more about Jesus?
We are sent to say who Jesus is.
Thirdly, kingdoms can grow through royal progresses. Henry VIII and Elizabeth I both used these to great effect. A royal progress is not intended to grow your kingdom in terms of territory, but its purpose is to grow support, or develop stronger connection or relationship to the monarch, because people actually see their king or queen close up or in person.
In terms of us being a sent people; the expansion of God’s kingdom involves us living out the gospel in the world. Showing others who Jesus is, close up, through the way we live our lives, handle our money, relate to our spouse, or treat people in the office.
We are sent to show who Jesus is.
Finally, kingdoms grow and expand because people are integrated into the culture of the kingdom. A great example of this is the Roman Empire. Yes, the Romans did have an awesome military machine; however, once they had won new lands, they then began a process of bringing Roman culture to these areas. People began to adopt the customs, language and traditions of the Romans.
When Jesus sends us to people, he does not say we are to go and then leave again straight away. He says we are sent to make disciples and teach people – this is not a 5 minute job!
It is about relationship, investment, and journeying with people as they grow in their faith, and helping them to live as followers of Christ in the world. And obviously this also means seeing them become sent people themselves.
Continuing the pattern of ‘s’ words…..we are sent to support.
Jesus is the one who Sends us.
We are sent to pray
Sent to say
Sent to show
And sent to support
Who is Jesus sending you to today?
Heavenly Father, thank you that you sent your son to earth, to die for us. Help us to take on our true purpose – and be people who are sent to make disciples. Amen.
READING: Matthew 28: 16-20
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising 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. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’