Go Therefore and Disciple All Nations

September 24, 2014

Jesus is Risen!

He Lives!

He was crucified, dead, buried – but death could not hold Him down!

He was raised because of our justification!

These are the great truths of Jesus’ resurrection.

But after telling us of the resurrection, Matthew does something curious. He skips ahead from that first Resurrection Sunday to Jesus’ encounter with His disciples in Galilee.

  • We don’t hear about road His encounter with two followers on the road to Emmaus
  • We don’t hear about Thomas’ doubts
  • We don’t hear of Jesus asking Peter three times, “Do you love me?”

Instead, Jesus and the disciples meet, Jesus gives Great Commission – then the end of the book.

Is this, perhaps, anticlimactic?

No. This fits perfectly with Matthew’s emphases throughout this Gospel.

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are not comprehensive biographies of Jesus. None attempts to tell us everything Jesus said or did. They don’t even attempt to tell us all the important things Jesus said or did.

Rather, each is presenting to us certain themes, certain truths about Jesus: His life, His ministry, His work. And by the Holy Spirit each selects material to support those truths.

So Matthew, carried along by the Holy Spirit, completes this book powerfully, highlighting many of his major themes, and leaving us with a commissioning to follow.

So let’s look to see how this brief text – 5 verses, 94 words in the ESV – is a culmination of Matthew’s portrayal of Jesus.

Here Matthew highlights 8 themes from throughout the book: Two vital truths, four commands (which we will consider under five headings), and one promise:

  • Vital Truth 1: Human Weakness
  • Vital Truth 2: Jesus’ Authority
  • Command 1: Go
  • Command 2a: Disciple
  • Command 2b: Disciple the Nations
  • Command 3: Baptize
  • Command 4: Teach them to Obey All I Have Commanded
  • The Promise: His Presence

Read more

David and Goliath

September 11, 2014

David and Goliath by Andrew Shanks

[Andrew and Laura Shanks were part of Desiring God Community Church while he was studying at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary from 2005-2008. Now pastor of Fontaine Baptist Church in Martinsville, VA, Andrew has just published Echoes of the Messiah: Finding Our Story in God’s Story. This is an excerpt from Chapter 4: Triumphing Over God’s Enemies: Echoing the Messiah with David. You can read more of Andrew’s writings at AndrewShanks.com. He and Laura also plan to join us for worship this Sunday.  – Coty]

The battle between David and Goliath . . . is perhaps the most spectacular parallel between David and the Messiah in the whole David saga. And yet it is rarely recognized as such. . . .

Timothy Keller has pointed out that the real lesson of the story in 1 Samuel 17 is that we all need a Davidic hero to rescue us from our enemy. From this perspective, the story becomes fairly obvious. The people of Israel are encamped before their enemies, the Philistines, who are primarily represented by their champion, the gargantuan Goliath. This larger-than-life enemy has terrified the people of God into immobility with his constant blasphemies and threats. He and his horde are on the brink of overrunning the Israelites, slaughtering them, and enslaving the survivors (1 Sam. 17:3-11). The Israelites and their pet king don’t know what to do.

Then a new champion arises. David, upon his arrival, is immediately outraged at the blasphemies of the pagan giant and determines to silence him (1 Sam. 17:26). The fact that no one else in the entire nation of Israel seems capable of dealing with Goliath does not deter David. His confidence does not lie in the strength of the military or even in his own prowess. His confidence lies in the pleasure of the Lord. He says to King Saul, “The Lord, who delivered me form the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Sam. 17:37). When face-to-face with his opponent, David reiterates the same assurance (1 Sam.17:45-47). The key element in David’s confidence is his belief that God will always act in such a way as to vindicate his own glory. David was not acting out of a desire for personal glory, but out of a desire to see God glorified and his people strengthened.

As Keller eloquently demonstrates, the story of David and Goliath is a lesson, not about what great things we can do in the power of the Lord, but about what great things God’s champion will do in our place. In other words, as we read the story of David, the giant-slayer, we should not identify ourselves with David, but with David’s brothers and the people of Israel as a whole, who cowered behind the battle lines, paralyzed by fear, and impotent against their enemy. Such is the state of all humanity in the face of sin and death. We are incapable of doing anything to save ourselves from slavery to sin, and our defeat at the hands of our enemy, the devil, seems certain. But it is at just this moment that our Davidic hero appears. Jesus Christ walks firmly out to take his stand between us and our foe. He rescues us from slavery and defeats the enemy in our place. This divine Hero does not triumph through battle, however, but through submission and death. This is the real story of David and Goliath. And the reason we can see this lesson, this parable in the David saga, is that God orchestrated these events for this very purpose: so that we could look back in wonder and delight at the Messianic reverberations as they echo throughout redemptive history and particularly in the stories of men like David. . . .

The real David – the biblical David – went to war. He didn’t go to war because he loved violence. He went to war because he loved God. David fought Goliath because Goliath was so blaspheming the God of Israel that he had the entire Israelite army convinced that their God was not capable of defeating their enemy. David wouldn’t stand for that. He loved the glory of his God so much that he chose to put his life on the line to prove God’s strength. And he trusted in God’s pleasure in him so much that he was assured of victory. That’s what it came down to for David. He loved the glory of God, and he knew that God took pleasure in him because of that. That’s what made David a man after God’s own heart. . . .

It is precisely here that we must be very careful when it comes to the lessons we derive from the story. On the one hand, we, like David, are called upon to mimic the Messiah in his role of giant-slayer. Our communities, like David’s, are being confronted with giants that need to be slain. . . . The Apostle Paul instructs us how we should prepare for this battle: “Take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm” (Eph. 6:13). We must, indeed, go to war.

But notice: . . . All of these tools of war craft are connected to effects of the gospel itself. In other words, when we go to war, our very weapon is the finished work of Jesus Christ. At the end of the day, it is not we who slay the giants, but Jesus. On the battlefield of life our proper role is not that of the heroic general, but of the faithful foot soldier. Until we learn to rely on our divine Champion, we are destined for defeat. Jesus is the true giant slayer.

From A.P. Shanks, Echoes of the Messiah: Finding Our Story in God’s Story (Rainer Publishing, 2014), p. 80-86.


Truly This Was the Son of God

September 5, 2014

How do people react to Jesus?

As we saw in last Sunday’s sermon, in Matthew’s account of the crucifixion, once Pilate condemns Jesus to death, all the people who speak mock Him:

  • The soldiers bow before Him, saying in mockery, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spit on Him and beat Him.
  • Those passing by deride Him, calling on Him to save Himself, to come down from the cross if He is the Son of God.
  • The religious leaders also mock Him, saying He cannot save Himself, and claiming they will believe in Him if He comes down from the cross. They also say, “He trusts in God; let God deliver Him now, if He desires Him. For He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”

Where are those who followed Him? Where are those who acclaimed His entry into Jerusalem just a few days previously? Will no one speak for Him? Will no one see Him for Who He is?

Yes. Someone will. Yet, as is so often the case in Matthew and, indeed, throughout Scripture, those who speak are not the ones we would expect.

About noon, unexpected darkness covers the land. The mocking evidently stops – none of the Gospel accounts record any further mocking after the darkness falls.

Jesus yields up His spirit.

Suddenly there is an earthquake. Rocks split and tombs open.

And then someone speaks up. Someone speaks for Jesus. Someone sees Him – at least partially – for Who He is.

The centurion and the others soldiers say: “Truly this was the Son of God!”

The very ones who had nailed Jesus to the cross, the very ones responsible for ensuring His death – perhaps the very ones who had spit upon Him and beat Him a few hours before – now see what the religious leaders cannot see. They see what those who had read the witness to Him in the Hebrew Scriptures cannot see: He is the Son of God.

Those passing by had said, “If you are the Son of God,” laughing at the idea. The religious leaders had mocked Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God. But these Roman soldiers proclaim: Truly. Truly. Jesus is the Son of God.

Surely none of these soldiers would have been able to explain the doctrine of the Trinity. It seems likely when they made this confession they were still polytheists, believing in many gods. But here at the cross, seeing what has happened, they say with certainty: “What this man said about Himself must be true.”

This statement by the soldiers, in my opinion, is a major highlight in Matthew’s account of the crucifixion. All builds to this point. After all the mocking, all the suffering, all the tragedy, these Gentiles proclaim Jesus to be the Son of God. And they are the firstfruits of those from every tribe and tongue and people and nation that will worship Him forever and ever.

Johann Sebastian Bach also saw this confession as the highlight of Matthew’s account. In what may be his greatest work, St Matthew’s Passion, Bach has the entire passion account of Matthew sung by soloists and chorus, interspersed with responses to the record of Scripture. The entire Passion takes around three hours to perform, but I urge you to listen to the seven minutes that include verses 45 to 54 of Matthew 27. In this 1971 recording – which includes subtitles since the singing is in German – this section runs from 2:46:30 to 2:53:36. The only addition to the words of Scripture is one verse of a chorale sung to the tune we use for “O Sacred Head Now Wounded.” See how Bach builds up to the confession of the centurion and then renders those words in painfully beautiful but understated music.

Ponder this confession prior to this Sunday morning. Then join us as we look in more detail at the words of the centurion. May we all together proclaim: Truly Jesus is the Son of God.