Text: Matthew 28:18-20
The disciples got out of the city and went back to Galilee, probably a smart move. One evening at the Sea of Galilee, Peter suddenly announced that he was going fishing, and all seven of them who were present got into a boat and went out on the lake; John doesn’t say anything about the other four, and of course, Judas was dead. After an all-night fishing trip, they caught exactly nothing.
Very early the next morning, a man on the shore saw them and asked how they were doing, only to hear that they hadn’t caught a thing. “Try casting your net on the right side,” suggested the helpful man, which they did. Lo and behold, they had a huge catch! That was when it occurred to John that the man on the shore was none other than Jesus.
Peter grabbed his clothes and jumped into the water and struggled to swim to shore to meet Him while the other guys struggled to haul their catch to shore where they encountered a shocking sight: Jesus was indeed there and He had a cook fire going: The risen Savior of the World was cooking breakfast!
Who’d have thought that after having been crucified, buried and then rising again from the grave that Jesus in His great glory would trouble Himself with cooking breakfast? Yet there He was; He had some fish and some bread, and He called to the guys at the boat to bring some of the fish they had caught so He could cook them up for the guys.
They all sat out there on the rocky beach and ate breakfast.
Take a moment to let that sink in…
Most of the time when I hear sermons that mention this passage, the preacher says that this proves that Jesus rose bodily from the grave, and I must admit that this is true; spirits and ghosts don’t eat fish as far as I know, and I would have to add that they also probably don’t cook, but there is so much more on display here.
There were seven disciples present, as I have mentioned, but seven is the number of completeness in the Bible; they represented all followers of Jesus. Jesus had some fish and some bread that He was serving by the Sea of Galilee; does this remind you of anything?
Of course, it’s just like the story of the feeling of the 5,000 where the disciples gathered up some loaves of bread and a few fish and Jesus multiplied them so that they could feed 5,000 people and have more left over than they had started with; remember?
There is a crucial difference however, for before, the disciples gathered up a little, and Jesus multiplied it. This time, Jesus had a little and the disciples multiplied it… with a little help from Jesus. In this scene, Jesus was passing the torch to His disciples, and the torch was His Kingdom. From now on, Jesus, the embodiment of the Kingdom, was no longer the one who would present the Kingdom to the world, with all that entails, for it was now His disciples who embodied the Kingdom on the earth, and with a little help from Him, they would spread it to every corner of the globe.
The Kingdom of God rose from the grave with Jesus, and now it is with us. From that time to this, it is the followers of Jesus who are entrusted with building His Kingdom on earth. From that time to this, it is His followers who bring that Kingdom to the world, and that Kingdom still brings with it healing, wholeness and God’s love and mercy to a world that needs these things so desperately: In doing so diligently, we bring glory to God.
It is my hope that you will join me and rededicate yourself to redoubling your efforts to glorify God by doing your part to build His glorious Kingdom until He returns.
Sometime later, Jesus is about to ascend to Heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father and rule the universe as King of kings and Lord of lords, yet before He does so, there is one more thing…
Jesus will give them their marching orders:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
It was to be able to give this commend that Jesus had come to the earth in the first place. Usually, we like to say that Jesus came to the earth to die for our sins, and this is certainly a true statement, for God’s love for us was really that great; He didn’t want any to perish. If we just leave it at that, however, there is a grave danger that we might overlook the fact that God wasn’t simply acting for our benefit, rather, He was acting to advance His purpose in creating humanity in the first place, to restore humanity to a place where He could truly have fellowship with us. In short, the work of Jesus on the cross was not the end, but the new beginning of Creation.
It is vitally important that we understand this.
The next step is for the Kingdom torch to pass from Jesus to His servants, and that is what Jesus is doing in this text. He symbolized it in John 21, as we saw; He commanded it here in Matthew 28.
They were to make disciples, just as Jesus had done with them, and in doing this, they began in earnest to build the Kingdom on this earth − they became fishers of men. After this, Jesus told them to return to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them, and then He ascended to Heaven. With this, the story of His earthly ministry came to its close, and a whole new beginning was about to burst upon this world.
In a short time, the Spirit came upon them; this and its aftermath is described in Acts chapter 2. Whatever their initial reactions may have been, the Apostles took the building of the Kingdom seriously, as we know from the story told in Acts, and in the letters they left behind. We also know from the writings of the early church fathers that their work was continued in the generations that followed them. Even more, the record of history for the many centuries after that contain the stories of those great men and women of faith who worked tirelessly to build His Kingdom. Yes, of this there can be no doubt, even though along with the great heroes of the faith, we must admit that there were also those who were not heroes, but villains; some things never seem to change.
The Devil didn’t sit still during these centuries of course, things haven’t always been easy, mistakes were made, and many chose the wrong path, but even so, the Kingdom went forward, and that brings us to the here and now. Do we have a role to play in building the Kingdom of God; or are we merely spectators? We may be spectators when it comes to history that is already done, but what about the history that is being made now?
Are you a spectator or a participant?
All of us like to consider what Jesus has done for us on the cross and take comfort in the fact that He paid the price for our sins. We also like to say that because of what He did, we have the gift of eternal life, and that just as He rose from the grave, so shall we. It is perfectly proper and accurate to say such things. At this point, each of us must ask ourselves if that is all there is to the story. Jesus came and did this great stuff for me. Jesus loves me. For God so loved… me.
Is it just really all about me?
Or is it really all about Him and His purpose?
Our destinies will be built upon our answers to that question.