Jesus whom we meet in the gospel of Matthew is the Jesus as the Teacher. And Matthew urges us today to hear and see who Jesus is and what Jesus taught and did. Jesus’ redemptive, triumphant, drama comes to its climax, and today’s reading is the last scene of Matthew’s gospel, and its place is the mountain in Galilee. The disciples who have hidden behind the locked doors for fear, now come to Galilee, to the mountain, where Jesus directed them to go.
But “Whom do they expect to see in Galilee?” “What do they expect to hear from him?” “Why does Jesus call his disciples to this place, to Galilee, and to the mountain?” The disciples remember the night. When Jesus was arrested, they left him and ran away for fear of the crowd holding swords and clubs. At that night, they saw, that the drama was now coming to an end. They saw, the curtain over their heads began to fall. And they saw and heard that, Jesus, the king of the Jews, was crucified. Finally, at the hill in Jerusalem, the drama in which Jesus was the hero came to a close, and they knew, their drama and their dream, in which they would be a hero, would never happen. Yes, all finished.
The hero of the drama was dead on the stage. The lights on the stage for the hero have faded out. Actors are waiting in silence for the curtain falling, and the audience is waiting in silence for the house light on, in order to hurry out from the stage, from the theatre, from the drama. It is the time to go home, to go back to their real world. Suddenly, however, the light is on again. And the hero is coming to the center of the stage, he is walking into the midst of actors and audience. It is not curtain call. It is not the end of the drama. No. Jesus, is alive, is coming, and is calling not only his disciples but also all of us, the readers of Matthew’s gospel and the audience seeing the drama, to step onto the stage. He is saying to the disciples and to us, “It is not the end of my drama. It is not a curtain call. It is not for saying “Hi,” or “Thank-You,” or “Good-Bye.” No. It’s not. It is not the end. It is the beginning. It is the beginning of my second Act. Sorry, there is no intermission, no coffee break. As the first Act began, the second Act also begins here, the Galilee, with you.” “What? … What did he say? … What’s going on here?”
Yes, the drama of Jesus is still on. Yes, his mission is still on. Matthew describes this last and first scene, saying, “When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” Worship, but doubt. Matthew’s gospel shows us that Jesus’ disciples, and his church, are not perfect. His disciples ‘doubt’. They have ‘little faith’. They ‘hesitate’ to follow their Teacher. They ‘stumble’. They desert the Teacher, and ‘run away’. They hide theire face behind locked doors. They doubt. Even here, before the risen Lord, they doubt. Matthew shows us that they are the disciples who are totally dependent on the Teacher. They need his forgiveness, his mercy, his grace, his love, and his teaching. They struggle with his teaching. They do not understand his life, his suffering, his death, and his resurrection. They do not understand his mission and his message. They worship; but they doubt. They praise; but they have little faith. They follow; but they hesitate. However, Jesus is calling them to Galilee, to the place of the Gentiles, not to Jerusalem, not to the Temple. “They worship; but they doubt.” But, Jesus affirms their discipleship. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, and make disciples just like me, your Teacher.” He commissions his disciples to make disciples.
The mission of Jesus is not finished with his death. His mission is not stopped or completed by his resurrection. God’s mission in Jesus continues with his resurrection through his disciples, and his church. They doubt. “What is the next?” “How does he establish his kingdom?” “What does his lordship bring about?” Jesus does not say, “Why do you still doubt?” “Why do you still hesitate to follow and believe me?” “Why do you still have such a little faith?” He does not rebuke them. Instead, Jesus commands them to take their part in his mission. Jesus commissions them to do his mission. “Go, make disciples.” It is not just the mission of Jesus. It is not a mission for his disciples to take, after completing their training or their journey. To be disciple is to disciple others.
They stumble, hesitate, and doubt. Then, they say, “No, not yet. We are not ready to step onto the stage. You know that we are of little faith. You already saw that we ran away at that night. We need time. We need your teaching more. You are the King. Why are you not taking your throne in Jerusalem? After that, we are pleased to do whatever you command. We will. But, not now. It is not our time yet. It is not our stage. It is not our drama. And also, we do not know how to act, dance, and sing on your stage. Yes, we need more rehearsal, training, and knowledge. Let me take a seat for a while.”
Jesus says to them, “Actor needs a play-script. Yes, you already have had my Word, in which you read, saw, and heard what I did and taught. Actor needs a help, support, guide, and direction, from director, stage-manager, and from other staff. Yes, I send my Spirit as the helper for you. Enough. You already have had enough for doing what I did and what I taught. Go, and Live it. Go, and Do it what I command.” What kind of the lordship do they expect from Jesus? “What did the disciples expect to hear from the risen Lord?” Jesus calls his disciples not just a disciple, or a student. He calls them his fellow workers, and his fellow actors. Jesus says in John 15, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you.”
But, How? How can his disciples carry out the mission of Jesus? After resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples who were gathered behind locked doors for fear of the Jews, and Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you,” and Jesus showed his hands and his side to them who doubted, and he said, “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” Then he breathed on his disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20: 19-22) Jesus sent his disciples with his Spirit. His commissioning of the disciples and the church comes with the presence and help of Jesus. Jesus lives in his disciples and his church who practice a life of resurrection with God’s help through his Spirit.
Church is the place where Jesus through the Holy Spirit, is present. Church is a witness to God’s Kingdom. Church is a colony of the kingdom of heaven. Church is the body of the risen Christ. Church practices a life of resurrection of Jesus our Lord. Jesus is present not only in our remembrance, or liturgies. Jesus is present in his disciples, in his church, when they practice his teaching, his example, and his commands. “I am with you always.” The presence of Jesus makes different. His presence and help make us different. And with the presence and help of Jesus, … his disciples and his church, and You and I, make different. Being disciples, being church, is making disciples, making church. It is not just about the church growth. It is not just about the principle or formula of how to increase the number of Sunday worship attendants. … It is about what makes church his church. It is about what the church of Christ is. As Jesus was sent by God the Father, Church is sent by Jesus.
The gospel of Matthew begins with birth narrative of Jesus. The God with David and Abraham sent an angel to Joseph. And the angel said, “She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus. … and they shall name him Emmanuel.” Which means, “God is with us.” Now at the end of Matthew, Jesus says, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Gospel story is about “God with us” story. The Christian church is scattered and sent into the world by Jesus to participate in his kingdom ministry. By making disciples, the church is to execute and activate his kingdom on earth.
“I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your homes, naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me. … I tell you, whenever you did this for one of the least important of these followers of mine, you did it for me. … Whenever you refused to help one of these least important ones, you refused to help me.” Jesus is calling us to go and do this. Jesus calls us his friends when we do what he commands us. You and I are sent by Jesus to the world, to our neighbors, to do the mission of Jesus and to be his church. The church is not just another human institute … or social group … or religious meeting. It is an incarnate expression of Jesus’ teaching and his mission and his life.
Today’s reading is not just about the mission statement for the church. It is about what church is, and what makes church be church. With the disciples, You and I, are called to God’s theatre, onto God’s stage, into God’s drama, not as audience. We are called to take our role in his drama, as his fellow actor, dancer, and singer. God’s drama is not his mono-drama. Jesus needs us as his friends, and fellow actors. Jesus is saying to us today, “Come. Come to our stage with me.” “Let’s play, and enjoy with me.” “I will be with you, from the beginning to the end of our drama.”