Created To Be Together
2017 June 11
Genesis 1:1–2:4a; Acts 2:14a, 22–36; Matthew 28:16–20
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Today we commemorate the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is the profession of faith that God is one true God and three persons. The Trinity is not three gods, not three parts to one God, but one God, three persons. This is a divine mystery that cannot be explained in human terms. Our best attempts in describing the Trinity has been through analogies, yet they all describe a form of heresy instead of explaining the truth that is revealed in Scripture. God is not like water that is found in three different forms of liquid, ice, and vapor, that is the heresy of modalism, which states that God takes the form of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, without being all three persons at once. God is not like the sun, where you have the star, light, and heat, that is Arianism, which states Christ and the Holy Spirit are creations of the Father and not proceeding from the Father. Essentially, if you ever hear an analogy in the attempt to describe the Trinity, know it isn’t an analogy that confesses what scripture teaches of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but it is likely a form of ancient heresy.
As I have said before, the Trinity is a divine mystery that cannot be explained through human terms. So, instead of preaching directly on the concept of the Trinity, I’ll preach Jesus from our Gospel reading in Matthew 28.
This is the last chapter in Matthew. This pericope, or section, is well-known among Christians as the “Great Commission.” Jesus is appearing to his eleven disciples because this is after the betrayal and suicide of Judas. In Matthew, this is the second, and final, appearance of the resurrected Jesus to his disciples. The first appearance, Jesus met them as they were headed towards the tomb after Mary Magdalene and the other Mary spoke of his resurrection. On the way to the tomb, Jesus stopped them and said, “Meet me in Galilee.”
So here we are, in verse 16, chapter 28: “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee…” Why Galilee? Why did Jesus send his disciples to Galilee to give them, what is now known as the Great Commission? This is because Galilee is where it all began for Jesus and the disciples.
In the early part of Matthew, Jesus began his ministry in Galilee. In 4:17, “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” It’s where Jesus called Peter, John, and James. Also in Galilee, it’s where Jesus gave the sign of Jonah in chapter 12. Jesus was asked, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you” (v39). Jesus responded, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (vv 39–40). So, why Galilee? Jesus was basically saying to his disciples, “Hey! Remember all those things that I said would happen since the beginning of my earthly ministry? Guess what? They happened and are happening right now!”
So, what was happening at that moment? Looking back to the final chapter of Matthew, Jesus says in verse 18, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” There is some serious weight to what Jesus just told his disciples. He has been given universal authority. He reigns, not only has the king of heaven, but now, the king over the earth. This is exactly what the disciples have been waiting for, Jesus’ reign on earth! Yet, once again, it’s not the way the disciples expected it to be. Once again, Jesus does the unexpected.
There isn’t a command for the disciples to build the largest and most beautiful temple that would have to be greater than any eyes have seen. Instead, Jesus commands this, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…” (v19). He sent them into the world. He began his kingdom by starting the Church.
Remember how there were only eleven disciples? You see, in biblical times, twelve was viewed as a number that signified completeness and perfection. Yet, Jesus is sending his Church out with eleven disciples. The beginning of the Church is incomplete and imperfect.
Pastor Zack, are you calling the Church, the bride of Jesus, imperfect and incomplete. And my answer is, Yes. The Church is a body that is broken and beaten. The body is made up of people that sin constantly, and are sometimes unapologetic about it. The people within the Church may irritate you. They may annoy you. They may upset you. Or worse, they may have hurt you in such a way, that you are unable to forgive. Then, resentment builds up within you, and you can’t bear the sight of that person. So, you may skip some Sundays because you don’t want to deal with that person, or you avoid church altogether and miss out on God’s good gifts to you.
All I can say is, thank God that He doesn’t operate in that way! Thank God that he doesn’t hold a grudge in our constant sinning, or grow impatient of our lies and selfishness. Instead, the broken and beaten body of our Lord, Jesus Christ, hung on the cross and said, “Father, forgive them, for they not know what they have do.” That is perfection. Jesus completed the act of salvation so that we can find his perfect love and forgiveness in the broken body of his beloved bride, the Church. Jesus makes the imperfect Church of eleven into the perfect and complete twelve.
Whenever we think that someone else’s sin has become too much for us to forgive, Jesus meets us where is all began, our baptism. There he says to us, ““Hey! Remember all those things that I said would happen since the beginning of my ministry? Guess what? They happened and are happening right now!” Then he holds out his pierced hand and reaches for you and says, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (v20).
We have broken relationships all around us, both inside and outside of the Church. Yet, it’s in the Church that Christ comes to us in our brokenness and promises to be with us always. It’s in the Church that we were made disciples of all nations, baptized into the Triune God. The Greek word for baptism is “baptisma,” which sounds very familiar to the English. Baptisma is to immerse. Many churches take the meaning of “immerse” and apply it to the mode of which we should baptize. So they teach that baptism is only valid if the person has been “immersed” in the water. However, Jesus doesn’t say that. He says, baptize them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. It is the name of the Triune God that makes our baptism valid, not how we baptize. When we were baptized, we were immersed into the body of Christ, into the bride of Jesus, and into the Church of imperfects and incompletes. It is in the resurrected Christ that we have been made complete and perfect. Not by our works, but by the work of the perfect Lord and completed act of salvation from the cross. Now, we have forgiveness of our imperfection and incompleteness and the hope of a restored kingdom of Jesus, both heaven and earth, today, and in the age to come. As we take comfort that Jesus is with us always.
The kingdom of God is not a stationary building, but a movement. The kingdom of God moves through the command of Jesus when he says, go! We go, to our vocations, to our neighborhoods, to the surrounding community in which God has placed our meeting place, that is Redford and the building of Grace. We go, not alone, but with comfort that Jesus will never leave us! It is by the perfect relationship of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, that we are now participating in through our baptism. We go to others, in the name of the One, triune God, who has made our salvation perfect and complete because we were created to be together.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.