When Bishop Peter was with us in St. John’s last month, he chose to preach on the last verses of Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 28:16-20). Jesus has died for our sins, been raised to life, and is about to depart and return to his Father. And before he departs, Jesus makes a great claim, gave a great commission, and promised a great comfort.
Bishop Peter said this is the great claim of Jesus: ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’ Authority to rule, direct and govern things lies not with Presidents or Prime Ministers, not with Popes and Bishops, not with Allah or Shiva, but with Jesus. Perhaps we are most likely to think that some authority lies with us ourselves: don’t I have some power to govern my own life and be my own ruler? Well, no. Jesus’s claim is exclusive and universal. As the Bishop said, if it were not true, it would be a terrible and outrageous thing to say.
This, then is the great commission of Jesus: ‘Go and make disciples of all nations.’ We are not to make converts but disciples: God is committed to a long-term work in every one of us, and therefore the church must be committed to that too. And we are not to be interested only in those who are most like us. No, the call is to go to all nations, to everybody everywhere. Our mission extends to the people we don’t much like, to those it might be a bit awkward to have in church with us. And we must recommit ourselves to our overseas mission partners: they are making disciples in other nations.
Finally, the great comfort Jesus gives is his own presence: ‘Behold, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ He has proved his commitment to us at the cross, demonstrated the power of his indestructible life through resurrection, and thus we can believe him when he promises to be with us for ever. Whatever you face this week, you can stand firm in your faith, and witness to Christ with confidence, for he is with you to uphold and strengthen and equip you.
So here in these few verses at the end of the gospel are a truth to believe, a command to obey and a promise to claim. Let us together meditate further on these words of Jesus, and love him all the more.
With my best wishes – James.
P.S. SERVICE TIMES! The PCC meeting in September examined with care all responses written and emailed regarding the times of morning services in our churches. We decided that St. Andrew’s should stay at 9:30 and St. John’s should revert to a 10:30 start. We intend to implement that change from Sunday November 1st. Until then St. John’s remains at 11:00 a.m.