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TEXT: Matthew 28:16-20

SUBJECT: Matthew #106: Authority in Action

If you went to our joint-service last Sunday night, you heard a remarkable sermon on our Lord washing the feet of His disciples. The sermon wasn't remarkable because the pastor said something nobody had ever heard before, but because he reminded us of what we have heard many times before, but still hasn't sunk in. I don't know if he gave his sermon a title or not, but the one I assigned it is the same one I'm using for today's sermon: Authority in Action.

Whatever libertarians or anarchists say, Authority is a good thing. It's a good thing in society, in the church, and in the home. This is why the Bible tells us to respect it.

This is not always easy to do, of course, because God's authority on earth is not always exercised in God's way. It never is, perfectly, of course, but it's not its 'imperfection' that galls us so, but something far worse than that: It's the perversion of authority.

It's turning God's good gift into tyranny, ruling over people for the ruler's benefit, and using whatever means necessary to maintain and increase that rule. In the last century we saw this on a worldwide scale, what with the rise of Nazism and Communism that turned relatively free nations into huge prison camps. But we don't have to go to Hitler or Stalin or Mao to see it. Authority is perverted every day in countless homes, offices, schools, and so on. This is how the world is-and not even the most upbeat person can say it isn't.

Although technology has allowed the abusers to lengthen their reach, the abuse is far older than surveillance cameras, 'bugs' in the phone, or Cambridge Analytica-whatever that is! From the Fall of Adam-from that very day!-people with more power have abused people with less of it. Jesus refers to this when He contrasts His way of using it with the way the disciples were all too familiar with-

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them; it shall not be so among you!

Why not? It's because their Lord-our Lord-is a different kind of Lord than the other lords of this world. They're masters; He's a servant; they're in it for themselves, He's in it for us.

This was the message the disciples were suppose to get out of the Foot Washing a few weeks before. Now, in today's New Testament Lesson, we're going to see if Jesus will practice what He preaches. Here, Systematic Theology becomes our friend. It teaches that our Lord Jesus Christ occupies two 'states': Before His Resurrection, He lived in a State of Humiliation, suffering from hunger, weariness, temptation, contempt, persecution, and even death on the Cross. As Paul says in Philippians 2-

He humbled Himself.

On the Day of His Resurrection-and especially His Ascension to God's Right Hand-He entered the State of Exaltation, being declared, as Romans 1 has it-

The Son of God.

He did not become the Son of God that day, but He was proclaimed the Son, which, here, is another way of saying, the King of Glory!

From the very first verse in his Gospel, Matthew tells us He's the king-

The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of David.

In a local sense, God proclaims it at His baptism; in the wilderness, the devil assumes it, Peter confesses it in Caesarea, the Centurion agrees at His death, and now, at long last, Jesus receives the crown He so eminently deserves.

As the old pastor once said to me, 'Son, that'll preach!' He's right; we cannot preach the Lordship of Christ too often or too loudly. 'Jesus is Lord' is the Church's first confession of faith, and it will be our last! But, as important as this is, it's not quite what Matthew is getting at here. Of course, he proclaims the Lordship of Christ, but here, he emphasizes-not so much that He is Lord, but rather-how He exercises His Lordship. Or What Jesus does with His authority.

THE ROYAL CLAIM

Our story begins with the King doing what you'd expect a king to do, issuing orders. In v.16, He tells the eleven disciples to wait for Him in Galilee-

On the mountain that He had appointed for them.

The place is worth noting for four reasons (that I thought of). Firstly, many of the highlights of His ministry occurred on mountains-from the Sermon on the Mount to the Transfiguration, the Olivet Discourse, to Mount Calvary. What's about to happen here is the highest point of all in His earthly life, and so why not on the Mountain?

Secondly, Mountains were natural places for God to meet His people in special ways. The Garden of Eden was planted on a mountain; Abraham offered Isaac at Mount Moriah; the Law was given at Mount Sinai; Temple was built on a mountain; the fire of God fell on Mount Carmel. Even natural religion more or less follows the pattern, as the Baals and others were worship, typically, on the high places.

What better way could Jesus have chosen to show His Divinity than by meeting His disciples-

On the mountain.

(3) Remember, also the enemies of Christ are strongest in and around Jerusalem, and Galilee was much safer place for the disciples to be. This reminds us of our Lord's great concern for us, taking out taking our dangers and worries to heart-

Putting our tears in His bottle and writing them in His book.

This is good news indeed to worry warts, like me! He knows our frames; He remembers that we are but dust!

The other thing it shows is that (4) Jesus has 'not gotten too big for his britches' as my parents use to say! His new authority has not gone to His head.

The Man who began his ministry among the poor and despised people of Galilee (including Gentiles) has not forgotten them! And He doesn't want His disciples to, either. In a few days, they'll be endowed with the Almighty Power of Heaven, but they're to use this power as Jesus did, caring for everyone, and not just the people who might further their careers!

RECOGNIZING THE CLAIM

When the disciples met Jesus on that unnamed hill in Galilee, they did something they had done before, but never the same conviction, v.17a-

They worshiped Him.

In the Greek New Testament, there is more than one word for 'worship'; this is the more general word; it means 'to bow down' and does not necessarily mean the worship that belongs only to God. It can mean that, but not necessarily.

Here, I believe it does mean that. I don't think the disciples are bowing down to Jesus in the same fashion, let's say, as the Rich Young Ruler did, but as Thomas did when he called Jesus-

My Lord and my God!

This, too, is why I think-

Some of them doubted.

They didn't doubt that this was Jesus or that He was alive, but they doubted-'hesitated' is a better translation-in offering Him worship. And why wouldn't they? Nothing is taught more clearly in their Bible than-

You shall have no other gods before Me.

You shall not bow down to them.

But here they are-some of the Eleven-worshipping Jesus as though He were God Almighty! Were they right to do so? They were, for as all Jews believed at the time, Messiah is the God's Special Agent in the world, but in Jesus, we have seen that He is that, but He's also more than that! The works attributed to God only in the Old Testament, are now, after the Resurrection, applied to Jesus-who is-as the Nicene Creed has it-

Very God of Very God.

What's most extraordinary about this worship is that Jesus accepted it and without qualification. This puts the lie to the patronizing nonsense that people sometimes use, that Jesus, while not Divine, of course, was nevertheless a good man a great teacher, and so on.

Good men don't receive worship! Insane men do; megalomaniacs do, but not good men. And, as far as the rabbis goes, not even the most brilliant would have accepted what belongs to God only.

CS Lewis was right in saying that, by accepting worship, Jesus ruled out the possibility that He was merely a fine man, but could only be-

Lunatic, Liar, or Lord!

Whatever their doubts at the time, the disciples finally made the right choice. The Man they knew so well was not blasphemous, not heretical, not insane, and not stupid! Jesus was-and is-Divine!

DIVINE AUTHORITY

Because He is Divine, He has-

All authority in heaven and in earth.

The Old Testament everywhere ascribes this Universal Authority to God. Psalm 135:6, for instance-

Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and earth, in the seas and in all the deep places.

In the past three years, there have been flashes of this authority, in stilling the sea, for example, or forgiving sin! But now, the flashes are over, and Jesus is going to use His God-given authority every minute of every day.

And, here, note His authority is God-given. Had He wanted to, He could have seized this Authority any time He wanted to, to jump off the Temple roof, for instance. But He seizes nothing and takes nothing from the devil. Like Job, only better, Jesus waits for God to turn the tables in His favor. To make the most despised man in the world into the One to whom-

Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess.

Our Lord is the humblest of men, but humility does not prevent Him from taking what God has given Him. And what He's given Him is absolute, universal, and permanent Au

HOW HE USES HIS AUTHORITY

Here's the best part! In this present age, in what He calls the end of the world, Jesus uses His authority to.save sinners!

When we hear the words, all the nations, we think of America, Canada, Mexico, possibly Guatemala, and so on. But this is not what the disciples thought of when they heard it. To them, all the nations meant 'the Gentiles', every one of whom was sunk in the most disgusting idolatry and vice. And every one whom was under the well-deserved wrath of God!

Jesus didn't send the Eleven to the saintliest people in Israel; He didn't say, 'Help the people who are 98% right become 100 percenters!'.

He sent them to the scum of the earth-and that's a good thing because that's what everyone is, and no one more 'nice girls' and 'church boys'. Not everybody belongs in prison, but everybody belongs in Hell! Because, even our best efforts are, in God's sight--

Filthy rags.

All have sinned, none righteous, altogether unclean, every mouth is stopped and all the world becomes guilty before God.

This is the witness of prophets and Apostles alike, and Jesus, too, for it is He who said our condition is so bad that nothing less will do than.What? A New Birth!

Jesus is for sinners! He puts all the powers of heaven and earth into His Rescue Mission! That's incredible-especially when you remember He does it only a few weeks after very same world had crucified Him!

HIS AGENTS

What's even more incredible is that Jesus is going to exercise His authority through the Eleven disciples-and not only the Eleven! Till the Second Coming of Christ, the human agent of salvation will be His Church, for all its faults, shortcomings, and worse!

I don't like speaking ill of the dead, but since he influenced many people we know-and still is to some degree-this was one of Harold Camping worst heresies: that Jesus Christ had forsaken His Church and was now using other means (mostly his own radio network!) to disciples the nations.

The Church Age did not end in 1994, or whatever date he set; it ends with the Second Coming of Christ, and it will be replaced, not by something worse, like a radio station, but by something better-

A world wherein dwells righteousness!

Now that Mr. Camping is no longer central to Family Radio, I have nothing against supporting it; or the Wycliffe Bible Translators; or the seminary in Kenya; or the City Teams Resue Mission. All of these, and others, are a good use of your time and money. But they do not-and cannot-take the place of the everyday, often dull, ministry of the Church! For Jesus gave that ministry to us, however badly we're doing it!

The ministry consists of three things: The Church is to:

Our older Bibles say, teaching all nations, and while this is not a mistake, 'discipling' or 'training' the nations are better ways of putting it.

How is this done? Firstly, by preaching the Gospel. You cannot train a dead body into acting as though it were alive-and if you couldn't who'd want to? It's gross!

What brings sinners to Life is not the Law of God, and certainly not the laws of men, but the Good News of what God has done for us in Christ!

What brings sinners to life in the first place, is also what keeps us alive! I know this is my 'hobby horse' but I'm going to ride it till I don't need to anymore! The biggest fault in Evangelical, Bible-believing churches is its failure to preach the Gospel to the saved! The Law, that's preached every Sunday-either in a hardcore fashion, or more gently. Personally, I prefer the yelling, screaming, scolding version of Law preaching, but neither one will disciple anybody! It will put them to sleep, make them feel guilty, or justify them because they do or don't do a few things-but the Christian life is given and sustained by the Gospel! Not the Law, no matter how accurately or skillfully presented.

This is the Church's first responsibility: turn sinners into disciples and keep them disciples!

What then? We baptize them. For a very long time, Christians have differed on the mode, meaning, and subjects of baptism. Who are we to baptize? Those who have already been discipled to some degree-or them and their yet un-discipled children?

New Testament scholars differ on who the object of the command is: is it the nations or those in the nations that are disciple? I'm not qualified to weigh in authoritivevly on the debate, but I would say that Infant Baptism is not obviously included in the passage, and, if it is, why limit the command to infants or the infants of believing parents? If we're to baptize the nations why not, at least try to baptize everyone, from the Atheist to the Hindu, or whatever. Why not? Believe me, I know people on the other side of the question, have an 'answer' to that-but I find it deeply unsatisfying.

If baptism follows discipleship, it cannot make you a disciple. There is no Biblical basis for what's called 'Baptismal Regeneration', not even the kind my beloved Dr. Luther taught.

But to say, 'Baptism does not make you a disciple of Christ' is not to say 'Baptism doesn't matter'. It does, if for no other reason than that our Lord commands us to administer it, which presumably means every disciple ought to be baptized.

But more than this, Baptism is a way of declaring your discipleship to the world! By being baptized, you quit being ashamed of Christ, and stop being like Nicodemus who was a disciple-

But secretly, for fear of the Jews.

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so-that, above all else is what Believer's Baptism means.

The third thing He has told us to do is to teach the baptized disciples to observe His commandments. Conversion or a Profession of Faith is not the finish line for discipleship, but the starting blocks. We're then to grow in grace and knowledge. These are furthered by teaching, public and private, in word and in deed, from the pastors and laymen alike, men and women, even converted children are called to-

Teach and admonish one another.

Older women, for example, are commanded to train younger women. If you've been a wife for forty years, help your newly-wed sister to love her husband, by helping her know the times-the time to call him on his behavior and when to let it go. That's something you're better qualified to do than the male Doctor of Theology. Get to it! And don't leave it to the pastors (who'll usually take the man's side!).

This is what Jesus has called us to do: Carry out the Great Commission, not some of it, but all of it; not the parts that seem 'culturally relevant', but everything He has commanded.

Including the really hard things in His Sermon on the Mount, such as forgiving people who have done you wrong or loving enemies or not doing your righteous deeds to be seen of men.

These are the sorts of thing our Lord wants us to teach one another-and not just in sermons or formal Bible studies, but also by living them out in our daily lives.

THE PROMISE

If all these things seem really, really hard to you, you're wrong! They're not hard : they're impossible. Unless Christ is with us. Which He promises to be: with the Eleven in a special way, but with all His people in a more general sense. Jesus is with us as we try to do His will. His Abiding Presence will sometimes be wonderful; at other times, painful. But whether He comforts us or rebukes us, He is there for us, and we know He is and will be because He loves us, loves us enough to die under the wrath of God in our place, and if He would do that for His Church-

How much more shall He freely give us all things?

The Church is now in perilous times, but this is nothing new. Whether the Roman Empire was burning us at the stake or the heretics were rotting us from the inside, the Church is in Good Hands, hands that were once pierced, and still bear the marks in Glory.

Praise the Lord! Serve the Lord. Amen.

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