In preparing for my sermon for Trinity Sunday, I was reflecting on the prescribed text for this Holy Day and how it wonderfully ties in the Trinity to Matthew’s commissioning of the disciples. In Matthew 28:16-20, Jesus is empowering the remaining disciples and by extension us. He says to the eleven disciples, “all authority on heaven and earth is given to me” and then he gives to them their marching orders. (He has just been resurrected from the dead, so who can argue with that?) He gives them the authority to baptize and teach, not in their own name, but in the name of what we call today the Trinity, “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Jesus bakes in humility
Let’s break that authority down a little. This authority Jesus gives them has two parts to it. First, it is the authority of the Triune God. They are not God, or Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, and they are now not “super disciples” with their own authority. These works they will now do will not to be done in their own names, but in the name of the Trinity. This is how Jesus bakes in humility. The disciples are to understand that they are not doing it to their own glory.
I know it can get a bit tedious or cliche when a sport star scores a point or a celebrity accepts a award and they give thanks to God. But that action, kneeling down, pointing up, or whatever, or those words of thanks have their root in this. What we do and what gifts we have, are all from God. So we should give thanks to God. In the same way, when we intentionally act in a way that is in keeping with God’s will and Christ’s example we are doing it as God’s representative, and not as our self. So when we as a Follower of Christ do good and are a good example of the teachings and way of Christ, then it is to Christ that we should point all credit and glory and honour. So Jesus gave them authority with a humility entwined in it.
The authority given us is for two specific tasks
Second, when we look carefully at the authority Jesus gave the disciples and us is that it is a great and specific authority! The authority given us is for two specific tasks, to baptize in the name of the Trinity and to teach his commands. Sometimes we doubt ourselves that we are good enough people to invite people to church or to invite them to consider entering into a closer relationship with God, it is important to remember that we are not inviting people to be more like us. We are indeed fragile and broken and often make mistakes but we are inviting them to be more like Christ. Because it it is no ourselves who we are inviting them to see then we can be encouraged and be made bolder to say come and see this Jesus we talk about, or come and learn for themselves why Christ is so great and example in our life.
the final promise of Jesus is that he is with us always, to the end of time
Finally, the authority given by Jesus is filled with courage. The courage Jesus gives us and his disciples comes from the final promise of Jesus, that he is with us always, to the end of time. Christ is with them then, and with us now. Christ’s presence is found in the full expression of the Trinity. We can see and feel the awesomeness of God’s presence around us in the beauty and complexity of all creation from the depths of the sea to the universe that surrounds us. We can know the fullness of the grace of God through Jesus’ life, teaching, and great example as told to us through the scriptures. And we can feel the connection, community, and fellowship, that happens through the Holy Spirit that continues to guide and shape our relationships and the church. We can find courage for each and everyone of these expressions of triune God and how we experience it’s expression of God in our life.
The authority that the resurrected Christ grants to those disciples and to us central to how we live our faith in our lives in and in the work of the whole church together. It is an authority rooted in God, because it is God’s. It is not ours personally, and so in using that authority, we are always reminded to be humble and to give the glory to God. The authority is specific. It is to point others to Christ through baptism and Jesus’ own teachings. And the authority is full of courage. It is was given once and for all time to those who follow Christ, as Jesus promised to be with us always, to the end of time itself.