May 18, 2008
16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.
17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.
18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Four days from today, Indiana Jones will whip-crack back onto the silver screen and into our imaginations with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. In this fourth installment of the film series, Harrison Ford reprises his role as the unassuming archaeology professor who is also a world adventurer with a cocky smile. It has been 19 years since the last Indiana Jones movie. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was a blockbuster, and even after such a gap in time, most of us can still recall John Williams’ music from the film. In his newest adventure, a gray-haired Indiana is again in search for a sort of religious relic, this time one of the fabled Crystal Skulls.
The actual crystal skulls are several human skull models fashioned from clear or milky quartz crystal. Some claim that the skulls are ancient Mesoamerican artifacts, some even claim that they predate Indians on this continent, going back to Atlantis or some such place. If you have a copy of a book called The Bible Code, you will “discover” that the authors allege that the Skulls are chronicled in the Torah — if you skip the right combination of letters ... and read upside down ... on a Thursday ... with three marbles in your left pocket.
Thirteen or more of these legendary skulls exist and come, supposedly from ancient civilizations such as the Mayans and Aztecs. The skulls cannot be carbon dated because crystal is inorganic matter, and some skull fanatics believe they are up to 100,000 years old; others believe that they are the product of ancient extraterrestrial cultures (see wikipedia article on Crystal Skulls).
Of course, no archaeologist accepts any of this. Archaeology says that the skulls are fakes. They were manufactured in the 1800’s to sucker the gullible public into paying to see them.
However, those who have held the skulls, cite their psychic powers — healing and happiness, dreams and visions or even malady and misfortune. But if you think the idea of power-conferring quartz heads is odd, remember some of the new-age accessories people don for their promised powers: Copper bracelets to heal joint pain, magnetic jewelry to relieve stress, crystal charms to keep away evil spirits.
Sometimes this kind of thing even creeps into the church. Many years ago, I remember a famous faithhealer who was selling blessed handkerchiefs on TV. You would buy the handkerchief that had been prayed over by the faithhealer and place it on whatever part of you that was ailing, and supposedly be healed. I scoffed at that sort of thing then and still do. Some times I remember the things I don’t believe in as a Christian. I don’t believe in Astrology or flying saucers or holy handkerchiefs or Crystal Skulls with psychic powers.
What I do believe in is Jesus Christ who gives me all the power I need to live now and forever. Now I know that the fourth Indiana Jones movie is just a movie, and I expect to see and enjoy it on those terms, as entertainment. I did not take seriously anything the previous movies said about holy rocks or the holy grail or the Ark of the Covenant. They were just movies and that is fine.
But I do take Jesus very seriously. Jesus was a human being born in about 4 b.c. in Bethlehem. He grew up in Nazareth and was crucified around 30 a.d. in Jerusalem. He was fully human. He was also God incarnate. He was and is the second person of the Trinity, Fully God, lord and savior. Through Jesus, we are made right before God, our sins are forgiven and God accepts us as his children. That is the good news. It is the best news that humankind has ever had. That is why presenting the gospel, the good news to others, is not a dreary task but a joyful privilege.
Think back to new age skulls. We don’t believe that. Christians don’t believe that nonliving stuff can confer power on people, but we do believe that the living Christ did confer power on people and does confer power on his people.. Some of his last words were perhaps the most powerful words ever spoken, transferring the authority of the King to his followers.
Webster tells us that the definition of power is “the capability of producing an effect, whether physical or moral.” Jesus’ words are words of power. The passage before us today from Matthew 28 is called “The Great Commission.” Jesus commissioned the disciples to go forth and make more disciples, and they did. His words possess the great “capability of producing an effect.”
Why are these words so powerful? The commission has power because of the Commissioner. When the disciples arrived at the mount, they came to Christ, as we all so often do, with mixed attitudes, mixed motives. They came to worship Jesus, but they still had doubts; they were still uncertain. Jesus confirmed their worship and calmed their uncertainties. In v18, he said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” He says, I have authority over everything.
Imagine a Fortune 500 company. If a guy who sorts the mail in the basement tells a vice-president go forward on a multimillion dollar deal, everyone has a good laugh and no one does anything. But if the CEO of the company flies into town and walks in with the same order, the deal gets done today. That is authority.
The authorities in our lives are what we obey. Not what we say we obey, but what we actually obey. For the disciples Jesus was the authority, and so he should be for us.
People want to know that what they are doing is linked to some kind of ultimate meaning. They want to live lives of relevance. We all do. The Great Commission has power because it has purpose. Over the last decade, a huge new business and personal consulting sector has emerged. It is called coaching. Somewhere between a therapist, a mentor, a parent, a friend lies the personal coach. Coaching has exploded in popularity due in part to the coach’s ability to bring one sorely lacking element into people’s lives. A life coach brings purpose. A life coach assists people with the concept of living with purpose, with developing life goals and living for those goals.
The Great Commission offers purpose. It turned fishermen into fishers of men. It made ordinary folks into people of power. The Great Commission stands as marching orders for the kingdom, a purpose for the people.
So what does the Great Commission say to us today? What does Jesus want to empower about us? Let us look at what it says.
First of all, it says, “GO.” This is easy to understand. Do something. Get off the bench, get into the game. Put your faith into action. When was the last time you did something because you simply felt that God wanted you to do it. Maybe you did not want to do it at all. This is not about you. Jesus is the authority. What does Jesus want me to do?
The Great Commission says, Make disciples. We are like traffic cops. We are in the business of directing people in a certain direction, toward Christ. We are called of God to help others to be more like Jesus. So, how is business? Are you carrying out your call? Are the people you come in contact with more like Christ because of you? Now granted you cannot make them more like Christ. Ultimately, they are responsible for their own lives, but you have an influence upon the people around you. What kind of influence is it? Is it toward Christ or toward the devil. Somewhere along our journey, we need to ask ourselves that question. How is our spouse more like Jesus because of us? How are our children more like Jesus because of us? Our extended family, our friends, our coworkers, our neighbors, the cashier at WalMart, the bagboy at Bilo—how are they more like Jesus because of us? If you had to stand before God and answer those questions, what would you say? Your answer indicates how you are carrying out the great commission.
The Great Commission also says we are to teach these new disciples. WHOA! That raises a red flag for some folks. They will say I don’t know enough about Christianity to teach anyone. I don’t know the history of the faith. I don’t know what Augustine said or John Calvin said. But that is not the point. You don’t have to know everything to teach one thing. I remember a class when I was in the Air Force. The class was being taught by a sgt. It was on some aspect of radio communications. Suddenly a Colonel walked into the room. We followed military protocol and came to attention. The colonel said be at ease and he sat down at a desk. He said, I want to hear what the sgt has to say on this particular topic. The sgt said, “Well, sir, I don’t know if I can treat you like a student.” The colonel said, “You can treat me as a student by telling me what you know about this.” Now, I suppose the colonel knew much more than the sgt about many things, but on that particular topic, he did not know, so the sgt had something to teach the colonel, and, give the colonel credit, he was wise enough to know that.
The average Christian may not know any more about things of this world than the average unbeliever. That bothers some Christians but it should not because you know something else. You have something to teach. You know about Jesus and they don’t.
When it comes to a teachable moment, you can share what you know. Lets talk about a teachable moment. A good teacher knows when teaching is possible and when it is not. I remember being in an 8 hour graduate class. Now that I think about it, I seem to have spent most of my life in one sort of class or another, but never mind that. This was during the summer. I was taking one class that met from 9 to 5. It was late in the afternoon. We had been going at it all day. The teacher paused. Looked at the class. I guess we looked pathetic. We looked tired, wiped out, done for. He tossed his piece of chalk down on the desk and said, “This is not a teachable moment. Go home.” And he walked out of class. He was right. We were not going to learn anything, he was not going to teach anything. Time to pack it in.
In talking about Jesus, there is a teachable moment when it is time to witness to the faith, and then there are other moments when we are better off talking about Indiana Jones.
Years ago, I remember going to a movie over in Greenville, SC. Not an Indiana Jones movie, just a movie. I was standing in line to get tickets, and a group of students from Bob Jones University, a fundamentalist Bible college, showed up and started going down the line attempting to present the gospel in a very abbreviated form. Now I am a Christian. I agreed with everything they were saying. But it was the wrong time and wrong place. And their presentation make me cringe inwardly. It was almost hostile. “You are the enemy and we are going to tell you about it”--that seemed to be their attitude. How can someone be so hostile and angry about a gospel of love? That was definitely not a teachable moment and they were not teaching anything.
Well you might say, how do I recognize a teachable moment and how do I present the gospel rightly? That is more art than science, because the gospel is ultimately your story. It is what you know about Jesus. That is what you have to teach, and the Holy Spirit will show you the moment.
Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” He is the commissioner, the authority, and the power. Trust him and he will enable you to be his witness.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
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