The Authority of Our Risen Lord
Date Posted: April 9th, 2012
The Authority of Our Risen Lord
April 7th / 8th 2012
by Pastor Colin S. Smith
“All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.” Matthew 28:18
We are following the Easter story, and we’re told that Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” went to the tomb (Matthew 28:1). Mary Magdalene had a dreadful past. She was gripped by powers beyond her control, and she lived a wretched life, but she was set free by Christ. She’d been forgiven much and she loved much.
Then there was “the other Mary.” How would you like to be known as “the other Mary”? Everybody knew about the infamous Mary Magdalene. Everybody knew about Mary, the mother of our Lord. This was “the other Mary,” the most ordinary believer who loved Christ in her quiet way.
An angel appears
They arrive at the tomb, and we’re told that there was an earthquake and that they saw an angel whose appearance was like lightning (Matthew 28:2-3). We’ve seen, this week, the power of a tornado to throw trailers into the air, but here the appearance of a single angel makes the earth shake as megawatts of holiness draw near.
If this is what it is like when one angel appears, what would it be like to stand in the presence of almighty God? That’s why one of the Old Testament prophets said, “Who can stand when He appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire” (Malachi 3:2).
We are told that “the guards trembled” (Matthew 28:4). They were fixed to the spot, paralyzed with fear—no drawing their weapons, no facing up to the angel of God. They became “like dead men.”
Then the angel speaks to the women, “Do not be afraid…” (Matthew 28:5). This is wonderful: Two women in the presence of overwhelming power and the angel says, “Do not be afraid.” He did not say this to the guards. The enemies of Jesus have every reason to fear the resurrection.
But to the women he says, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus.” That’s the key. If you seek Jesus you have no reason to fear the resurrection. The angel’s next words are at the heart of our celebration today: “He is not here, for He has risen, as He said” (Matthew 28:5).
Then the women are given orders, “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” (Matthew 28:7). The women went with fear and joy to tell the disciples.
As they were moving in obedience, “Jesus met them, and said ‘Greetings!’” (Matthew 28:9). Their immediate response is to worship at his feet. Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me” (Matthew 28:10).
Now we know from the other gospels that Jesus appeared to the disciples in Jerusalem on the first Easter day. He also appeared to them again eight days later when they were still in Jerusalem, meeting behind closed doors, and Thomas was with them.
But Matthew’s focus is on Jesus’ resurrection appearance in Galilee because of its special significance. Jesus spoke about this appearance after the Lord’s Supper: “You will all fall away because of me this night. It is written I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered. But after I am raised up I will go before you to Galilee” (Matthew 26:31-32).
Twice in Matthew 28 we have this reference to meeting the risen Lord in Galilee. The angel says it in verse 7 and Christ Himself says it in verse 10, “Tell my brothers to go to Galilee and there they will see me.” Galilee was over 60 miles north of Jerusalem. So, for the disciples, this was at least a four days’ walk.
Jesus appeared to the disciples in Jerusalem on Easter day and again a week later. So, allowing for travel time, the appearance in Galilee was probably two to three weeks after the resurrection. The resurrection appearances of Jesus happened over 40 days and ended with his ascension back in Jerusalem.
In Jerusalem, the disciples met behind closed doors. The mood in the city was hostile towards those who were followers of Jesus Christ. But Galilee was much more relaxed. This was where Jesus had given most of his ministry and many people in Galilee had come to believe in him.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:6 that on one occasion Jesus appeared to more than 500 people at the same time. It’s not mentioned in any of the Gospels. It seems most likely that this was the occasion. The appearance in Galilee was the only one that Jesus had identified by location. There is no other resurrection appearance in which Jesus identified where it would be.
Word would have got around among people who believed. So I want you to picture the eleven disciples on a mountainside, surrounded by a congregation of 500 people. You have this representation of the whole church, and what does Jesus say to them?
What Jesus Says to the Church
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Matthew 28:18
This is another world from the one in which we live. We talk about the “separation of powers.” The authority of government is divided between the executive, the legislative, and the judicial branches. Each of these branches of government acts as a check and a balance to the others.
We say, “You can’t have all the authority in one person,” and rightly so, because, like us, the people who govern are all sinners. We thank God for a system, the finest in the world, I believe, in which government is of the people, by the people and for the people.
When I became a citizen of the United States, I had to go through an interview process and answer questions about the Constitution. A friend told me, “If there are any questions you don’t know the answer to, just say ‘the people,’ because that’s the answer to over half the questions.”
We are used to a world in which the people reign supreme. If we don’t like the government, we vote them out after four years. The President of the Unites States has authority. He’s the most powerful man in the world, but he has to work within certain constraints: He has to act within the law, because even the President is under the law.
But listen to what Jesus says: “All authority has been given to me!” This is different from everything we are used to. Jesus Christ is not like the government. He is God. He does not somehow operate under us. He stands in authority over us. This is what He wants to the church to know as He gathers on the mountain.
Sinners hate this truth. Sinners want a god who will do their bidding. That is why the world is full of different religions. We keep inventing them because we want to shape god to our own cultural preferences.
But here we have God Himself, God in the flesh, to whom we have done our worst, standing before us and saying, “All authority has been given to me!” This is why He was crucified.
Jesus said things like, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Friends, if He came in the flesh today and said these things, we would crucify Him again. We would not do it with nails, because we have become more subtle; but we would crucify Him on every talk show you can think of.
Can you imagine how Jesus would be laughed at and ridiculed and scorned: “How can one man say that he has authority over every human life in every country and in every culture? It’s impossible! He must be out of his mind.” We would crucify Him.
All authority in heaven
“All authority in heaven… has been given to me.” Matthew 28:18
Notice where His authority extends: Heaven is Christ’s home and He holds the keys. Christ alone decides who comes in and who goes out.
You have the keys to your house. You can open the door to whoever you wish, and you can close the door to whoever you wish. A friend knocks at the door and you let him in. That’s your choice. When a salesman comes, you are under no obligation to let him in.
Jesus has the keys to heaven. It’s His house. He has all authority there. No one enters unless He says, “Come.”
All authority on earth
“All authority… on earth has been given to me.” Matthew 28:18
He is the Creator of every land, and every person and every blade of grass. There is no place, no thing, no person of which Jesus Christ does not say, by right, “Mine!” He lays claim to your life today.
There are only two kinds of people in this world: People who recognize His claim and bow before His authority, and people who reject His claim and live as His enemies. To the women who seek Him, He says, “Do not be afraid.” But for the guards, there is every reason to be afraid.
This is true of us today. What are we to do? How do we submit to Him? What does that mean today? What does this risen Lord say to us? “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). You can’t make a disciple until you become a disciple.
What is a Disciple?
The life of a disciple is shaped by three lifelong commitments…
1. One who learns from Jesus
“Make disciples of all nations…” Matthew 28:19
The word “disciple” means a pupil or a student, a learner. Jesus says, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me…” (Matthew 11:29).
The word “learn” there is the same word used for disciple here in Matthew 28. “Take my yoke upon you and be my disciple,” is an equally good translation. “Yoke yourselves to me,” says Jesus. “Learn from me, become my disciple, and you will find rest for your soul.”
The place to begin is not with activity. You may feel today, “Well, maybe I should join the church and do something for God.” That’s good, but the first thing is to become a learner. Are you prepared to do that? Are you ready to take Christ as your teacher and sit under Him?
God says, “This is my Son. Listen to Him!” The Christian life begins and continues, not with a burst of activity, but with the humility of a listener. Are you ready to quit shaping a Jesus of your own liking, and let the Jesus who died and rose again become your teacher?
The Bible tells us about two sisters—Martha and Mary. Martha was an activist. She wanted to do something for Jesus. But Mary realized she needed to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from Him. Jesus commended her for it. Most of us are like Martha. Are you prepared to be like Mary?
When you become a pupil of Jesus, when you become a learner of His Word, He will teach you uncomfortable truth about yourself. Read the Gospels, and you will find Him telling you that you are a worse sinner than you ever imagined.
Jesus will also teach you wonderful truth about Himself: You will discover His love for you. His life fulfills all that God requires from you; His death purchases all that God will give to you. Just as the evil in you is greater than you ever feared, His love is greater than you ever imagined.
You will learn all this from the Bible (that is His Word), and through the Holy Spirit (who opens the eyes of all who humble themselves and take Jesus as their teacher). Are you willing to become a learner?
But you have to come as a learner, not as an examiner. God resists the proud but He gives grace to the humble. Have you become a learner? Is that the posture of your heart before Christ today?
2. One who confesses Jesus
“Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” Matthew 28:19
Baptism is an open confession of faith and a lifelong commitment to Jesus Christ. The church is to make disciples and then to baptize disciples.
When I became a citizen of the United States, I made a pledge in a court room in Chicago, along with about 50 other people who were becoming citizens. It included these words…
I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince; potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject of citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…
That I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law… And that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.
Friends, that’s to become a citizen of the United States. What’s the content of your commitment to Jesus Christ? It was a profoundly moving and defining experience. It is an experience most of you have never had, because you were born here.
Nobody is born a Christian. You can be born a Jew. You can be born a Muslim. But you cannot be born a Christian. We are born sinners. Entrance into Christ’s kingdom involves a new birth through repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ.
Baptism is a public confession that I have submitted myself to Christ, who now has all authority over every aspect of my life, and it becomes defining for me. It’s a lifelong commitment.
Have you confessed faith in Jesus Christ through baptism? If not, why not? It is His command. If you will not do this, what else that He commands will you not do? What other commands will you neglect?
And what does it mean for you to call Him “Lord?” Or do we think being a Christian is just a cultural expression of being an American. Will Christ not say to you, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do the things that I command you?”
3. One who obeys Jesus
“Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:20
All that Christ commanded us includes the command that we who are disciples are to go and make disciples. To be a disciple of Jesus is to follow a life of joyful obedience to the risen Lord. This is the great calling and purpose of your life as a Christian. A disciple is a person who is learning Christ, confessing Christ and obeying Christ. Is that you?
America is a wonderful country, but many people in America are Christians in name only. That used to be true in Europe and many other parts of the world as well. But what happens, whenever there is a generation of people who are Christians in name only, is that their children don’t think that the name is worth hanging onto.
According to all the surveys, we in America, are still in the situation in our country where many, many people want to claim the name “Christian.” But it’s only a name, because they are not disciples of Jesus.
Many claim to be “Christians,” but run their own lives. They claim to believe and they may attend church, but they’re not learning, confessing or obeying. They may do a lot of good. They’re typically very sure that God loves them, but apart from a radical conversion, Christ will one day say to them, “Depart from me; I never knew you.”
If that describes you, I am concerned for you. I want to invite you today to become a disciple of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Because they were all standing there—and some believed and some worshiped and others doubted, but He says to all of them, as He says to us today…
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me! Go make disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.” And to those disciples who learn, who confess and who walk the path of obedience, Jesus says, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
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