|"Just do it!"|
The scene is a mountaintop. Any time you have a mountaintop scene in the Bible, get ready for something big!
Remember where Moses met God to get the 10 commandments? A mountaintop. The prophet Elijah ran away up a mountain when all looked lost for him and God showed up for Elijah where?
On the mountain. Jesus’ disciples surely would remember that amazing day that Jesus had taken Peter, James and John up the mountain. It’s the day we call Transfiguration Sunday -- Jesus was transfigured, his clothes turned a dazzling white and two strangers appeared with Jesus -- guess who? -- Elijah and Moses! -- up on that mountaintop.
The disciples knew all about the mountaintop. Back then, people believed that if humans were to encounter God, the best place to go was up the mountain.
This mountaintop story is the very next story that Matthew tells after the story of Jesus’ resurrection. Matthew says that newly-resurrected Jesus met the disciples and said: “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” [Mt.28:9-10]
So here they are -- in Galilee -- this time ALL the disciples of Jesus gathered on the “mountain to which Jesus had directed them.”
What do you think they were expecting from Jesus there? Some things they might have expected, they didn’t get:
Explanations -- Jesus didn’t explain to them what went so horribly wrong after that great Palm Sunday parade where Jesus was cheered as “King of the Jews” only to be crucified dead and buried in less than a week.
Re-hashing -- If Jesus was still thinking about what had been done to him by the priests or the judges or the disciples even, Matthew didn’t find that worthy to talk about.
Solutions -- Jesus didn’t help them to understand how Jesus, dead and buried, was now Jesus back with them.
If Jesus did have some explaining to do, those explanations are not recorded by Matthew.
If Jesus told them important things to believe about him, we don’t know those beliefs from Matthew.
Matthew’s story of what Jesus did and said after the resurrection is so short and so direct, it is stunning. If you want to see a contrast, go back to the beginning of the gospel of Matthew and see how many -- how many -- verses Matthew takes to lay out -- generation to generation -- the genealogy of Jesus -- from Adam to Joseph. Matthew goes to great lengths to explain how Jesus has all the right ancestors. Matthew also gives a very detailed account of Jesus being arrested, charged, tried, and crucified. Matthew uses more words to tell what happens to Jesus’ crucified body than about what happens on this mountaintop.
About the resurrected Jesus, Matthew has few words.
The gospel good news according to Matthew is simply this: Jesus is alive; he said “meet me at the mountain”; and the disciples show up where Jesus said he would be.
And then and there, on that mountaintop, Jesus gives them -- ALL of them -- their marching orders. Church tradition calls this the Great Commission -- what Jesus said up on that mountain:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me...” Whatever else this means, Jesus’ having been given “all authority” means that Jesus has the freedom and power to say and do whatever he pleases at this point. All options are open to him. What will he require of his disciples? What will he incite them to do?
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations [“the human family”], baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Now, if you are a disciple on that mountain, hearing Jesus commissioning you in this way, sending you out to do what Jesus himself had been doing, what do you do?
If you are a Peter-type disciple, you might say, “Gung ho! I’m ready! You can count on me, Jesus!” Because that’s how Peter was: bold, always ready for a challenge, ready to fail and get back up again and go on to the next place where Jesus was going.
But what if you are a Bartholomew or a Thaddeus? Who? Bartholomew and Thaddeus were called by Jesus as two of those first 12 disciples, but we don’t hear much about them that was worth writing down. They were never in a leadership role that we know of. Other disciples were in the spotlight. Others are more famous. Yet unsung Thaddeus and Bartholomew are given the same commission as the others -- the same good news; the same marching orders; they were passed the same mantle of ministry that Jesus himself had carried out:
ALL of them were sent to GO to whomever and wherever God’s love and healing is needed.
ALL of them were being sent out to seek others in the human family and invite them to join together in community to learn and grow to love Jesus and serve him too.
ALL of them were being encouraged to introduce others to God the Creator, God the Redeemer, God the Sustaining Spirit. Hadn’t Jesus initiated those first twelve into God’s holy priesthood? Now ALL of them were to be priests to others.
And ALL of the disciples had graduated to become the teachers who would walk with new disciples.
In other words, ALL of them were now sent to do with and for others the very same things that Jesus himself had done with and for them.
ALL of them -- the confident Peters as well as the “who me?” types, the Bartholomew and the Thaddeus and the Mary and the Martha -- the unlikely YOU and the unlikely ME.
ALL of us sent off the mountaintop with a mission, and ALL of us held together by the same promise: Jesus goes with us, always.
In our own United Church of Christ Statement of Faith, we say “yes” to following Jesus off that mountaintop.
God calls us into the church to accept the cost and joy of discipleship, to be servants in the service of the whole human family, to proclaim the gospel to all the world …
"… We're not called to make churchgoers, [that is we are not called to “bring people in here” just to “fill the pews” with] people who include religion as one among many respectable civic activities. We're [each and every one of us] called to make disciples, people who really follow Jesus as Lord." [Dylan Breuer, with my modifications]
So to become a church member, then, is really to make the decision to enter the ministry. Each and every one of us has been given the ministry that Jesus had: to share good news; to make disciples; to baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That’s the good news ministry of the church of Jesus Christ. It is YOUR ministry – and mine! The Bible tells us so. Ready or not, Jesus goes with us. So be excited! Be ready! If you are a baptized member of this church, Jesus has already called YOU to ministry in his name – and given you everything you need to be faithful to that call. God has called US together – and made us ministers – ALL! Thanks be to God!
Above photo is of a teen's feet from UCC General Synod 27
Above photo is of a teen's feet from UCC General Synod 27