And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20b
Here we are, at the end of the Gospels…the accounts of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus – the Christ, Messiah, Lord of all, King of Kings. What a ride so far.
Before Jesus ascended back to heaven, He leaves His followers with final marching orders…
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” He begins. Jesus has all power and all authority.
Continuing, He says, “Go therefore…” Action is required. We may be scared. We may be filled with joy. We may be both at the same time. One thing we must do is GO.
“…and make disciples of all the nations…” Disciples: scholars, teachers, students. Not just converts; disciples. And not just Jews…ALL nations. This good news is for everyone.
“…baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” Not circumcising and converting to Jewish law observation, but baptizing. In the name (singular) of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit. One God in three persons.
“…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Don’t just baptize them, teach them about Me. Help them to know Me as you know me.
He concluded, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” I will never leave you. I will always be with you.
The great commission to the first hearers of the words and to us comes with: power and authority, instructions, and a promise from Jesus to be with us always.
Challenge: Believe the Gospel, and then GO and BE the Gospel
And he [Jesus] led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God. Luke 24:50-53
“You are witnesses of these things,” Jesus tells those in the room He appeared before.
“And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high,” He continues.
He tells them to come and follow Him as He leads them to the outskirts of Jerusalem, as far as Bethany.
The hands that three days earlier were raised, secured by nails to a cross, are now raised high in praise. The raised hands of suffering now raised hands of blessing and victory. There was a price paid for this blessing. The most expensive free gift we will receive.
With their own eyes, they see Him carried up to heaven. And it is transformational...
No longer hiding in fear and self-pity they worship and return to Jerusalem with great joy. They continually go to the temple – the headquarters of the persecutors of Jesus – and praising God.
God, open our hearts and minds. We don’t want to believe in our heads while doubting in our hearts. We want to SEE You; to KNOW You. Move us from what we have heard and read about You to a CONVICTION and ASSURANCE that make us bold and brave to worship You and make You known.
Challenge: Spend time in prayer today asking God to help your belief; to make you bold; to open your eyes to see HIM; to recognize His power and great love.
Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” John 21:20-21
For each of the three times Peter denied Jesus, Jesus offers Peter an assignment to feed and tend to His sheep. A beautiful calling to continue the Kingdom work. Jesus also tells Peter what his life will look like living for Him and what kind of death he will experience. With such a heavy calling, Jesus wants him to know what he is getting into. A life lived for the gospel isn’t always an easy one, but it is the most valuable, fulfilling and rewarding.
Fresh off this encounter of forgiveness, restoration, and anointing, Peter turns to John and asks Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”
Jesus simply replies, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”
Even in the midst of a wonderful calling, why are we tempted to look to the right or left and compare the calling and circumstances of others? Instead of gratitude and diligence in our charge, why do we look at anyone else and wonder, “Why aren’t they suffering?”, “Why don’t I have what they have?”, “Why do they get to do that?”, “What about me?”
The truth is…it isn’t about us. We get to play a part in God’s incredible story, but it is all for His glory. We are all created in His image and likeness. We are all fearfully and wonderfully made. We are all created for good works. We are all made on purpose for purpose. Our race is our own, ordained and anointed by God. And it is good.
But of others, “what is that to you, [insert your name]?” Our charge: “You, [insert your name], follow me!”
Questions: Do you sometimes fall into the trap of comparing your calling or circumstances with others? What do you think the implications of this type of thinking and living are? How does it impede living your best life?
Simon Peter said to them, “I’m going fishing.” John 21:3a
Peter, still confused, afraid, and wondering what will come next, reverts to the familiar…”I’m going fishing,” he says. After hours of no fish, a voice from ashore instructs them to cast their nets on the right side. Suddenly John recognizes Him. “It is the Lord!”
Jesus makes breakfast with bread and the newly caught fish. It is beautiful and familiar and just feels right. But I imagine deep in the pit of Peter’s stomach he is wondering if the elephant in the room is going to be addressed. I wonder if he is living in the tension of joy that Jesus is here and shame for abandoning Him. I wonder if the pretending nothing happened is killing him. He doesn’t have to wait long.
After breakfast, Jesus turns to Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” Peter replies, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus continues, “Feed my lambs.” Three times Jesus asks Peter this same question.
Three times Peter denies Jesus… and three times Jesus offers Peter the chance to express his love. Three times Jesus gives Peter a mission. God is so gracious in His love, forgiveness, and constant pursuit of us.
Our ability to serve Him isn’t based on our successes, but on His. God doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called. The same invitation to “Follow Me” that was given three years earlier remains, though this time through a new lens of what the good news and following Jesus looks like.
Like Peter, Jesus invites us to answer the question, “Do you love me?” followed by an invitation to FOLLOW HIM. Not because we are uber qualified, always do the right things, keep all our promises, or anything else rooted in who we are. It is all because of who He is. He is perfect FOR US and He invites us to be part of His mission on earth. He invites us to help continue to share the good news with those around us. To love and care for His sheep.
Questions: Why do you think Jesus repeated His question to Peter three times? Are you ready to say “yes” to Jesus and follow Him?
When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. Luke 24:30-31
Settled in to eat, their guest – the stranger that met them on the road – breaks bread. I wonder if their eyes grow wide as they see His nail-scarred hands in full view. He says a familiar blessing. Their eyes are opened! In the simple breaking of bread and thanksgiving.
They see! It is Jesus.
And He vanishes…
Their hearts are likely pounding out of their chest as they check under every surface and behind every door. Where has He gone? I imagine them talking over each other sharing how their hearts burned as He spoke Scriptures to them. Jinx.
Onward to tell the others. This good news must be shared!
While still breathlessly talking one hundred miles an hour with the other followers they ultimately reunite with, Jesus Himself appears among them.
“Peace to you!” Jesus says. The room could use a little peace to break through the fear, anxiety, anger, and uncertainty heavily looming over the room. They are startled and frightened; troubled and full of doubt.
He wants them to be certain of His presence. To examine His body. His hands and feet. He eats with them. He reminds them of the promises and prophesies in Scripture fulfilled in Him. Nothing they haven’t heard before, but suddenly rich with life and light. They remember. They believe.
Questions: What are your thoughts on how Jesus is appearing to His followers? What about His actions and words?
“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Luke 24:27
The two men walking with Jesus (though they don’t yet recognize Him) on the road to Emmaus, respond to Jesus’s questions…
Here is what they know: this person was named Jesus, He was a prophet, He was mighty in deed and word, He promised to redeem Israel, He was delivered by the chief priests, He was brutally crucified, and He has been gone going on three days now.
Here is what they heard: some women among their group of followers said the tomb was empty and an angel said Jesus was alive.
Here is what they hope: Jesus is who He promised, and He is alive as the angel has said.
It is a doubtful hope. They are sad and disappointed. Jesus diagnoses their core problem: they believed in their heads, but not in their hearts.
As they are walking, Jesus – still not recognized by them – teaches, interpreting all the scriptures and how they point to Him.
The men reach their destination, but Jesus starts to continue further. The men insist He stay and eat with them. They don’t know who He is, but there is something about Him they can’t quite put their finger on. They are drawn to Him. They want to remain in His presence; they want Him to stay.
Jesus never pushes Himself on anyone but is always willing to come when invited. Jesus accepts their invitation to stay.
To be continued…
Question: How can we keep Jesus close, even in times when we aren’t seeing clearly and don’t have all the answers?