The Sermon for Sunday, February 4th, 2024, Sexagesima & World Mission Sunday
The Lessons: Genesis 12:1-3; Psalm 86:8-13; Revelation 7:9-17; Matthew 28:16-20
The Text: Matthew 28:16-20
INTRODUCTION: WORLD MISSION SUNDAY
Following an exhilarating performance at New York’s Carnegie Hall, classical cellist Yo-Yo Ma went home, slept, and awoke the next day, still exhausted. He hailed a cab to take him to the other side of Manhattan, then placed his cello, which had been handcrafted in Vienna in 1733 and was valued at $2.5 million, in the trunk of the taxi.
When he reached his destination, Ma paid the driver but forgot the cello.
He realized what he had done after the cab disappeared and began a desperate search for the missing instrument. Fortunately, he had the receipt with the cabby’s ID number. Before the day ended, the taxi was located in a garage in Queens with the priceless cello still in the trunk. Ma’s smile could not be contained as he spoke to reporters about the recovered cello. His evening performance in Brooklyn went on as planned.
Even more desperate than Yo-Yo Ma’s search for his precious cello is the pursuit by God of the lost. We should imitate his passion for priceless people gone astray.
– Greg Asimakoupoulos, “Search for Priceless Possession,” PreachingToday.com
In view of God’s call to his Church to proclaim the Gospel to all people, the ACNA (The Anglican Church in North America) has designated the Second Last Sunday after Epiphany (Sexagesima in the 1928 Prayer Book Calendar) as World Mission Sunday, on which the emphasis is the Great Commission.
The Great Commission is the command of the Lord Jesus Christ to his eleven Apostles, and hence to his whole Church, to go and preach the Gospel to people of all nations. Our Gospel Lesson today contains this Great Commission.
THE GREAT COMMISSION (MATTHEW 28:16-20)
There was a certain mountain in Galilee to which Jesus had commanded his disciples to go after his resurrection (Matthew 26:32; 28:7, 10; 28:16; Mark 14:28). Galilee was a region where Jews as well as people of other nations lived. It is therefore significant that the commission to preach the Gospel to people of all nations was given on a mountain in Galilee. Then again, St. Matthew portrays Jesus Christ as the Giver of the New Law, just as Moses was the spokesman to whom God gave the Law of the Old Covenant on Mt. Sinai.
Now when the Apostles saw Jesus in Galilee after His resurrection, they worshipped him, but some doubted (Matthew 28:17). In the Gospel account of St. Luke, the Lord questions why the disciples have doubts that he has risen from the dead and shows them the scars of his wounds from crucifixion (Luke 24:38-43). In this passage in Matthew 28, however, Jesus draws near to his Apostles, proclaiming that all power in heaven and earth has been given to Him (Matthew 28:18). This immediately precedes the Great Commission. Since Jesus Christ received from God the Father all authority, all power, in heaven and on earth, He has the power to command His Church to proclaim the Gospel to all the peoples of the earth, and He has the power to guide them while doing it and to strengthen them to perform signs and wonders, heal the sick, cast out demons, as God’s witness to the power of His word and the power of His Gospel. He also has the power to be with every member of His Church throughout the rest of the time allotted for the Church to preach His Gospel.
While some interpreters have made much of the command “Therefore go…” in the sense that it is a command to go to other nations, we must remember that the main verb in the sentence is really “make disciples.” The Greek verb for this is probably best translated by “make disciples.” It certainly does not simply mean “count the number of those who responded to an altar call to receive Jesus Christ as Lord.” A person needs to do much more than respond to such an altar call. In fact, he might go missing as a disciple of the Lord unless he is instructed fully in the way of the Lord Jesus Christ and taught to observe his commandments. Making a disciple does not only involve an initial response of obeying John 1:12, believing in Jesus Christ and receiving him as Lord, but it entails catechesis, or instruction in the Christian faith, which in our Anglican tradition, leads to Confirmation, and even continually learning more about the Christian faith all one’s life. When the King James Version translates the verb used for “make disciples” as “teach,” it does reflect the catechetical process of instruction in the faith, but the word “teach” also directly translates the Latin word used at this point in the Vulgate, whereas the American Standard Version prefers the more exact translation of the Greek verb, “make disciples.”
Making disciples must also be accompanied by the Baptism of all new disciples, following the Lord’s command here, “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19b, KJV). This command, then, institutes the Sacrament of Holy Baptism since our Lord himself gave it to the Apostles. Therefore we should not ever teach that Baptism is unnecessary for a Christian. If God required that even His Son submit to St. John’s baptism of repentance when he had committed no sin, how much more should we submit to Baptism, not only because it signifies repentance, but also because it is one of our first acts of obedience as Christians and because it brings us into union with the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 6:1-11).
It is noteworthy that the Lord adds that disciples must be taught to observe all that Jesus has commanded the Apostles. The Apostles and Evangelists left us a record of Jesus’ commandments and teachings in the writings of the New Testament. The disciple must be taught what to believe, what the commandments of God are that he must obey, and how to pray, and he must fulfill the requirement of Baptism. Just as the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus at his Baptism, so each disciple must receive the Holy Spirit to be empowered for the work of ministry, service, and the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
Knowing that this Great Commission is a huge task and responsibility for all members of the Church that they cannot fulfill in their own strength alone, the Lord Jesus adds the words, “and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20b, KJV). How is Jesus with every Christian to the end of time? He is with each Christian through His indwelling Holy Spirit, who is the eternal companion of every believer.
What must I do then? Share the Gospel, teach the faith, tell people you know about how the Lord Jesus Christ has changed your life, and how he can change theirs. Not everyone you speak to may respond positively or come to salvation, but the Lord is with you always as you share His Gospel.
 Quoted on p.70, Craig Brian Larson & Phyllis Ten Elshof (General Editors): 1001 Illustrations that Connect. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, Christianity Today International, 2008.