Big Idea: Jesus the King sends us out to bring people in.
Matthew 28 is the triumphant conclusion of the story of Jesus’ earthly life. He came to bring in the Kingdom but was rejected by the very people He came to liberate. Although He healed the sick, raised the dead, and cast out demons, the people failed to recognize Him. Jesus came to be the Messiah, the Christ, of Israel, but we crowned our King with thorns. Rejected by the religious and secular elites alike, Jesus hung on a cross and cried out – forsaken by God Himself. Bearing the sins of the world, Jesus died alone.
But on the third day, everything changed. Death could not hold the One who is the Life, and He rose again. The angel rolled away the stone so that people could see He had risen. Our faith does not rest on philosophical theory, but historical fact: the tomb was empty! Rising again, He reclaimed all of the glory He had temporarily laid aside for His ministry. He reclaimed His eternal Kingdom. No longer did He tell His disciples to go to the nation of Israel alone, but to the whole world. All authority in Heaven and Earth is His – and as the rightful King, His people were to take the good news of His Kingdom from East to West.
The old petty tyrant of sin was defeated, and our guilt expunged by the ultimate sacrifice. Master Death is dead because Jesus Himself made the path to life. Sorrow, fear, and pain have lost their realm and are swallowed up by hope. Our ancient slave drivers have passed away: a new King has come, and He is (in the words of the Jesus Storybook Bible) is making all the sad things come untrue. He did not come with swords or armies, but alone, seeking righteousness, mighty to save. This is our message: liberty to the captives and joy to the mourners. As the old hymn says: “Send the Light!”
The world is dark today. COVID-19, injustice, political division, and global superpowers breathing threats all shake our security. As a pastor, I am always thrilled to find out that everyone knows how I should navigate this new landscape except me. But of course, the truth is that none of us know how to handle this brave new world, and the chaos of our personal lives only adds fog. But the message we bring supersedes all of those concerns. Jesus has beaten death! No oppressor can claim us when the true King has freed us.
We can do many good things. Feeding the hungry and defending the orphan and the widow are essential manifestations of our love, but we should never lose sight of our commission: take the message out to the people who are still in chains, that they can come into God’s family. We announce that message to them (the true King is here!), let them publicly identify as Jesus’ servants through baptism, and teach them how to live the way He taught. But it all begins with going to those outside and bringing them in.
Discussion Idea: Have you ever been lonely and had someone reach out to you? What did that feel like? Have you ever reached out to someone who alone? What makes us do that, or not do that?
Prayer Focus: Pray for a specific person who needs to be saved, or for a saved person who needs the encouragement to continue walking with God. Write their initials on a small piece of paper or a sticky note to be reminded to pray for them for the next week.