16 April, 2023
This weekend is the last weekend in Matthew for the next 4 years. We’ve jumped about a bit in this gospel, but it has been challenging at times and good to sit in some of the differences.
Our reading today is perhaps better known as the Great Commissioning. It is the reading we use in our Baptism Service as it speaks directly to the followers of Jesus to go and baptise the nations.
The substantial festival of Easter may be over but in these four verses from Matthew’s gospel we have something that is far from an inconsequential after-thought. These verses are packed full of important content: symbolism, realism, divine authority, command, sacrament, and encouragement and promise.
In the mountains (long associated with important appearances of God) the disciples were given sight of Jesus. Their eyes were opened to his identity and they worshipped him, they gave themselves to him.
It is realistic to acknowledge however that with belief comes doubt. Honest assessment of faith is a recognition that a certain degree of ‘doubt’ is inevitable as faith relies upon things unseen and is focussed on matters unworldly. Yet in the midst of such uncertainty, is the certainty that God is somehow with us.
Jesus gives a command to his disciples, and through his disciples to the Church. The command is to ‘go and teach’. From a position of divine authority Jesus lays down the challenge to those who come after him. Teach what? Well, it might not be as difficult as we sometimes make out. After all, Jesus told us there was just two things to remember: love God, and love others.
The passage also connects Jesus and the present day with a long history of Jewish faith tradition. Jesus’ baptism is linked to the rituals of God’s ancient people who used water as a sign of cleaning and identification. Along with the command to ‘go and teach’ is the command to ‘go and baptise’. Jesus’ disciples have this responsibility to go into the world and lead others to the recognition of their own life story being part of a much larger story of God’s dealing with creation and his love for each one of us.
Finally, the last lines of the text speak for themselves. In the middle of all of this—even in the reality of doubt—Jesus wants us to know that he (God) is with us.
We might have had our celebration last week, but there is still space for the hallelujahs!