Final Words – Not Quite: 3 April

Александр Андреевич Иванов - Явление Христа народу (Явление Мессии) - Google Art Project.jpg

It took Alexander Ivanov 20 years to complete this painting which combines several stories in the Bible. In the centre of the painting John the Baptist, wearing an animal skin, is standing on the banks of the River Jordan. He points towards a figure in the distance, approaching the scene. To the left stands the young John, behind him Peter, and further on Andrew and Nathaniel. In the foreground we see people who watch the scene unfold but are undecided what to do, both young and old men. In the centre there is a wealthy man who was too rich to follow Christ and a slave in experiencing joy for the first time. Seated not far from John, is a figure with a red headgear.This is Ivanov himself.

Matt 20 18Then 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, baptising 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.’

1 Kn 8 56 ‘Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses. 57 May the Lord our God be with us as he was with our ancestors; may he never leave us nor forsake us. 58 May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in obedience to him and keep the commands, decrees and laws he gave our ancestors. 59 And may these words of mine, which I have prayed before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, that he may uphold the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel according to each day’s need, 60 so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God and that there is no other. 61 And may your hearts be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time.’

Good Friday. We remember the cross. We hear the words of Christ, spoken without fear yet cried through impossible pain: "My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?" "Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing." "Into Your hands I entrust My spirit." "It is finished!".

But not Jesus’ final words! Here in the closing moments of his time on earth, the resurrected Lord spoke of taking his message to the world.  He is telling all his followers their lives are global in their consequence. Here is the force of Christ, the master motivator, imparting a dream of ultimate significance. Thus he leaves his church. He ascends and is gone. Are they afraid of this gigantic dream he has left them? Hardly! They know they are to wait in Jerusalem until the Spirit comes. So empowered, they will march in obedience to Christ’s command. No use lamenting that they are people with no national reputation. No reason for protesting that they are not graduates of prestigious academies. They are in love with their commander, and he is in love with the lost world.

Their commission will not overwhelm them. Why? Because Christ has promised, "Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Their task is great, but they do not have to accomplish it alone.

Lord, through the cross I see the price of my salvation and the reason for me to leave behind the sin that drove you there. I must never forget how much you love this world. I must never walk by anyone who doesn’t know you without wondering if you want to use me to make the introduction.