The Invitation To Go: The Church’s Story
August 23, 2015
Rev. Mark M. Norman Vickers
Matthew 28: 16-20
New International Version (NIV)
The Great Commission
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped 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.”
This is by far, one of my favorite passages of scripture! Why? because it gives us the mission of the church in a clearly defined, succinct fashion, that most of the time we manage to mess up! It’s interesting that this “Great Commission” text follows the resurrection story and the conversation story in and amongst the guards and the group of gathered Jews who were nearby. Then, rather abruptly we hear that the 11 disciples, notice minus one, head to Galilee where Jesus had instructed them to go. Yet when they saw him, “some of them doubted.” It is interesting that a great deal of the time when we look at this passage we glance quickly over that small yet important verse 17, “but some of them doubted.” Does that sound familiar to any of you in this room? If it doesn’t I want you to check your blood pressure and your respiration immediately. My friends, we are human, we are people of God who have been given the awesome gift of human life, therefore we will have questions, we will doubt some things in our life. I can only imagine how those 11 disciples felt when they saw the resurrected Jesus. Not something that you will see everyday in your walk down the road or to the store, even though they had been told they would see Him in His appearance to them.
Well following the awesome experience of viewing the risen Jesus, Jesus seeks to calm their fears of seeing him and presents to them ultimate authority and tells them, doesn’t suggest to them, that they “go and make disciples of all the nations.” It’s interesting that the Greek term used for “all” here is the most inclusive term one can find to mean “include everybody!” Then Jesus tells them to baptize them and instruct them in the way of God’s commands and then, as a the human element of Jesus so quickly shows, reminds them, that He, Jesus, is not going away, but that He will be with them until the “end of the age.”
Okay, a little homework time now class! I want you to think for a moment, I’m going to ask you a question, then I may call on one or two of you to answer, so when I say “think,” don’t automatically go to the “grocery list” in your head, concentrate on the question at hand. The question is, “How and where did you first hear about Jesus?” Now take a few moments, it’s not every Sunday that I give you this opportunity, but I want you to seriously think about what I asked and to ponder the situation and place where you first heard about Jesus.
(Pause) Allow time to ponder question: Call on one or two people to share.
We are finishing up, or maybe actually beginning our Invitation series this morning with the emphasis being on the “Church’s Story”—our story to go and make disciples of all the nations. But it seems to make some logical and theological sense that if we are told to do this, then we must have first of all received this conviction sometime in our life. Being a disciple of Christ means that you have to live, speak, and believe in the actions and words of Jesus. This is what Jesus commanded the disciples and us to do when we are instructed to “make disciples.” We have shared a couple of stories this morning about how we first heard of Jesus. Hence, my pertinent point that in order to “make disciples” one must first hear the story. R.A. Torrey, years ago said, “I would like to ask what right any man has to call himself a follower of Jesus Christ if he/she is not a soul winner? There is absolutely no such thing as following Christ unless you can make the purpose of Christ’s life the purpose of your life.” Therefore the ultimate impact and goal of the Christian’s life is to invite people in a way that their lives will be changed forever. In order to do that, we have to associate with people in a way that is real and genuine.
When I asked you earlier to ponder where and when you first heard about Jesus it wasn’t just for your reflective edification, I wanted you to realize that you had heard about Jesus because someone was convicted to share the story of Christ’s life with you! They made you a disciple because they were a disciple. It is a type of “trickle down” affect if you think in the economic model. Yet it was because someone shared the Jesus story with you, it was because they were faithful to the ‘commission’ that you were able to have your life changed. Now this can be as simple as hearing a sermon, reading a Bible story, reading a Gospel Tract, or even in the gift of music. In the end, it was your decision to become a Christian, but you never would’ve known there was a decision to make, were it not for someone else’s faithfulness to the great commission—to go and tell—YOU!
So we have been a part of the commission, now in order to hear that great commission in a way that will sink in and make sense we must hear it with a genuine attitude of “Compassion.” The true wellspring of the compassion of Jesus has to do with the fact that He is God. It is His nature to have compassion on His creation. One commentator said, “Sometimes our compassion level has to be coaxed into growing.” That becomes a difficult task for most of us when we are following the commandment to make disciples. I’m reminded of the story that Dr. Charles Allen, pastor of First United Methodist in Dallas, TX, tells, one day he was having conversation with one of his members and the member said to him, “I didn’t like our last preacher. He told us we all deserved to go to Hell.” Dr. Allen replied, “Well, haven’t I told you the same thing?” “Yes,” the man answered, “but you said it like you really didn’t want us to go there.” Compassion in making disciples and inviting people to become part of the Kingdom is an absolute necessity in a violent and unforgiving world.
Besides the compassion narrative and the ability to tell the story and invite with compassion, one of the other strong attributes of this passage is that Jesus counts on us to be like Him. Our ability to live out the life of Christ in every sense of the Word is incredible and necessary in order to invite people in an authentic way. We must be like Christ, (Christ-like) in order for people to take our invitation seriously. To be “fake” in our invitation, or to be “counterfeit” in our inviting of people to the Kingdom of God is not even an option when we come to deal strictly with what Jesus tells us to do in that we must be genuine. A story I heard to illustrate this I think gets to the point. A very pious church member visited the sixth grade Sunday School class. He asked the children, “Why do you think people call me a Christian?” After a long moment of embarrassing silence, a small voice from the back of the classroom said, “Because they don’t know you very well.” OUCH! The testimony of our faith, our practice, our lives are visible to even the smallest of eyes, never hidden from God, never hidden from our life of faith. My roommate in divinity school, a member of the American Baptist denomination used to tell those around him, “If you won’t walk the walk, talking the talk is worse than silence. If you won’t walk the walk, take the bumper sticker off your car!”
Jesus, in this post-resurrection story and appearance to the Disciples, moves us to a new degree of discipleship. It moves us to be people of faith and invitation in a world where people are not talking to one another, texting, rather than face to face conversation, and feel left out and banished because we have not invited them to the greatest event in their lives.
Invitation, like we mentioned three weeks ago, is a difficult thing to do. Thus, we have had you praying for the people on your invitation cards. Now it is time for some action.
I’m going to ask our ushers to come forward and pass out an invitation tool to you that you are to pass on to those around you. They are 100 free door invitational hangers with our service times and address on them. Please help us practice our discipline of invitation and our command to “make disciples.” They will be here for the next several weeks until all of them are distributed. Let us invite those around us, in our neighborhoods, and in places we might visit.
My friends, we are just like the disciples!! We have something to offer and we have the promise that when and where we offer it, God through Christ will be there in our midst. God in Jesus will not forsake us and leave us abandoned. Jesus said: “Go and do these things, make disciples, baptize, teach…” But He also said, “I’ll be right there with you.” My friends, my beloved, there is nothing to fear…Only the Good News of Invitation to share with the world!
AMEN and AMEN.