Over the last few weeks at Becontree Avenue Baptist Church, Pastor Sue Millar has been, in her sermons, talking about the Resurrection and the disciples’ reactions to this momentous event. In particular she has been focusing on Peter, how his life has been turned around and how Jesus gave him the job of pastoring his fellow believers.
You may able to find her recent talks here:http://www.becavebaptistchurch.org.uk/Morning%20services%20messages%20library.htm
So today I preached about what in many Bible is called “The Great Commission” the task that Jesus gave to his followers to spread the good news of Jesus through out the world.
For a few weeks you can listen to this talk here: http://www.becavebaptistchurch.org.uk/Morning%20service%20recordings/5.5.13%20Message%20Matt%2028%20v%2016%20to%2020.mp3 It is slightly different to what you can read below.
Matthew 28:16 – 20
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Have you ever been given a special job to do?
Maybe it was something simple but important. Or perhaps it was very difficult and you wondered how you could ever do it.
A long time ago when I was in what is now called Year 2 in the Infants school, I had my turn at a very important job. We all took it in turns with a friend to report to the school secretary’s office just short of 9 o’clock. We would then be give the school bell. The two of us would then go into the playground to find the teacher on playground duty. At what she judge to be the appropriate moment you got to ring the bell for all you were worth!
When I was still quite young, I recall that it was approaching tea time and my mum decided there wasn’t enough bread to feed the horde. Well, including mum and dad there were seven of us. So I was sent with what appeared to me to be a king’s ransom, to the baker’s shop at the end of the road. It was probably just further than here to the Manse. I arrived somewhat nervous and asked the lady behind the counter for a sliced white loaf and parted with the money: 1/1 ½ d (That’s about 6p now). Then I went home having completed my commission.
Years later two of my friends helped me with a very difficult task. A piston in my car engine had cracked and broken, resulting in the need to have the car towed home many miles from home. As Gaynor and I were saving up to get married, my friends said, it would be cheaper for us to do the repairs ourselves. So we hired a block and tackle and a gantry and proceeded to take out the engine. I was the one underneath the car disconnecting bits and guiding the engine out. I was on my back looking up at several hundredweight of engine suspended over my head. It was at that point that my friends tell me this is the first time they have ever done anything like this before! Amazingly we replaced the broken piston, replaced the engine, connected everything back together and it started first turn of the key!
As Christians we all have jobs to do for Jesus. Being a Christian is not a spectator sport, we are all called to do our part in spreading the gospel. The journey of faith is not like being a passenger on a bus, just sitting down to enjoy the ride.
For the last few weeks we have been looking at the Easter story and the events that followed Jesus’ resurrection. In particular Sue had been focussing on Peter and the way his life was changed and turned around. Its amazing to read that despite the way Peter had failed, and we all fail, Jesus tells him to look after the other disciples, to be their shepherd.
Today we are thinking amongst other things at Jesus’ ascension into Heaven.
Jesus has been seen on several occasions by the disciples and many of his followers. Indeed Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:6 “ After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.”
And now 40 days after Jesus rose from the dead, he is about to go back to heaven. He had already told them before he was arrested that he would be going back to God. But he would not leave his followers alone as God would send the Holy Spirit, the Comforter to lead them.
We tend to think of a Comforter as someone who soothes and consoles people. Maybe as a child when you’ve been ill, mum or dad will have put their arms around you and comforted you and made you feel better.
And yet there is another meaning to the word. In the famous Bayeux tapestry is a scene where the Norman soldiers seem to be flagging and William the Conqueror is shown almost jabbing his troops into action with his sword. The caption states “William comforts his soldiers”.
So we should be prepared for the Holy Spirit not only to console us but to encourage us and stir us up for action. We heard last week what happened to Peter in Acts 2 after the Holy Spirit came to be with the disciples. He becomes this bold preacher and in a day brings 3,000 to faith.
Here in Matthew’s gospel is “The great commission”, a job for all Christians not just for the pastors and leaders.
Jesus 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.”
This command is given to simple men who in all probability have never left the country they were born in. Very few people travelled in those days. The ordinary folk would go to Jerusalem for the major Jewish festivals and the year Jesus was born they had to go to their original home town for the Census. But other than that travel was rare. No exotic holidays or Easy Jet or Euro star, or a quick trip to the seaside. It just didn’t happen.
Yet Jesus wants his followers to go into the whole world with the good news.
Today things are different. Travel is more commonplace. I suspect there are very few people here today who have never left Dagenham. Quite a few of you were born abroad.
If you were one of the early followers of Jesus how would you feel learning that you’ve just been given the task of spreading the gospel all around the world?
The world is a big place. It was thought in Jesus’ time that there were 153 nations in the then known world. Hence why the other week we read about the disciples bringing the net ashore with 153 fish in it. Perhaps they would then remember when they first met Jesus, and he called them to be fishers of men. What also amazed the disciples was that the net didn’t break, which gives the message that there is room for many many people in the kingdom of heaven.
It really is a big task and on our own its beyond us.
In one of his books, the Christian author Max Lucado describes a make believe town where people climb into their cars, start the engine, slip the hand brake off and then get out to push the car to their hoped for destination. They come up with all sorts of excuses as to why they don’t use the engine to propel the car. They are exhausted and make hardly any progress.
And that’s why God has sent his Holy Spirit to help us, inspire us, guide us, encourage us and give us the tools to do the job. He stirs us up into action. If we don’t allow the Spirit to help us we are like those folk pushing their cars.
God even arranges circumstances to put us in places where we may not ordinarily expect to be, to meet people we wouldn’t normally meet.
We don’t have to be eloquent Bible teachers or preachers to tell be people about Jesus. We just need to be ourselves and follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Several years ago, an elderly lady at a previous church I attended, broke her hip and went into hospital. Quite a few people were despairing about Win. But God had a purpose for her. In hospital she was able to pray with people, read the Bible to them and comfort them.
We just have to follow God’s prompting.
Whilst we read in the Acts of the Apostles that the disciples were spreading the good news of Jesus in and around Jerusalem, it took a major shake up to get them out of their comfort zone. And this happened when the early church was persecuted by the Jews and the believers fled Jerusalem. And of course everywhere they went they formed relationships and told those they met the good news.
Not everyone of us is called to go abroad as a missionary. For many of us our mission field is our street, our school or college or our workplace or the club we go to, or where we shop.
Our responsibility is to tell people about Jesus. It is God through the Holy Spirit who convinces people and brings them to faith.
It’s our job, wherever we go to spread the good news like the biblical farmer scattering or broadcasting seed across the field. We may never see the seeds germinate and take root, that could be someone else’s job. To be honest in the work I do as a funeral minister I must share something of God’s love with about 14,000 people a year, rarely do I see the same people again or have the opportunity to see how they are doing. I’ve done my job.
A long time ago at a previous church a member of the prayer ministry team arrived at my door with a scripture for me, Ezekiel 3:18 – 20 “When I say to a wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself.”
We just have to deliver the message, and not worry whether the recipient believes or not. That’s God’s part.
Our job is to do our job.
We may think we don’t have the qualifications for the job or we are the wrong age.
Moses was 80 when God commissioned him to get the people of Israel out of Egypt.
Jeremiah the prophet told God he was too young for the job. God knew otherwise.
Gideon was afraid when God gave him the task of freeing the Israelites from the Midianites. You can imagine him answering God and saying “Here I am Lord, send someone else!” And yet, Gideon became a powerful man of God.
We don’t have to be gifted communicators. Just telling our story is what often counts. Some years ago I heard a very powerful woman of God called Leisl Alexander whom God used mightily in bringing people to faith and bringing them healing. She just gave her testimony of how God had turned her life around and then prayed with people and God did the rest.
Do note that Jesus commissions us to make disciples, not church goers or religious people or just believers but disciples, people committed to follow Jesus and his teachings come what may.
And the final point to the great commission is that Jesus promises us to be with us right to the end. So we may feel we are on our own and there is no one to help us, but Jesus is there for us, the one who elsewhere in the Bible promises to never leave us of forsake us.
As we go from here back into the world lets pray for that presence of Jesus through the Holy Spirit so that we can do our part in fulfilling the great commission to make disciples in all the world. Amen.