He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay……..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, baptizing 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.”
I have a tattered printout of an April 2000 sermon stuffed into my Bible, with these instructions scribbled in the margin, “Please preach this sermon at my funeral!” Why? None of us are guaranteed another breath, another day, another year, another decade. Some of us may die in a “tragic accident” or serving the Lord in a difficult or dangerous country. BUT…
- If it is true that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead (verse 6),
- and that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him (verse 18),
- and that he will be with his disciples to the end of the age (verse 20) ,
- then nothing is more important in our lives. Nothing.
I would want everyone to hear that message and put their trust in the risen Savior, Jesus Christ. And I would want them to know that I fully trusted in the promise that He indeed has ALL authority and was with me to the end, even if I died in some “tragic accident.” (No accidents when Jesus has all authority!)
Here’s the practical value of this promise. You might take the truth of Christ’s authority over all things and just turn it into a theological problem. Well, if he has authority over the world, why is it in such a mess? Or: If he has authority over life and death, why did my child or wife or mother die?
But there is another way to respond to the power and authority of Jesus. If you will – and Jesus calls you to this – you can see it as the power and authority to free you from sin and fear and greed so that when you trust his promise to be with you, you are unstoppable in your love. If he is with you to the end, and if he has all authority in the universe, then you can love and serve and sacrifice, and never lose. This is the practical effect of the resurrection of Jesus when you experience it as powerful and personal.
If you trust him to be powerful for you and personally there for you, no matter what, you will be able to live your life not just for your private interests, but, say, for the 1.5 million street children in the Philippines (Action International Ministries – http://www.actionintl.org), or for 16 million people in the horn of East Africa who are now threatened with starvation (Newsweek, April, 24, 2000), or for the 255 people groups in the world that no one has even planned yet to pursue with the love of the gospel of Jesus (Joshua Project – http://www.ad2000.org/peoples).
Trusting Jesus to Be All-Powerful and Personally with Us
If Jesus is not all-powerful and not personally with us to the end, and if we don’t trust him to be that for us, we will simply ignore the needs of others and live for our own private comfort. Let me give you two examples, and invite you to trust him in this way:
World Magazine last week reported that three children were killed in Bosnia when they wandered into a minefield. One of them, an 11-year-old girl, called for help for hours before she died, but no one would go into the minefield to help her. What would you have done? What would I have done? Could it be that this is why Jesus told us that all authority is his – not so that people would create a theological problem out of it, but so that some follower of Jesus would lift his heart and say: “Jesus, all authority over these mines is yours, and you are with me to the end; if you will, you can keep me from stepping on a mine; and if you will, you can take me to heaven; but this I know, you call me to love that little girl; so trusting your power and your personal presence, I go.” That is why Jesus tells us that all authority is his. This is the kind of love that will make many disciples (Matthew 28:19).
And then, as many of you know, Ruby Eliason and Laura Edwards died this week in Cameroon in a car accident – Ruby in her eighties and Laura in her seventies. Ruby gave all her life in medical missions among the poor. Laura, a doctor who practiced in India for many years and then here in the Cities, was giving her retirement for the bodies and the souls of the poor in Cameroon. Both died suddenly when their car went over a cliff.
Was that a tragedy? Well, in one sense all death is tragic. But consider this.
Ruby Eliason and Laura Edwards, at their age, could have been taking it easy here in retirement. Think of tens of thousands of retired people spending their lives in one aimless leisure after another – that is a tragedy. The fact that Jesus Christ took authority to make Ruby Eliason and Laura Edwards valiant for love and truth among the poor and lost and diseased of Cameroon when most Americans are playing their way into eternity – that is not tragedy. And that he took them suddenly to heaven in their old age in the very moment of their love and service and sacrifice, and without long, drawn-out illnesses and without protracted and oppressive feelings of uselessness – that is not a tragedy. Rather, I say, “Give me that death, O Jesus Christ, Lord of the universe, give me that life and that ministry and that death!”