Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshipped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28.16-20.
For the third time this morning I am looking at this call of Jesus to his followers to “go … and make disciples of all nations.” As I have been saying, the basis of that call … and the reason why it is a valid call and why obedience to it is non-optional … is that “all authority in heaven and earth” has now been given to the Risen Christ. He has, in other words, been “given dominion that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him” (Daniel 7.13), for, in raising him from the dead, “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2.9-11). That is why his followers must now engage in world-wide evangelism, irrespective of the colour, creed or language of those they encounter, and regardless of whether or not it is in the interest of social cohesion and multicultural correctness to proclaim the Lordship of Christ to the exclusion of all other lords and saviours.
I had intended to look more closely this morning at what that world-wide evangelism might involve, but instead I find I must return to those verses from Philippians 2 which I quoted yesterday and which I have just quoted again; and I must do so because of something that happened during the night. Until last night, I suppose, if anyone had asked me what I saw in my mind’s eye as I read those verses, I would have said I saw an ocean of people of every colour and creed and language, dropping to one knee (rather like in medieval times) and bowing their head before this great and glorious High King of Heaven and Earth, the Lord Jesus Christ — but (and here is the crunch) I saw many of them … perhaps the majority … doing it angrily, resentfully and, as it were, at the point of a sword. Last night, however, in my sleep, I believe God told me that my picture was, in that respect, completely wrong; for I woke with these words running through my head, over and over again: “No: on that day, all who bow the knee to Jesus will bow to him only in wonder, love and praise.”
Of course! I can see now that it must be so. How could it be otherwise. If my old picture had been correct, where could Jesus have taken things from there? Jesus is Love. The dominion of Jesus is a dominion of love; and Love will not compel allegiance. If there are those who to the very end spurn every overture of Love … despise Jesus, reject him and turn from him, then Love must let them go. They will simply not be there in the new heavens and earth to bow the knee when the name of Jesus is cried out in triumphant delight. But I do know that Father, Son and Spirit will together move heaven and earth and do everything that love can do to prevent even one person missing out on the joy and jubilation of that day. And that is perhaps what I meant when I ended yesterday’s post by saying, that the universal majesty that is given to the Risen Christ “is, of course, a redemptive majesty”. In the days of his flesh, Jesus exercised his authority in redeeming the lost — proclaiming liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, and setting at liberty those who were oppressed (Luke 4.18) — and that is how he continues to exercise his authority through those of his followers who will cooperate with him. His purpose is love. Those who bow the knee at his name will be the company of the redeemed, the fellowship of the ransomed, healed, restored and forgiven. There will be no enemies of Christ there who have not become his friends. There will be only “disciples” … but more of that tomorrow.