What is your reaction when you read Matthew 28? For many of us it leaves us feeling guilty. We know the standing order Jesus leaves his disciples; to go with the gospel, but we find it hard and we’re haunted by past failures. For others it stirs up feelings of inadequacy, we hear Jesus say go and we think I can’t. It was OK for the Apostles but I’m such a failure. I’m barely limping along as a Christian, barely holding everything together, barely reading my Bible or praying, what right do I have to share the gospel with anyone, what kind of a witness would I be? For others of us it’s fear. We know that if we share the gospel with our colleagues, friends and family they’ll challenge us, they’ll ask us what gives us the right to claim to have the truth, who gives us the right to talk of sin and forgiveness.
But what if we struggle with those feelings because we’ve only heard part of what Jesus is saying? We’re all experts at that aren’t we? We listen to something and only take away part of what’s said. We want to look intently at Jesus words this morning, at the context Matthew records and ask what is Jesus really calling us to? And how can we obey him?
Matthew’s gospel shows us God’s long promised kingdom breaking into the world. It opens with a genealogy (1v1-17), reminding us with every successive begat that the world has been holding it’s breath waiting. Waiting for the Son who would bless all nations promised to Abraham, for the eternal king who will bring God’s Kingdom promised to David, for the one who would end spiritual exile promised through the prophets. And now he’s here, born of Mary conceived of the Spirit, Immanuel God with us come to save his people from their sins (1v18-23).
Throughout the gospel Matthew records Jesus teaching with authority, acting as God alone can act; stilling storms, walking on water, feeding thousands, forgiving sin, raising the dead, cleansing from defilement. Again and again rolling back the consequences of sin and showing the joy of living in God’s kingdom. But then suddenly, abruptly, he’s betrayed, arrested, condemned, crucified, cut off, breathes his last, and is buried. But now he’s alive again raised to life as the ultimate proof the he is the Messiah and Lord, God with us, and even death cannot hold him.
The disciples have spent 3 years following Jesus, they know what day to day life was like with its wonders and miracles and joys and challenges. But now as they walk the 70 miles from Jerusalem to Galilee as he told them (28v7) the big question is what next? What does it look like to follow the resurrected Jesus? The resurrection changes everything but what does that mean for following Jesus?
It’s little wonder that when they arrive and see Jesus some worship and some doubted – not doubting whether he’s alive – after all they can see him– but hesitating, uncertain what it means, how this changes things. What does discipleship of a risen Messiah look like? And particularly as each carries their guilt for failure and their fear of the religious authorities. Can flawed followers be any use in the risen King’s kingdom? Isn’t that a question often ask? I wonder how you answer it?Our society prizes the successful, the brilliant, the strong, the high achiever, the never-fails. It writes off the weak, the vulnerable, the struggling, the limping. But what about Jesus?