First Mennonite Church
January 10, 2016
On Being Ambassadors for Christ
Texts: Matthew 28:16-20; Isaiah 52:7
At the end of the gospel according to Matthew we find, what is called, “The Great Commission.” This passage is at the heart of the church’s mission to spread the good news of salvation. This text inspires, guides, and challenges the church to continue the work Christ Jesus began.
As we begin this New Year, let us determine to make Christ known through our lives. It is for this reason that I want us to consider Matthew 28, verses 16 to 20.
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 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 28:16-20).
Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he summoned his disciples for the last time. The disciples gathered at the location Jesus had commanded them—at a mountain somewhere in Galilee. When Jesus appeared to them, not everyone was on the same “page” of faith. Some were still doubting while others were truly convinced Jesus was alive. There were mixed emotions at this last gathering. Some worshipped him, but some were likely afraid. Yet, it was to this group of believers, which authentically represents the Christian church of all time that the risen Christ summoned. And when Jesus introduced himself to them, he presented himself as the one who had received full authority in heaven and on earth. He was no longer the babe who was laid in a manger, nor was he the lowly carpenter condemned and mock by the roman soldiers and the raging mobs at his crucifixion. He was the glorious Lord whom the guards, tomb, and death could not hold down. His resurrection from the dead was not only God’s vindication for his righteous life, but it was also his enthronement as the Lord of heaven and earth! “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” were the greeting words of Jesus to his disciple.
The commission to go and proclaim the good news is grounded on the fact that Jesus is Lord of heaven and earth. The proclamation of the gospel is no intrusion into the world. The proclamation of the gospel according to Jesus’ way is not a violation of other’s rights. Yet, it should be carried out after the model of service, compassion, and the prophetic proclamation of Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul illustrates the role we have as messengers of Jesus when he said, “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2Corinthians 5:19-20).
This metaphor as to who we are in the world should help us define the way we announce the gospel. You are an ambassador of Jesus Christ. I am one also. An ambassador does nothing more than to represent the one who send him or her. The business of the ambassador is to be an authentic representation of the country or person who sent him or her. This means that we are ambassadors of Jesus stationed in Paso Robles. Each of us have been sent here to represent Christ. We, therefore, should engage in everything and in every way we can to represent Christ to our city, to our neighbors, to our co-workers, to our friends, and to our family.
In the Gospel according to John, Jesus makes almost 30 references of him being sent by the Father. Jesus also said that everything he had seen the Father do is what he did (John 9:4). Jesus said he only taught or spoke the words he has heard from the Father (John 7:16; 12:49). Jesus also said anyone who believes in him also believes in the one who sent him (John 12:44; 13:20). And regarding our mission, Jesus said that just as he was sent by the Father, he also sends us all to do his work (John 17:18).
This year, let us make it our aim to be committed ambassadors of Jesus Christ. Let us take advantage of every way we can represent him to those God will put around us. Let us be ambassadors for Christ to everyone we will meet, to everyone we have to deal with on a daily basis, to our relatives and close friends, to the strangers, and to those who are or believe differently than we do. Being an ambassador for Christ means that those we have been sent to might not know the Lord and King we are representing. And this is the challenge we all have. Just as Jesus was confronted by a people who had a different understanding of life, religion, and the world, we will also meet some whose worldview of life and religion are different.
What does the world look like?
In practical terms, the world we are being sent to has its own way of being. And let me tell you, we are very familiar with it. What is sad is when we ourselves might have looked, acted or reacted like the world sometimes. And it is here that we have to be very careful.
When we go out shopping for groceries, when we go to the post office, to the gas station, etc. we should be aware that although there are many kind and nice people, there are also many who are hurting inside. There are many who have suffered rejection, abuse, or discrimination. There are many who are struggling with past issues and are carrying a tremendous sense of guilt, shame, and pain. There are many who are living in constant uncertainty, not only financial uncertainty, but also emotional. There are many couples who are struggling with their relationships. There are also many young people and children who suffering the effects of such unstable parent relationship. In other words, we have been sent as ambassadors to a hurting world.
Because of the high level of stress people have in their lives, many are impatient, short-tempered, and even aggressive. Because some people have only known pain, disappointment, and loneliness they have difficulty showing empathy, lack the capacity to trust others, or do not know how to relate to others easily.
Just imagine what happens if we go out there and instead of being a little more patient, a little more understanding to others, a little more kind, we react to those who are hurting? On the positive side, imagine what a difference we will make if we show a little kindness, patience, compassion, and love to someone who is hurting inside? That was exactly how Jesus befriended those at the margins of society. That was why those who saw him clearly realized that he was someone completely different than the religious authorities of his time. By the way Jesus engaged his fellow men, he was able to reveal to them the heart of the One who sent him. Therefore, when we show kindness to someone who is hurting, God’s grace of healing, comfort and love is manifested. We get to manifest Christ’s face to the cashier at the checkout desk, the one driving in front of us, and to the one waiting in line to pay her bill. By living the way Christ lived, we become his ambassadors to our world. The apostle Paul encourages us in this when he writes: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12). The imagery here of being clothed with these Christ-like qualities is what people will see when we show compassion, kindness, humility and patience. Those we meet will see that we belong to a different kingdom—the kingdom of God.
Not too long ago I was talking with someone whose mother died when she was still very young. After her mother’s death, her father left her under the care of an abusive person. She still bears the scars of the physical abuse she suffered. Then she was abandoned and left to fend for herself. This woman has struggled all her life and have survived with medications, the help of professionals, and the grace of knowing God.
People like this woman I just told you often need someone who would patiently listen to them. They need someone who would not look down on them, but understand their suffering and pain. They need someone to encourage them to keep on going with their medication and with their faith. They need support, not judgement.
The world is full of disenchanted people
Many of the people we have been sent to have discovered that the much of what the world’s promises is disappointing and unsatisfying. Materials things do not satisfy the spiritual hunger. There are many who are awaking every morning only to find how meaningless their entire pursuits in life has been. There are many people who despite of accumulating wealth have discovered how dissatisfied and empty they continue to feel. There are many who have sought fulfillment, happiness, and satisfaction in worldly pleasures, work, fame, and drugs but have found that none of those fill the void in their lives. In other words we have sent to a world where many are dissatisfied.
As ambassadors of Jesus Christ, let us go with the peace of Christ which surpasses all understanding. Let us go with the word of truth. Let us tell these people of the healing power of Christ and which he has given us. But above all, let us allow the word of God to dwell in us. Let us tell the world that Jesus Christ is the only one who can fill the emptiness in the human heart. He is the only one who gives wholeness and meaning to life.
Yet, there is something we ought to be very aware of and that is, if we want to tell the world that only Christ satisfies, we better show it through our life. Let us remember that we are like open letters for the world to read. If we are complaining about those who do not know the Lord or behave like those who should know better, our neighbor, our co-worker, our friend or relative will easily read that we are dissatisfied too. As an ambassador of Christ we must be saturated with his word and Spirit. We can only give of what we have. The power of our witness depends on the authentic knowledge and firsthand experience of Christ and his power.
Imagine what message we communicate if we go to someone who is disappointed with the way things are going in his or her life or the world and you sit there to just affirm or add to the woes of that person? How can we be true ambassadors of Christ if we join with those who are complaining about what is happening in politics or who are fearful about their health decline or the uncertainty about the future? Being an ambassador of Christ does not mean that we see the world through rosy eye glasses. It means, however, that we see the world through the lenses of Christ. The world is fallen, thus it cannot provide security, real peace, or satisfaction. The world is passing away and the only source of true security is in the promises of God who will create all things new, beginning with our own lives. The world and everything in it are temporary and the only things that will remain in the end are God and his Word, thus our need to trust God and obey his Word.
Paul was a prominent ambassador for Christ. Yet, he realized that in order to fulfill this call he needed the prayerful support of his fellow Christian brothers and sisters. Thus he made the Ephesian Church the following prayer request: Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should (Ephesians 6:19-20),
We all have been called and sent as ambassadors of Christ. May the Lord help us to represent him through our speech. May our yes, be yes, and our no be no. Let us all speak truth in love. May the Lord help us to represent him through our spirit. May Christ be revealed through compassion, humility, patience, and love. May the Lord help us to demonstrate the living hope we have in Christ. And may the Lord’s peace keep us steady and without fear even if the mountains are thrown into the sea and the water of the sea roars.
Let me close with the words of the prophet Isaiah:
How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”