Sermon 12/17/2014 Midweek Advent

Matthew 28:16-20
Midweek Advent 3
12/17/14

Matthew 28:16-20 The 11 disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped, but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Immanuel: God with us
1. The power
2. The promise
3. The mission

During these midweek Advent devotions we have been looking at the heralds of Advent. We heard Isaiah herald the coming birth of the Son who is Wonderful counselor, Mighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. We heard John the Baptist herald the coming Savior by preparing the way before him and making straight a highway for our God. The third herald of Advent is you. Jesus has given all of us that task here in our lesson for tonight. And it’s something we can do especially at this time of year. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, there is no better time to tell everyone that he is Immanuel, God with us.

Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. He has all authority. That means he doesn’t need to get the thumbs up from congress or the voters. He doesn’t need to consult the experts. He doesn’t need approval from the Emperor. He is the supreme authority over all. The Apostle Paul said of him, “For the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily in Christ.” (Colossians 2:9) Jesus has all authority for he is fully God.

That’s quite a claim! This one whose birth we soon will celebrate is God. This tiny baby who could not survive without the care of Mary and Joseph is God. This man who got down on his knees and washed his disciples’ feet is God. This man who was arrested, beaten and nailed to a cross is God. That’s what these men on a mountain in Galilee were to believe. “In the face of the economic, political and military powers
that had overcome their own country and shaped the world, they were to believe that ultimate authority in heaven and earth lay with this Carpenter-Prophet. In spite of the meager circumstances that surrounded their gathering on the mountainside they were to believe that the final hope of the world lay with them and their message. In spite of the vastness of all creation and the natural forces that create and destroy life they were to believe that earth and heaven were held together by the authority of this Jesus Christ. If the claim was valid, the command was possible. If the claim was true, anything was possible. They believed it was true and they did the impossible, turning the world to Jesus Christ.” (Concordia Pulpit, 1966, pp. 191-192)

The Great Commission starts with the Great Claim. Jesus has all authority in heaven and earth. With
all that power behind us we can go about the task he has given us with confidence. He doesn’t send us out empty handed to bring in the harvest. In the Word and Sacrament, we have powerful combines able to harvest souls from the rockiest soil.

Not only is there great power behind the great commission, there is also a great promise. Jesus promised, And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Who is with us always? It is Immanuel: God with us. It is that loving God who became man for you, who took on human frailties as a baby in a manger. It is that loving God-man who suffered temptation and trials for you. It is that loving God-man who kept all of God's demands and commands perfectly for you. It is that loving God who went to the cross for you. It is that loving God who rose again in glory for you. It is that God-man who is with you now and always. Another way of saying that is that your Savior is always with you. He never stops being the God-man, never stops being your Savior, never stops covering you with his robe of righteousness. Whatever happens, whatever sins may

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bother your conscience, whatever doubts you may have, you can never shake Jesus. He will be with you always.

Can you see him? No and Yes! You see him in the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper. The real presence of his body and blood in the sacrament helps us see that he is with us always. You see him in the gathering together of believers because Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20) In these ways he makes his presence visible and real to us so that we never forget that he is with us always. That’s why we want to make use of these blessings often in life. We don’t want to ever lose sight of Jesus our almighty Immanuel who is with us always.

But does that mean we will never have any problems or challenges to our faith? No. It’s like driving a dump truck. When I was in college, I spent my summers working for a construction company. At the end of one summer, the boss decided that I needed to learn how to drive a dump truck. I don’t know why, but soon I was sitting in a dump truck being trained by a real redneck. Now, driving a dump truck on mountain roads is no picnic and I don’t think I would have ever been comfortable driving it by myself. As long as I had that redneck sitting next to my I was okay. That’s what it means that Jesus is with us always.

It doesn’t mean he will live our lives for us or suffer our troubles for us. We still experience the loss of friends, the death of loved ones and attacks on our faith. But the Savior who died for you will also be with you at those times making even those things work for your good. There will be times when we fall into sin, when sin gets the better of us. There may be times when we are loaded down with guilt. But Jesus is with us then, too, forgiving our sin and reminding us of his love through word and sacrament.

We know the power of Jesus’ authority and the promise of Immanuel, God with us. Now let’s hear the mission. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of
the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. It is clear that those who call Jesus their Lord and Savior do not find their highest purpose in peeling potatoes for a church dinner or winning a game for the church softball team. Our highest calling is not cleaning the church, counting money or raising funds. Such things certainly have their place in the life of the church, but the real business of the church is making disciples, baptizing and teaching.

The church’s task is to connect people with the saving action of the Triune God. We do that by baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. In baptism God breaks down the wall of sin that separates people from God and from each other. God meets people in baptism with his grace, adopting them as his own children and assuring them of constant forgiveness and eternal life.

Then we are to teach. We are to teach everything he has commanded. When you tell a child to eat everything on his plate, do you mean that he is to eat one bite of each thing on his plate? No, you mean everything on the plate. Jesus told us to teach everything he has commanded. He didn’t mean just bits and pieces, but everything. This verse could be translated, “Teach them to guard as precious everything I have commanded.” We want to lead those who are baptized to know and treasure all the truths of God’s Word as precious to faith.

We make disciples by baptizing and teaching, first we need to go. Jesus didn’t say sit in the pew and make disciples of all nations. He said, “Go.” I believe that we are uniquely qualified to make disciples. Many churches have lost the priority of sharing and teaching God’s truth. They spend more time protesting about civil rights or feeding the hungry. They spend their efforts on money management seminars and helping the homeless, but not spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s not allow ourselves to drift that same direction. We are heralds of Advent. During the Christmas season we have special opportunities to share the gospel. We have special services that we can invite people to. We can talk about the real meaning of Christmas and why it is more than gifts and stress.

We are heralds of Advent. We have a mission to make disciples of all nations. And we can do that because of the power, promise and presence of Jesus. He is Immanuel: God with us.