Matthew 28:16-20 (The Holy Trinity—Series A)
“Making Disciples in God’s Name”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
June 7, 2020
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Our text is from Matthew 28:
16Now the eleven disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain to where Jesus directed them. 17And when they saw Him, they worshipped Him, but some doubted. 18So Jesus came and spoke to them saying, “All authority that is in heaven and on earth was given to Me. 19Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to guard all things which I commanded you. And behold! I am with you for all the days, until the consummation of the age.”
“We worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.” This we confessed today in the third of the Christian Creeds, the Athanasian Creed. Martin Luther wrote on the teaching of the Holy Trinity, “Since I see that it is so distinctly contained and grounded in Scripture, I believe God more than my own thoughts and reason and do not worry about how it can possibly be true that there is only one Essence and yet that there are three distinct Persons in this one Essence: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy [Spirit].” So today we will receive the advice of the good Doctor Luther and not worry about understanding the divine mystery that is the Holy Trinity. We will take God at His Word, receive the blessed teaching that there is only One God in three Persons, and what that means for us and for our salvation based on the text of Matthew 28.
Here, the Eleven disciples meet Jesus on a designated mountain in the region of Galilee. This is according to Jesus’ own word spoken through the angel to the women on Easter morning, “He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.” (Matt. 28:6–7 ESV). It is now in Galilee that the Eleven worship Jesus, the Risen Christ, as the true God that He is. But curiously, Matthew records that “some doubted.”
Some doubted what? Some doubted that . . ., fill in the blank. We don’t know for sure what some of the Eleven disciples doubted or why they doubted, or even which ones doubted. In the end, I guess it really doesn’t matter who it was. And it doesn’t seem fair from the context to say that they doubted that Jesus was really risen. I mean, there He was in flesh and blood, the glorified Savior, the One who once was crucified, died, and was buried. He is risen, indeed! It seems best to understand that some of Jesus’ disciples doubted what the future held for them. What lay ahead of them as followers of the Crucified and Risen Messiah after Jesus would depart from them into heaven?
A very good question! What does the future hold for the people of God? That’s a cause for doubting today, isn’t it? The Lord Jesus is victorious over sin, death, and the power of the devil. And yet, we face pandemic. We witness senseless violence and hatred. You know as well as I do that our country, as wonderful as it is, has a deep-seated root of racism, especially toward African Americans. It goes back to the days of the colonization of this land. The racial inequality of people was not fully dealt with in such documents as The Declaration of Independence, The Articles of Confederation, or the Constitution. That “peculiar institution” of enslaving one race deemed less than human was unique in world history. And it’s been repeated in our country as Americans have thought of others as “less than human,” the Native Americans, the Asian Americans, the Irish, and so one. We are heirs of our history. And it’s not always a beautiful history. It’s not always something that we Americans should be proud of.
As Christians, however, we understand that at the very heart of saying that another human being is less than human because of the color of their skin, their ethnicity, their accent, or their age (those still in the womb of their mothers or the elderly) is sin and Satan. Hatred for and the diminishing of the value of all human life from the womb to the tomb is caused by humanity’s sinful nature and the temptations that Satan presents to all people in order to undo God’s creation and ultimately destroy the Church of Christ.
Is it any wonder that “some doubted?” Where do we go from here, Lord? What does the future of your people look like? We’re afraid. We’re worried. We don’t understand events and situations. Things are so beyond our control. Sin and Satan are flexing their defeated, but still strong, muscles. Where do we go from here?
Jesus, true God and true Man, tells us. He brings us comfort in the face of the unknown future. He addresses the doubt of His disciples and relieves it: “All authority that is in heaven and on earth was given to Me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to guard all things which I commanded you. And behold! I am with you for all the days, until the consummation of the age.”
First, Jesus has “all authority” both in heaven and on earth. He has this authority because He is true God! All trinitarian power—including the power to save sinners from death and hell—has been given to Jesus. He is the revelation of God to us! Paul writes in Colossians 1:19, “In [Jesus] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” In the Upper Room on the night in which Jesus was betrayed, He spoke to Philip and the rest of the apostles, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.” (John 14:9–11 ESV).
Jesus is the Son of God. He shares one and the same name with the Father and the Holy Spirit. When Jesus says here in Matthew 28 to go and make disciples, He does not say to baptize in the names of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, but the singular NAME of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And the name of the One, Triune God is Gospel linked to the Lord’s saving person and saving work. It is God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit who desires the salvation of all people from sin, Satan, and death. It is “all Persons [of the Trinity] for all nations [of the world].”
And that is why the Father sent the Son to take into His divine nature a true human nature, without sin, so that Jesus might bear the sins of the world, suffer and die for them under the wrath of God, and so purchase for all nations with His blood forgiveness of sins and life everlasting. Yes, it’s an “all nations” thing that God has done in the person and work of His One-of-a-Kind Son. And lest some of our Protestant brothers and sisters try to convince you otherwise, “all nations” means all people. “All nations” includes babies and infants, toddlers, and teen, adults, and the aged. “All nations” includes people who God created with black skin, white skin, tan skin, brown skin, olive skin, dark skin, and light skin. “All nations” means people from every race and tribe and people and language. Those are all people for whom Jesus Christ suffered, died, and rose again. Jesus is the Savior of all nations. Those people you see on TV rioting and looting, Jesus died to win their forgiveness. Those people you see peacefully protesting hatred and violence, Jesus died to win their forgiveness. Police officers, firefighters, EMTs, the National Guard, the United States military—Jesus died to save them. President Trump, Governor Lamont, the Members of Congress, the governors and state legislators, the mayors, the citizens of every town and city and village in this country and around the world—Christ died for them.
And it is in all these varied people that your future and mine lies. We have the authority of Christ as His redeemed people to go and make disciples of “all nations.” Christians are not any less sinners and haters and fallen people than anyone else. Yet we are markedly different in that we have been redeemed by Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, given saving faith and a new life that genuinely loves others in the name of Jesus. And that love makes itself known as we tell others about Jesus, who lived, died, and rose to save everyone. We make the love of God known by baptizing all who desire the gifts of God in Christ—forgiveness, rescue from death and the death, eternal salvation. We baptized the babies, the infants, the toddlers and the teens, the adults and aged. Baptism is a Means of Grace whereby people are united with Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins.
And we also teach. We Christians teach people to guard the things that Christ has commanded us to guard in His Holy Word. As new creations in Christ, the Lord Jesus dwelling in us by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, we live new and different lives defined by love for God and love for our neighbor. And who is our neighbor? Those to whom we can show the mercy and care of God in Christ in word and action. Our neighbor is “all nations,” all people regardless of age, race, or social status. Everyone whom you meet is someone for whom the Lord Christ has died and won forgiveness of sins and eternal life. As you guard the things Christ commanded in His Word, you are empowered by the authority of Christ to love that person or those people so much that you share the Gospel with them. You speak to them about Jesus. You help and serve them in their physical needs. You pray for them, commending them into the care of the heavenly Father. You speak up for the sanctity of all human life from the womb to natural death.
This, dear friends, is the true worship of God in Spirit and truth. You, dear Christians, are salt of the earth and light of world. You are living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God through Jesus Christ who has cleansed you with His blood (Rom. 12:1). The Lord Christ is with you always. Do not doubt your future as the people of God, the holy, Christian Church. Your Triune God empowers you to serve Him through the Gospel and Sacraments of Christ by means of the power and grace of the Holy Spirit. He has called you to make disciples by baptizing and teaching. And yes, that includes showing love and mercy to “all nations” in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 Ewald M. Plass, ed., What Luther Says (St. Louis: Concordia, 1959), 1388-1389.