The Holy Trinity

by Crossings

Matthew 28:16-20
(The Holy Trinity)
analysis by Lori A. Cornell

16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

DIAGNOSIS: Less than whole

Step 1-Initial Diagnosis: Limited community
It was eleven disciples that went to Galilee, one less than their original twelve. And even as eleven, it was hard to keep them together. Maybe the authority they relied on, too much, to keep them together was their ethnicity. All were Jewish, like the audience of Matthew’s gospel. But the gospel ends in Galilee, the land of the Gentiles. This was still new frontier. Comfortable pews rarely allow us to venture beyond the ethnic barriers and barriers of class and gender erected within our church. The disciples had to be “directed” to come to Galilee. Almost against their will.

Step 2-Advanced Diagnosis: Doubting (=unfaith)
Hence, even in seeing Jesus, they do not all respond with rousing worship and acclaim. “Some doubted.” The community is fractured at the level of its heart. There is the uneasiness within the church that makes it waver, seeking a better certainty within the limited authority structures they were used to. Would there be concessions? Will the community be able to pull itself together? It’s doubtful, given the status of the split decision of their unbelieving hearts.

Step 3-Final Diagnosis: Decommissioned
There is really only one thing to do with such a sinking ship: have it decommissioned. We have trouble getting along on our own. We have no hope of going any further beyond the divine divide. God does not sustain our efforts to grasp authority for ourselves. The end of our community as a people is in sight.

PROGNOSIS: Wholly holy

Step 4-Initial Prognosis: Authority in heaven and on earth
But judgment is not God’s last word to us, as we see in this story for Holy Trinity. Instead, Jesus Christ, God’s recently resurrected Son, proves his divine authority by giving away all his worldly power. In Jesus Christ, we get a God who shows his accountability to humanity by handing himself over — subjecting himself wholly to the world. To a humanity on the verge of being shipwrecked, we get a Lord who enters deeply into our human community — so deeply that he suffers at the hands of sinners, and is rejected and humiliated; so deeply that he is killed and lies in the grave for three days before he rises. But when he rises, he rises with authority — authority in heaven and on earth, authority to re-commission humanity into newness.

Step 5-Advanced Prognosis: Obeying (= trusting)
And with his authority Jesus commands his disciples to give away grace — to baptize, preach his gospel, and teach his self-giving ways. And, on the resurrection-side of Jesus’ grave, the disciples not only receive Jesus’ authority, but they actually understand and employ it. They fulfill their calling as disciples by trusting his authority to give life, and gain truly full lives by becoming obedient to Christ’s authority. Day by day, Christ will be present with them, and they will be wholly empowered.

Step 6-Final Prognosis: Calling all nations
No longer seeking the limited kinds of power and authority, the disciples of Jesus baptize, preach, and teach the gospel. The more of that power they give away, the more wholly they come to enjoy the Christ. As we are graced with Christ’s power, we are simultaneously entrusted with the authority to use it. This power which overcomes sin, death, and the devil by forgiveness and mercy, is not a power to which we can selfishly cling. Christ’s resurrection power is incomplete until it is handed on to other doubters and worshipers alike — people who discover new authority for life in Christ in the reception of the gift we are authorized to bring to all nations.


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