Stories are so important. We know this because in Cape Breton we have so many great story tellers. You know what I mean, those who have you sitting on the edge of your seat, just taking in every word coming from their lips until the big finish which leaves you in awe or rip-roaring laughter.
We used to go to my father’s uncle’s cottage when we were growing up. It wasn’t far outside of Halifax towards the Valley. When Uncle Skip began telling a story, we were hooked. He was fascinating and seemed to know so much great history of the area. Stories from his hunting and fishing days. Stories from adventures on the lake or local history. Even his stories on his genealogical research on his wife’s family was something you wanted to listen for.
He had gathered a history of the family that was very extensive without the use of computers (he had done much of this through the mid 1980s). He eventually published his work, but it was more interesting to hear in person as he was able to find out stories of the lives of those he found, even from across the sea.
A key element to a good story is the finish. Right? It’s no use telling a story with a weak ending or no point to absorb. You need something to make it memorable, to drive it home!
Well, this morning we read the final words of the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 28:16-20). A short paragraph that packs a big punch. Something we call “the great commission.”
For the last four months we have been looking at Matthew’s account of Jesus’ life. We’ve heard Jesus teach about the kingdom of God. We’ve heard him teach about how to live. We’ve heard him teach about his role in all of this.
We learned about God’s extravagant love and generosity and we saw how Jesus exemplified it for us in his life, death and resurrection.
All we heard has an impact on the world today, and on our lives. Over and over we heard of how a relationship with God through Jesus Christ transforms our lives and brings us into a new life with Him.
And when we get to the end of the Gospel, Jesus tells us what to do next.
Our reading this morning begins with a reminder that not all the disciples made it. We hear how only 11 disciples went to Galilee to meet Jesus as they were told to do by the angel in a message sent through Mary Magdalene.
Only 11 made the journey. A reminder that Judas did not make it, for he had killed himself out of guilt and shame for turning Jesus over to the soldiers for punishment, and eventually his death.
And even there, as those 11 disciples met Jesus, risen from the dead, in person, we hear,
“When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.”
The disciples recognize him. They are celebrating being with him again by worshipping him. But still… there was some doubt.
These 11 disciples, all who had travelled many, many miles with Jesus over the last few years, hearing every word he said, seeing every miracle he performed… they still had some doubt.
There was doubt, even though the knew he had died, like he said he would. Even though they were now standing with him just days later after he left the tomb, like he said he would. Even though they were now standing with him, in the flesh, where he said he would be… they still had doubt.
If anyone should have had it all figured out and all together, it was these 11 men. Yet even as they worshipped him, they couldn’t help but wonder, “What if….?”
So if these men, personally selected by Jesus to travel with him, still had some doubt, I guess it makes it okay if we might have a few questions ourselves once in a while.
If the disciples couldn’t quite commit 100% to the risen Jesus standing right in front of them, then our simple faith, our questions, our struggles are all valid too. And yes, we can still worship and have relationship with Jesus despite them.
And for those disciples, and for us as well, Jesus leaves his final instructions.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Jesus reminds us that he is the ultimate authority. He is God among us. In all of heaven and earth, Jesus rules over all.
So what are we to do? We are to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything he has taught us.
We are to: Go. Baptize. Teach.
Three simple things.
Making disciples by teaching them about Jesus and baptizing them into the faith. That is to welcome them among us and bring them into relationship with us and with Jesus.
Making disciples, baptizing and teaching are not three steps to follow, but a way of life for the community that chooses to follow Jesus as its leader and authority.
Making disciples means we take the faith we have in God through our life transforming relationship with Jesus Christ and sharing it with the world around us.
It means we have a story to share too.
A story of incredible grace, abundant mercy, unimaginable forgiveness, and never-ending love from our Father in heaven offered and shown to us in the God who came among us, Jesus Christ our Lord.
How’s that for a story?
How’s that for something we’d never forget?
How’s that for God’s story, alive and well in the hearts of millions of people, just waiting to be unleashed on the world in a transforming power of healing love offered only through Him?
Jesus lived, died, and rose again so that every person on this earth would now of God’s love.
It’s not our story. It’s God’s story.
And it’s our’s to share.
Go. Baptize. Teach.
The work of the church, our work, to be done in God’s name, as God’s people, in the world.