Many things are going through my mind today. It’s my 12 year wedding anniversary today. I got married in the year of the Golden Dragon, Feb 2000, and apparently that is a super lucky year that only comes up once every 60 years. Right before we got married, Jackie and I were going through a rough patch in our spiritual lives. And even on our wedding day, it was gloomy skies. It was pouring during our wedding ceremony. But as soon as the ceremony ended, the rain stopped and we walked out and there was a rainbow. I’m not very charismatic, but for some reason, I look back at that now and say, Thank you, God. Like Noah, right after the flood, God sent him a rainbow to promise to Noah that he would never destroy the earth again. And I felt God telling me, things may get hard, but you will not be destroyed. I will be with you. And the 12 years since have been a roller coast ride of faith. 3.5 years of mission work in Japan and 3 kids and many crises of faith later, God has been and continues to be faithful, not only to me but to many in this room.
A year ago, I was ordained as a pastor. It’s weird having a wedding anniversary and ordination anniversary on the same day. Did I marry this church? Well, kind of… I am reminded about Eph 5 where Paul speaks about marriage, husband and wife and in midstream, he says, actually, I am not talking about marriage, I am talking about a profound mystery–Christ and the church. In marriage, Jackie and I may go through conflicts or fights, but we are married. 12 years ago, we covenanted with each other.
In the same way, in my ordination, I was making a commitment to this local body, to serve, to love those whom God brings until he calls me or one of you elsewhere. But this morning, as I was praying, I was reminded that far more than any covenant that we may make with one another, Jesus has covenanted himself with the church. We commit to one another, but because we are sinners, we break our commitments to one another all the time. Even marriage, the most sacred of covenants, in our day and age, the marriage covenant no longer seems to be binding. But I was so thankful that Jesus covenants with us. And this bond is unbreakable and eternal. And even when we sin and run away and give our hearts away to somebody or something else, Jesus never breaks covenant with us. And one day, he will present us to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. Jesus is the Bridegroom and we are the bride of Christ and we can look forward to the day when we will partake in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
Also, 12 years ago, I was in the prime of my life, physically. Yesterday, I thought I was still in the prime of my life so some of the older brothers and I played flag football and I discovered this morning that I am no longer in the prime of my life. I am hurting.
To start the year, I began to share a few weeks back about the vision for LBC in 2012. If you recall, I described that all Christians, regardless of the specifics of our vocation or calling, all of us are called to obey 3 fundamental truths, or if you are visual person, 3 legs of a tripod: 1) love God, 2) love neighbor and as we will cover today, 3) make disciples.
Three legs of a tripod. A tripod, if you don’t balance the 3 legs evenly, it will collapse. Therein lies the tension. We love God and that drives us to love our neighbors. And as we love our neighbors, our family members, our friends, our church, there is also a pull to love the stranger out there. Making disciples to the ends of the earth. All the while, God’s love is the fuel for loving neighbors and making disciples. Three legs of a tripod.
I want to piggy back off of what Brother Daniel shared last week. He spoke from Psalm 67 and he traced the gospel thread starting from Genesis 1-11. If you think of the entire Bible–Genesis to Revelation–as one cohesive narrative, one story, then these first 11 chapters of Genesis play an important role in setting the stage for the remainder of the biblical narrative.
When you go watch a play, if you want to know the plot at a high level, what do you do? You read the Play Bill and it gives you the main characters and the general story line. And then you watch the play to see how the story unfolds in all the little details.
In Genesis 1-11, we are reading the Play Bill of God’s redemption plan at a high level. And the rest of the Bible is how that plan of redemption has unfolded and is continuing to unfold in human history. There is a cycle that repeats itself in those first 11 chapters, a cycle of sin, judgment and redemptive hope. And this cycle, functioning at a micro, personal level is a foreshadowing for the larger cycle which will repeat at a macro level throughout human history.
That’s the Play Bill and now in Act 1, we have the Abrahamic covenant in Gen 12:1-3. I want to read from the ESV because this is one instance where the NIV translation misses something critical to the meaning of the passage as a whole. The ESV brings out a crucial conjunction that is not present in the NIV.
Gen 12 (ESV)
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, SO THAT you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
The NIV simply translates this as I will bless you and make your name great AND you will be a blessing. But this misses the purpose of the blessing, you are blessed by God SO THAT you will be a blessing. The reason God blesses you, the purpose of that blessing is so that you can be a blessing.
In Gal 3:6-9, Paul takes this Abrahamic covenant and connects it with the gospel.
6 Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 7 Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. 8 The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the GOSPEL in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
This is a fantastic passage. The Abrahamic covenant was given not so Abraham would be blessed only, but he was blessed SO THAT the blessing would go forth from him and reach all nations. And Paul says, that covenant to Abraham was a pre-announcement of the gospel. Amazing. God had the blessing and redemption of all the nations in mind from the very beginning.
Sounds very much like the the Great Commission. Preach the gospel to all nations, the message of the risen Christ.
Even in the New Testament, when the first disciples are called by Jesus to follow him, they were fishermen and they laid down their nets to follow Jesus. And what did Jesus say to them? Jesus said, you used to catch fish, now I will make you fishers of men. You will catch men and women. You will be my tool of salvation to the ends of the earth.
Here’s the outline for today.
1) I want to start by looking at the disciples’ reaction when they first witnessed the risen Christ.
2) Then, I want to look at the word authority–all authority in heaven and on earth has been give to me.
3) Third, I want to look at the grammar concerning the verbs in the Great Commission.
4) Fourth, in light of the grammar and those verbs, I want to answer, what then is the main thrust of the Great Commission?
5) Lastly, I want to end with the promise that closes up the Great Commission–And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
In v16-17, we see a strange mixture of reactions by the disciples. The 11 disciples went to Galilee to wait for Jesus and they saw the risen Jesus with their own eyes. They worshiped him and you kind of expect that. But that’s not all they did. We read that some doubted. Who doubted?
We are talking about Jesus’ core disciples. His inner circle. They are witnessing the risen Jesus. They are seeing Jesus in a glorified state with their own eyes. Yet, they doubted.
Sometimes, we wonder, how could these guys doubt? If I saw the risen Christ, if I witnessed this miracle firsthand, I would never doubt and I would be a super Christian. Don’t we do that? God, if you just answer this prayer, if you reveal yourself by coming through because I’m in a jam, then I will believe. And then, we get disappointed when our prayers aren’t answered the way we want, according to our own timetable and what happens? Doubt begins to creep in. God, are you there? Christianity, is it for real?
What can we learn from this? Salvation, as well as spiritual life for believers, is not a matter of signs and miracles. It’s not having the right doctrine. It’s not apologetics and convincing people into the kingdom of God and convincing them to stay there.
These were eyewitnesses of the resurrection and the Word of God in the flesh, Jesus, is preaching, yet some still doubted. It reminds us that spiritual life is a gift. Only God can open eyes to the truth. We have to just keep seeking Him. Doubt can paralyze you and when you are doubting, often, you will want to throw in the towel.
Don’t give up. To stop seeking is the worst thing you can do. Open the Word of God each daily. Keep seeking, keep reading, keep meditating, keep praying. He will come. The Spirit may come and illuminate a verse or passage when you least expect it. Come to each service with an expectant heart. I want to meet with Jesus. Just like for these disciples–they kept seeking and waiting until Pentecost.
That’s the context. For 40 days, Jesus appeared to various groups to show that he had resurrected. And right before ascending to heaven, he gives his final address, the Great Commission.