By Jared Warner
Willow Creek Friends Church
June 7, 2020
Matthew 28:16–20 (ESV)
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The year is rushing on past. When we began this shelter in place discipline it was still hockey season and now it is hitting ninety degrees outside. It seems as if we missed spring entirely. And unfortunately, we are not out of the woods yet. Yes, the pandemic is not in the news as much, but the reality is in Missouri it is still very real, the new cases of Covid are continuing to increase in our city. But that is not the only concern, our communities are still struggling with unemployment that has reached the highest point in our nation’s history. And that is not even all the concerns facing us. For the past week there has been civil unrest throughout our nation, unrest that began as a protest bringing awareness to injustices that are occurring within our neighborhoods, especially within the neighborhoods populated primarily by minority groups. These issues and our opinions on them threaten to divide us, but it can also unite us. The events that lead to the death of George Floyd and so many others should never be acceptable because it denies the rights that our nation champions throughout the world.
My heart has been heavy this past week. I like many posted things on the internet that sparked controversy. I do not want the controversy. I love my community, I love my country, I love the heritage that has given hope to so many people. A hope that I was taught was for all people.
There is much uncertainty in our world today. There is a great deal of fear coursing throughout our thoughts and in our streets. But we have been in these places before. Lucretia Mott, one of the great Quaker ministers that stood for liberty, the abolition of slavery, and for women’s rights once said, “If our principles are right, why should we be cowards?” Let those words resonate in your mind. If our principles are right, why should we be cowards?
Equality is one of the core beliefs within the Friends Church, or the religious society of Friends. From the very beginning of our history we have encouraged the ministry of women and men. And during the colonial period of our nation’s history, the Friends tried their hardest to treat the indigenous people with respect and even though the king of England gave William Penn the land that would become Pennsylvania, Penn was lead in his spirit to not take into his possession the land without first securing the rights with the Native Americans living there. The early Friends believed in equality, they believed that every human being should be treated with respect because they bear the image of God. This has been our belief, and we have paid for our beliefs.
This week is also the anniversary of the hanging of Mary Dyer in Boston. Mary came to the new world like so many, with hope and dreams. She and her family left England because they sought fortune and adventure, but they also left because they wanted to live their faith freely. Mary was a minister, and her husband was not. Her husband, while attempting to provide for his family and survive in the wilderness, encouraged Mary to minister. And she boldly taught and preached in the colonies of New England. But in many of these areas there were laws against these sorts of things. She was a Quaker, and being a Quaker was illegal in the colonies surrounding Massachusetts. She was told to keep quiet and to leave, but she, with the support of her husband, would not be quiet and she proceeded to preach. This angered the leaders, and she was executed. We might not think too much of this, but her death was what caused many to question their principles. Her death in many ways promoted the colonies to recognize the human right to practice their faith in whatever way they saw fit. The death of Mary ensured our freedom to worship.
If our principles are right why should we be cowards? Jesus took his disciples out to a mountain. They followed him to this mountain, but they did not fully understand what this journey would entail. They had spent three years following Jesus. They walked where he walked, they ate what and where he ate. They listened to his teachings, and they watched as he performed miracles that were beyond their wildest imagination. They followed Jesus for three years. They watched as Jesus challenged the authorities. As Jesus taught, he challenged beliefs that they had held their entire lives, but he did not simply teach these things he lived them out.
Often when we think of Jesus, we do not always see the whole picture. Jesus was born, he grew up within a community just like every other child. He went to school in his local synagogue. Synagogues were more than places of worship; they were centers of education and community enrichment. Like every young boy Jesus went to learn, he learned to read the scrolls of scripture. He listened as the Rabbis taught their interpretations of what they read. And when he became a man, he entered the family business. He worked from the age of thirteen along side his cousins, Joseph, and his uncles. He lived like this for thirty years.
The community he lived was not a large town. It was extremely small. Everyone knew everyone. So, people knew who Jesus was. When he began his ministry, it was in a small community. We do not really know how Jesus went from living in Nazareth to Capernaum but maybe he was hired to help build the synagogue. Because we are told that one of the people involved in a healing performed by Jesus was a God fearing Roman, that had financed construction to Capernaum’s place of worship.
Jesus was known by those within that community, and he began his ministry within his own community. These people listened to his teaching and they responded because Jesus lived it out before their eyes. He worshiped with them, he withdrew to isolated places to pray, and he would minister to the needs that he saw. There was no hypocrisy in his word and action. Yet at times his words challenged them.
The disciples followed Jesus, listening to those words for three years. They watched as he lived his message out before them, and the participated when he encouraged them. But eventually the authorities did not like what they saw. They were afraid that they would lose some of their privilege if Jesus a common carpenter continued to attract attention. Their fear caused division. Their divisions caused hardening of stances and more ridged adherence to their favorite interpretation. They were annoyed by Jesus, they wanted to force him to choose a side, or force him to say something that would discredit his standing within the community. Jesus saw around their power plays. And he challenged them to a greater degree. Then someone with a disability entered the place of worship on the sabbath, Jesus healed that man. And the leaders began to unite against Jesus. He continued to teach, and the crowds continued to come. But sabbath after sabbath people were being healed. Jesus seemingly sought to find people on the sabbath to heal just to cause greater trouble. But when Jesus invited a crippled woman into the place of worship and healed her, the religious leaders had had enough. She was not accepted in that area of the sacred space, and Jesus healed her. Two transgressions to their interpretation of the law.
The disciples watched, listened, and followed. They were there when the authorities unjustly arrested Jesus on trumped up charges. And they watched as the governmental officials judged him not guilty but crucified him anyway. They had just a few weeks earlier proclaimed Jesus to be their king, and the only one that had the words of life, and they then locked themselves in a room out of fear.
But now they are following Jesus to a mountain. Much has changed over the course of a month. Jesus was dead and buried. They were locked in a room, and suddenly Jesus was alive and eating with them again. They did not understand it, and they could hardly believe it, and some even doubted, but Jesus showed them his hands where the nails pierced him, he even told Thomas to put his hand into the wound left by the spear. The doubt left their minds. Jesus was alive, walking and eating with them. And now on the last day that he was with them, they go to this mountain and Jesus give them the mission that will be their life’s work.
“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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 
There is much in statement. When Jesus says all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him, what comes to mind? Ms. Mott has another interesting quote saying, “Truth for authority, not authority for truth.” Jesus has authority because he is truth, he is the word that was spoken to bring the world into existence. He conquered death, a death that the authority of mankind caused, and he lives. Jesus has authority because Christ lives.
Truth for authority, not authority for truth. Jesus once said, “and do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” The world seeks to impose authority with force, but that will not last. Jesus also says that those that live by the sword will die by the sword. He is alluding to this unending cycle in human existence where empires are striving to grasp and maintain power and influence but every empire throughout history has eventually come to an end. The world’s authority is like dust in the wind and when we build our lives on the truth of force eventually our lives will crumble.
The authority of man is death, they use this effectively because we fear death. Death is one of the five fears that we all share, and it is probably the biggest fear that we have. Death could not hold Jesus. The very worst that mankind could bestow on another could not keep Jesus from taking that which is rightfully his. Jesus said because I live you also will live. The one thing that the kingdoms of men can hold over us is that fear of death, but Jesus takes that fear on himself, and he obliterates it. Death has no power over those in Christ.
Jesus conquered death when he rose. Which leads us to a major question, the question that Pilate himself asked, what is truth? If we build our entire lives on the things of this world, it will all lead to the same end. Our worldly wealth will come to an end. Our property will be fought over by the generation after us. It will all be whittled down to nothing. Unless we invest in something greater.
Jesus claims his authority and he tells his disciples on that last day he spent on earth, to go and make disciples of all nations. Go and make disciples of all nations. What words stick out in that verse? The first that really grabs my attention is all nations. He does not say one nation or people group but all nations. This goes to the very beginning of God’s revelation to humanity. Yes, God chose on family or nation to make the revelation through, but God made a promise to the fathers of Israel that they would be the light to the nations. God has always been for all because all of humanity is created in God’s image. Male and female reflects the beauty of God. Those from the jungles of the Amazon, those from the artic, the deserts and savannahs of Africa, and the billions of Asia are all reflections of God’s great love and recipients of God’s desire.
Jesus commissions the disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. The next word that that stands out to me are the verbs, go and make. These words speak of activity, participation, and continuation. When we go, we leave the comforts of where we are and the embrace the unknown beyond the horizon. To go means that we cannot stay where we are, we cannot be stationary but moving.
When we think of the word make there is a sense of activity. When I was in grade school, one of my teachers gave me a recipe for bread. I thought it was the coolest thing ever, and I wanted to make bread, because I had never made bread before. I mixed the ingredients and allowed the dough to rise just like the recipe called for. But then the next step was to separate the dough into several balls. There was not any direction in how to do this, so I put my hand in to grab a handful. There was more dough left on my hands than was in the ball I was making. That is the reality of the word make. You are right there getting your hands dirty. Life sticks to you. Sweat rolls off your nose, and at times a trickle of blood might trace its way along a wound. To make something you are not only there you are in with it. And since the activity we are commissioned to participate in is making disciples, we are in with other people, living live with them. If they are struggling, we are standing beside them. If they are excited, we celebrate along with them. When they mourn, we weep too. We reflect the very life of Jesus; worshipping, praying, and serving. Teaching as we work along side them. Helping make sure there is enough to drink at a party. And when someone is sick, we nurture them. We do this not to make converts but to reflect Christ. When they see that abundant life of Christ, they must then answer their own call to go and to make along side us.
The past few weeks have shown us how very fragile our world is. One microscopic virus has our entire world on its knees. And because we are all struggling fires begin to blaze and the authority of world pushes back. Mott said, “If our principles are right, why should we be cowards?” She lived in a time where there was a nation enslaved by another and she boldly spoke out against it, because it was contrary to Truth. She was so emboldened by this mission she bravely crossed the ocean to speak out against the practice in the capital city of an empire. She did not stay; she was on the go and she lived the truth in all she did. Mary Dyer did not stay but she was also on the go. She boldly proclaimed the message God gave her even under the threat of death and as a rope went around her throat she did not falter because Truth has authority over the authorities of men. We need to be on the go, and we need to participate in the making of disciples of all nations. We need to stand for truth and when we fear we need to withdraw to pray and make sure our principles are right. As we enter this time of open worship, I ask that you reflect on why we might fear today and ask yourself on whose authority you are putting your trust. And as we pray, I encourage you all to pray for all nations, including those among our community.