We are heading towards Pentecost and the gift of the Holy Spirit being poured out on all people. But first Jesus has to ASCEND to heaven in order for us to receive the Gift of the Comforter! Ascension Day was officially yesterday (May 21st), but we most often celebrate the feast on the Sunday following. So as you look towards Sunday, and as we prepare for Pentecost on May 31st, 2020, let’s look first at how Jesus commissioned his disciples before he went back to the Father. Below you will find The Great Commission passage in Matthew 28 and some questions you can consider and journal from. Then I’ve given you some ideas to take us into ALL THE WORLD even though we cannot actually travel right now.
For a great look at the Ascension in Art, check out this wonderful blog Ad Imaginem Dei. Make sure you take a look at all four posts!
Before you start, consider a favorite place you’ve traveled. A place that has inspired you or been meaningful to you. Find a favorite photo of this place or a souvenir of this trip. Take time to remember the things that made that trip special. Thank Jesus for the time you had there. Ask Jesus to fill that place with his love and hope today! We did this as our thinplaceNASHVILLE gathering this week, so if you’d like to use it with your small group or community have everyone bring a photo or a souvenir to your zoom call and have them share about their special trip or place.
NOW read out loud or listen to these passages from Matthew. (lectio divina)
Matthew 28: 11-20 NIV
11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28: 11-20 THE MESSAGE
Meanwhile, the guards had scattered, but a few of them went into the city and told the high priests everything that had happened. They called a meeting of the religious leaders and came up with a plan: They took a large sum of money and gave it to the soldiers, bribing them to say, “His disciples came in the night and stole the body while we were sleeping.” They assured them, “If the governor hears about your sleeping on duty, we will make sure you don’t get blamed.” The soldiers took the bribe and did as they were told. That story, cooked up in the Jewish High Council, is still going around.
Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally.
Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28: 11-20 THE PASSION TRANSLATION
11 After the women left the tomb, a few of the guards went into Jerusalem and told the chief priests everything they had seen and heard. So the chief priests called a meeting with all the religious leaders and came up with a plan. They bribed the guards with a large sum of money 13 and told them, “Tell everyone, ‘While we were asleep, his disciples came at night and stole his body!’ If Pilate finds out about this, don’t worry. We’ll make sure you don’t get blamed.” So they took the money and did as they were told. (That is why the story of the guards is still circulated among the Jews to this day.)
16 Meanwhile, the eleven disciples heard the wonderful news from the women and left for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. The moment they saw him, they worshiped him, but some still had lingering doubts.
18 Then Jesus came close to them and said, “All the authority of the universe has been given to me. Now go in my authority and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And teach them to faithfully follow all that I have commanded you. And never forget that I am with you every day, even to the completion of this age.”
What is God’s Word for you today? What is God speaking to you about today? Use the psalm and/or the Gospel as your inspiration. Write, Journal, or create in Art, or Just BE with Jesus. Allow the Holy Spirit to inspire you! THINGS TO CONSIDER WHILE JOURNALING….
What speaks to you today? What do you notice from the passage that you didn’t notice before?
1. The temple leaders couldn’t believe the truth of the situation. They couldn’t receive the gift of the resurrection. So, they bribe the soldiers, make up a story, and lie about the reality. What does this remind you of? Have you ever made up a story because you didn’t like the reality?
2. What makes it hard for you to believe and receive the truth about the resurrection?
3. Are you feeling like worshipping Jesus today? Or do you feel more doubtful today? What are some of your doubts or fears as you consider Jesus in the new world we live in today?
4. What does it mean to be a disciple?
5. Jesus invites us into a relationship with the Trinity…Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are not alone, we are not orphans. We are now a part of a community. And Jesus commissions us to include others in this community. How does this make you feel?
What does the TRINITY mean to you?
6. “Train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life”….How does this feel different from “make disciples of all nations”? Do you have any “baggage” around The Great Commission? Talk to Jesus about this.
“Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you.” What are the practices that Jesus commanded? What are the practices that we can learn and pass along to others as we include them in the community of following Jesus?
7. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” How does this make you feel? What is comforting about this?
HOMEWORK: GO INTO ALL NATIONS…since we cannot go anywhere much right now, let’s take time to pray!
Pick a country or two to pray for this week. Maybe it’s a place you’ve wanted to visit, or a place you’ve been to before that has won your heart. Pray for this country to know and experience more of God’s love and presence in the days ahead.
Do some research into how things are going there due to COVID19. Pray for specific needs. If you have friends in this place, pray for them. Besides the pandemic, pray for other things that the Holy Spirit highlights for you.
Watch a Youtube video or travel video/film on a country and imagine yourself there. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you new things about the people and culture. What do you notice? How can you pray more for this country ?
TAKE TIME TO PRAY for you neighborhood, your town, your state this week. Print out some pictures, watch a video, or find a website or instagram feed to help you pray with between now and Pentecost.
Ask Jesus to help you see Him in your neighbors.
main photo: Hans Suess von Kulmbach, Ascension
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
©lillylewin and freerangeworship.com