Wednesday, February 13, 2008

On Earth As It Is in Heaven

Lenten Midweek
Matthew 28:16-20

Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.” Here is how we see what the will of God is. In instituting Baptism here at the giving of the Great Commission, Jesus is hearkening us back to His giving to us the Lord’s Prayer. The third petition is “Thy will be done.” But it’s not just that God’s will be done. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” He has become a man. He has suffered. He has risen. He is now about to ascend into heaven. But before He does, He has something to tell His apostles: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.”

And He will now give the Great Commission. He will now institute Baptism. When He directs us to pray in the prayer He gave us, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” one way we see how His will in heaven is indeed done on earth is in Baptism.

He first directs His eleven disciples to a mountain. There is a lot of speculation about Baptism. A lot of disagreement. This will always be this way when it comes to the most important things in life and of the life to come. Why is it so hard for us to simply go where Jesus has directed us to go? For the disciples it was the mountain He told them to go to. For us it is His Words we have before us: “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.” Avoid any speculation about your Baptism. Know that you are indeed Baptized, Jesus says it right here. This is where He has directed you, this is where we know the certainty that His heavenly will has indeed been done on earth. He places His name on us in Baptism. Where His name is, there is certainty. Where His name is, there is salvation.

The sinful flesh is stubborn, though. Even when we go where Jesus has directed us to go, we fall into doubts, don’t we? The disciples made their way to the mountain where Jesus was. There they worshiped Him. That seems an appropriate response. But Matthew also tells us the troubling detail that some of those disciples doubted. Doesn’t that cast doubt on the whole Great Commission? Doesn’t it put the institution of Baptism in a bad light? Just the opposite, we see that the things our Lord has given us rest on His power and authority alone and not on the individuals there. We have doubts just like those disciples did. We are not always faithful in our worship of Him. But He is always faithful to us in His promises. You may have some doubts, but flee to His Word, His promise, His institution of your Baptism.

Matthew doesn’t record Jesus’ response to their doubting. Or maybe He does. Maybe He just went right into what He had brought them there for. Whatever dialogue there may have been on the mountain, the Holy Spirit has recorded for us what we need to know. Jesus tells the apostles that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. It’s a no-brainer for us that God has all authority in heaven and on earth. He’s God, after all. So why does Jesus, who is God, say that all authority has been given to Him? Because He is the selfless servant. Because He has chosen to humble Himself. He became a man. He is not afraid to be in a position where He is receiving.

This has so much more to say about Baptism than we may realize. What it says first is that what is behind Baptism is all authority in heaven and on earth. God Himself is behind our Baptism. What it says second is that this is indeed God’s will. Don’t ever let anybody tell you that your Baptism is no big deal. Don’t fall for the line that it’s just a symbol. Don’t think for a minute that it’s some simple act you do to show God that you believe in Him and follow Him. Baptism is all about God’s will for you, on earth as it is in heaven. It is all about Him forgiving you your sins and giving you new life. What it says third flows right from this, and that is that Baptism is all about receiving. It’s not about doing, but receiving. If receiving is good enough for Jesus, who is God Almighty, then it should be good enough for us. In fact, we should rejoice in it! That as our Lord Himself humbled Himself to receive all authority in heaven and earth, we in humility receive the gift of salvation in Baptism.

The Lord who has received all authority is the one who then gives. What does He give? One of the most well known things there is to Christians: the Great Commission. It’s simply this: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” In another amazing display of humility we see that our Lord, the God Almighty, is not ashamed to use simple people like you and me to carry out the wonderful task of making disciples. I’m a control freak when it comes to certain things. There are some things I don’t want anybody doing but me. But when it comes to this our Lord is not too proud to let us in on what He’s got going.

But He doesn’t just tell us to go make disciples of all nations, He tells us how. By Baptizing and teaching. There is no one He does not want to be a disciple. There is no one He does not want to be Baptized. There is no one He does not want to be taught. All nations means all nations. God wants all people to be saved. The way He brings people into His eternal Kingdom is through Baptism. This is His will, the heavenly grace coming to earth in water connected with the Word of God.

When He directed the disciples to the mountain and He was greeted with some doubt He didn’t leave them in their doubt. He didn’t give up on them. He directed them to something else. They wouldn’t be able to stay on the mountain forever. He would be ascending into heaven shortly. So He gave them something they could hold on to. He directed them to Baptism. Despite our doubts, He doesn’t leave us be.

Baptism saves us but it is not alone. Just as a person is born and then fed and nurtured so when we are Baptized we are fed and nurtured on the Word of God. The Church Baptizes and teaches. People are brought in to the Christian Church and then are taught the Word of our Lord. This is how He sustains us in our Baptism.

It’s tempting to think of the Great Commission as a command. We might even be tempted to think of Baptism as something we have to do. But God doesn’t give what He gives just so we have to do certain stuff. He gives because He loves to give. He loves to lavish His grace upon us. And in the Great Commission all we should be seeing is lavish grace. Lest we forget this, He reminds us that He is with us always. From heaven above to earth He came. His will is done on earth as it is in heaven. In a rugged cross we can see heaven’s will. In ordinary water we can see heavenly grace poured out upon sinful people.

Heaven rejoices over one sinner who repents. We rejoice that His will is done. Amen.


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