Lectionary Reflection: Matthew 28: 16-20: A Claim, Three Instructions and a Promise.

Son.  Like it or not, I am your father.  You need to go to college, learn something and then do it to succeed.  And don’t worry, I am here if you need me.

My third child is ready to make the big step, and there is so much I want to tell him – so much I want him to understand.  But some things just have to be lived.  I know that.  And more importantly, I can’t live it for him.

Jesus began with a claim, that all authority was given to him.  Perhaps he was answering those who worshiped him.  Perhaps he was responding to those who doubted – I assume doubted that it was Jesus, raised from the dead who was now standing on the mountain.  Likewise, my claim that I am my son’s father suggests that I bear some responsibility here, if nothing else than to guide and encourage my son to do the right thing.  I hope and pray that my son will find the right way, his way.  I hope he will do something significant with his life in this world.  I hope he will find his calling and be true to it – to the passion God placed in his heart from before the beginning.  Only one thing: I can’t do it for him.  And Jesus…?  For us…?

No.  He can’t do it for us, either.

So Jesus gave three instructions – things for us to do.  Make disciples, baptize in the name and teach obedience.  And how many disciples have you made?  No, I don’t mean how many souls have you won for Christ, as if to suggest you or I have any power to win others to Christ.  Faith is the gift of God, not the result of anything we might say or do.  So, no, I am not talking about evangelism.  I mean how many disciples have you made.  Here Jesus stood on the mountain in front of his disciples.  These were people who followed him in all of his ministry.  Some still doubted.  That’s okay, but he taught them and spoke to them and encouraged them all along the way for years to make them into disciples.  And how many people have you done this with and for.  How many have you brought along in Jesus for years to make them disciples?

Yes, he said baptize.  We do this much, generally.  But remember, baptism is only one of the three instructions.  We bring to the Father one now covered in Christ’s death and resurrection to whom the Holy Spirit is given.  Does this all happen in baptism or before baptism or after baptism?  Yes?  But for us at least the baptism part is something real we can relate to and understand.  It has to do with water.  Something is passed on, a person is included, and all the senses are touched to enhance our understanding.  We see the water, hear the water and we can taste it, feel it, and smell it.  Yes, water has a wet sort of smell.  But this is only one part of the whole. 

The first part is how many disciples have you made?  Oh yes, and then there is the third part which is the teach obedience part.  Do we still teach obedience or these days do we just assume everyone has their own form of obedience and their own way of “showing their love for God…?”  That is not the instructions.  Jesus said we are to teach obedience.  Do we?

So I told my son, Go to college, learn something and then do it.  This is the key to success, I said.  Follow through.  Apply what you learn.  In his case, for now he has his mind set on astrophysics.  Great.  He needs to discipline himself to go to class, to do the work, to apply himself and all that sort of thing.  He needs to listen to his teachers and academic advisors and be disciple in a real sense.  That is first, and then second he needs to learn. 

Much learning for him will be the conveyance of information.  It won’t be as convenient to recognize as the conveyance of inclusion in water baptism.  But it will touch all the senses when he practices the hand-on part.  There will be telescopes, gathering information, plugging in the formulas,  Smelling the night air when the clouds clear off and he can get a good look at Orion.  That air can also have a wet smell to it, you know.

But then, third, he needs to apply it all in his future work.  He needs to remain true to his calling and obedient to his learning.  He needs to be obedient to the way, not just his way, if he hopes to ever set his foot safely on the landscape of Mars.

Jesus said baptize and we do that; but he also said make disciples and teach obedience, and we need to do these things, too.  Most of us need to start doing these things because we have never done them.

Then Jesus reminded us that he is always there to support us and will never turn from us.  It was a great promise for us, but I feel what he really wants is to be proud of us.  I know if the day comes and my son does set his foot on Mars, I will be very proud of him, indeed.


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