Matthew 28:18 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
It is easy for us Christians to think and act like we are on the losing side. There are the moral trends. It’s not just that the world around us rejects Biblical right and wrong. It’s that more and more we find ourselves sliding in their direction. We laugh at the escapades of the gay character in some sitcom. We empathize with the adulterous couple in a romantic movie. We even get a little teary when their ungodly relationship hits a rough spot. We are no more content with the stuff that clutters our homes and garages than our neighbors. We have turned shopping into a past time, a recreational activity, because heaven knows we don’t need all the stuff we are buying. We are so desensitized and apathetic after nearly fifty years of abortion on demand that 54 million dead American babies don’t even shock us. Former Russian dictator Joseph Stalin was right. “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is only a statistic.”
We see Christian churches in decline. A generation is slipping through our fingers. We taught them the importance of everything that makes life good, things like the value of a good education or practicing healthy habits. We taught them how to get jobs that pay well, how to enjoy a high standard of living, and how to cheer for our favorite team. But we failed to teach them the importance of Jesus.
So what’s the point of trying? What’s the point of investing ourselves in spreading the gospel, if it is all a losing effort anyway? Americans don’t like to support a loser.
But wait a minute. There is more to all this than meets the eye. Jesus is hardly a loser. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” If his story ended with his death on the cross, then we might have reason to give up and go home. Even the Apostle Paul once said, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is useless. You are still in your sins.” But Jesus death on the cross was not the end of his story.
It is the risen Christ who is speaking to his disciples in these words from Matthew 28. It’s not a tape-recorded message he left behind for those mourning his death. It’s not merely the kind of thing he would say if he were still alive. Jesus really, bodily lives again. That means his death wasn’t a tragedy. It was the atoning sacrifice for our sins. It is the source of our forgiveness, the salvation of the world.
That gives us confidence for the mission he has given us to do. We have hope and optimism as we go. The living Jesus conquered death and walked out of his grave. Now he holds all authority, all power, in heaven and on earth. We couldn’t be in a better position if we were backed by the financial resources of Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffet combined. We couldn’t be better backed if we had the firepower of the entire U.S. military at our disposal.
Paul draws the grand conclusion at the end of his great celebration of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”