Pastor Walther/Pentecost 1 Trinity/June 11, 2017/Matthew 28:16-20/The Truth in an Untruthful World
I’ve grown skeptical in my old age. We live in a world that demands facts, mostly because we have been lied to so much. With the presidential election, fact checkers were put into place as the presidential nominees would speak. We demand the truth from news stations but are skeptical when they actually deliver the news, questioning if that very news is biased, spinning the news to make someone look bad. Have you ever questioned your idea of truth, questioned your belief system? What if…what if this is all make believe? What if this is all just nonsense? Can we really believe something that we cannot see? Is Christianity just a tool used by warlords to get people to fall in line? Is sin, forgiveness, or even life after death a real thing? In some conversations I’ve had with people, I’ve asked them if they believe in an absolute truth and their response was, no. Their view of truth was simply based on what they feel is right or wrong. But even that seems so uncertain. What is truth, just like Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, and where do we find it?
When Pilate asked Jesus that question, right before they crucified him, what do you think Pilate thought of Jesus? Probably that he was just some fool who got caught up with the wrong crowd. A good and important teacher but just made the wrong people mad by saying something politically incorrect. I wonder if that’s how Jesus own disciples sometimes thought of Jesus. Was he a good guy who came to give good thoughts about living? Was he maybe the promised one who would kick the Romans out of the area? Maybe. When Jesus was alive, Jesus would talk about sin and grace, about being God’s Son, about life after death, about even his own death and resurrection. But was it all true?
As we look at the context of our lesson for today, Jesus appears to his disciples, maybe not just the 12 but up to 500 of his disciples on a mountain in Galilee. This would have been at least the fourth time that Jesus had appeared to his disciples. Yet, how easily some of the disciples doubted. But don’t be surprised. After Easter, Jesus’ first disciples seemed to be an endless fountain of doubts and fears. We see it on the road to Emmaus, and we see it afterwards on the mount of Ascension where they ask that curious and confused question about restoring the kingdom to Israel. Even here on this mountain in Galilee, with disciples among them who had seen Jesus first hand and could verify that Jesus really had risen from the dead, still some doubted.
It’s crazy that the disciples saw Jesus in person, and yet still some didn’t believe. How much easier it is for us to doubt when we can’t see God. How easy it is for us to take everything on our shoulders and attempt to move forward and forget about God as if God doesn’t even exist. How easy it is for us take the teachings of Jesus as simply a good but optional way of living, rather than THE truth.
But the truth is, after he rose from the dead, Jesus appeared to so many people, not just the 12 apostles. People, who had walked and talked with Jesus, but also who had seen Jesus being whipped and beaten, people who had seen Jesus carrying his cross, people who had seen soldiers nail him to the cross, people who had seen the soldier pierce his side to check if he really was dead, people who had seen him taken off the cross to be placed into a tomb, those people were also the people who saw Jesus first hand alive after his resurrection.
Alive and well, Jesus brings their memory back to the resurrection and tells them, remember how I told you I would rise? Jesus brings them back to his death, remember how I said I would have to die? He brings them back to his suffering, remember how I would have to suffer for you as I shared scripture lessons like Isaiah? And he would bring them back to the reason why he had to do all of this, it was because of our sin, but also because of God’s love that he suffered, died, and rose for us. When we, along with the disciples, look back as Jesus talks, we can see that everything Jesus said he would do, he did. Jesus could not have been just an ordinary man because he only spoke the truth and carried out that truth. We have the first hand reports of that truth.
The truth is, Jesus wasn’t an ordinary man. Jesus explains that to us, which again must be truth if he has only ever spoken the truth. He says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” No ordinary man would have all the authority for both heaven and earth. Only God can rightfully say something like that. Jesus is showing that he was not just their rabbi and their friend, but that He was the Christ, the exalted Son of God, their risen Lord and Savior. Just as God the Father is God, the Holy Spirit of God is God, so Jesus the son of God is also God. God reveals himself as triune: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If what Jesus said was true, then God had died for them; God had risen for them. God had conquered their supernatural enemies. Jesus shows us that the almighty power of God is real. For the sinner, that is terrifying. To think of all the times I doubted his power, to think of all the times I lived my life forgetting about God, to think about the times I questioned if it was even real should scare me. My doubts and my lack of trust in God really deserves to be punished by God himself, the one who has all power and authority to do so. Do we see that reality and that truth or do we blind ourselves to it by ignoring the signs and the message?
Sometimes when I’m driving, I question the reality of the speed limit. The speed limit says 45, but I’m sure I can go 60! When do I get a reality check though? I get that reality check when the cop stops me and gives me a ticket.
That is not what our Triune God does. Our God, in Jesus, comes to us before we realize too late the reality of our sinful situation. God, in Jesus who speaks the truth and who is truth, reminds us that sin, death, Satan, and punishment for our sins is all real. Jesus reminds us that he really is God in order to reassure us of something: to reassure us that He forgives our sins. God has forgiven all my sins and all your sins freely. That is a wonderful reality check, to know what the truth is, the truth that my God loves me.
I think about the doubts that I have had about God, about the reality of sin and death. If I were to dwell on my doubts rather than on the truth, I may be lost forever. I think about my Christian friends and family members that doubt these truths, I think about my family and friends who have never heard these truths. Are they not questioning their existence, questioning if God really exists, questioning if there is life after death? That is why God shares this message with his disciples and with us, so that we might share with them the truth about the reality and the truth of our Savior and True God, Jesus. It’s like Jesus is saying to us, “I am calming your doubts and fears and will simultaneously calm through you the doubts and fears of people all around you.”
Jesus gives to us the command to share that message with the whole world, every tribe, every nation, every people, every age. That’s a little intimidating, isn’t it? Are we all expected to become missionaries now, or all become pastors and teachers? In a way, yes. You were probably expecting me to say no, weren’t you! I’m not saying that we have to stop what we are doing, stop our jobs, leave our homes. What I am saying is that Jesus’ words and commands can travel just as far as our physical bodies. Jesus gives to us the neatest way to share his message, through baptism and teaching.
First and foremost, the simplest ways for us to make disciples is within our own families! Through baptism and through teaching about Jesus, our families can see Jesus for the Savior of the world and as True God. Outside our family, it seems like the difficulty level increases exponentially to share the message with the world, doesn’t it? But I challenge you to think of one person that is questioning, who is doubting, who wonders about the reality of all these spiritual issues, whether it be an unbeliever or a Christian. One person can’t be difficult for you to think of. I want you to take the time to pray for that person, pray that you have the strength to share the truth with that one person that they don’t have to doubt, they don’t have to question, they don’t have to wonder if God exists and if he even loves us. Share the truth with that one person. You may have heard stories about how an immigrant to this country hears about Jesus for the first time and goes back to their country and shares the message with their family. Is that not sharing the message with the world? One person can change everything. That one person just might be the one to take that message further than we ever could. They might just take that message to the people in our world that are hurting and are searching for truth in a world that won’t give it.
We don’t have to be afraid to share that message of truth. Whether we are sharing the message of hope for a doubting Christian, or maybe a message of peace for an unbeliever looking for something certain in an uncertain world, Jesus promises that he will always be with us as we share that wonderful message. I take such great comfort from these words of Jesus because they reassure me that he really is my God and my Savior and that his word really is the truth. What a comfort as we go about our Lord’s business of making disciples of all nations by baptizing them in the name of the Triune God and teaching them the truth of God’s Word! Amen.
The peace of God which transcends all understating guard your hearts and minds in christ Jesus. Amen.