Great CommissionActs 5:12-20
John 20:19-31

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen! Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

This morning, I’d like us to consider the question, “What has Christ called/commanded us to do as His followers?” And even more specifically, I want to look at one aspect of that question: “What has Christ called us to do in relation to those people around us who are not members of the Body of Christ?” We have just celebrated, and will continue to celebrate for the next 40 days, THE central event in all of human history – the death and resurrection of our Lord, so that we might become part of His Body and be saved.

We bear His name, the name of Christian, and bearing this name comes with responsibility. It’s not just a name we take on so that we get to go to heaven – being a member of the Body of Christ means that there are things which we need to do. Our Lord mentions one of those things in the Gospel reading today; He answers the question I want us thinking about, “What has Christ called us to do in relation to those people around us who are not members of the Body of Christ?” We just heard from St. John’s Gospel: “Peace be unto you! as My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you” (v21). Obviously, He is speaking to the Apostles, but His words apply to us all. What is Christ sending us to do? St. Matthew’s Gospel spells it out in more detail, when the Lord tells the Apostles to “go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). The Apostles, and we by extension, are being sent into the world in the name of Jesus to share the Gospel and to teach the nations the Truth.

Not only did Jesus send the Apostles into the world, He blessed them, “receive ye the Holy Spirit.” They are not sent out to fend for themselves, they are sent in the strength and grace of God. In another place in St. John’s Gospel, our Lord tells His followers “verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to My Father” (John 14:12). How is the Gospel, the Good News about both God and man, how is the Gospel to spread throughout the world? Those who believe are called to share the Faith. We are sent, as the Apostles were sent by the Lord. In our Epistle reading this morning we see an example of this brought to life. The Apostles went out to share the Gospel, and in Acts we read “And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people…[and] the people magnified them and believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.” (Acts 5:12-14) The Apostles went out and shared the Gospel both by their preaching and working miracles, and many people were converted and added to the Body of Christ. Further in the reading we also hear about more people being brought and being healed by the hands of the Apostles through the grace of God.

So how does this come down to us today, in 21st century America? We are still sent by Christ – we are sent from this gathering into the world to share the Gospel of Christ. A few ideas on what this might look like…1 – In order to share Christ, we first have to work on ourselves. In plain English, this means we have to work on our sinful lives, ever decreasing our sin and growing more like Christ. We can’t witness to Christ if we’re following the way of the world. We’re supposed to be a light on a hill for the world to see, salt to properly season the world; we’re called to be in the world but not of the world. If we are loved by the world, and if we love the world, then sharing with others the Cross of Christ becomes very difficult if not impossible. I can’t call you to a new life if I’m not living that new life already myself. 2 – Secondly, and directly related to the first, our lives of prayer and sanctification have to be healthy in order to share the Gospel with the world. Remember that even the Apostles couldn’t always heal – there was the instance of the possessed boy who Jesus healed, and told the Apostle that this could only be done through prayer and fasting. As understood by many of the Saints, our relationship with Christ is built on prayer. Our lives are supposed to be lives of prayer, filling as much time as possible with calling on the name of the Lord. We follow the commandments, we pray, we fast, we live lives dedicated to Christ, and slowly we become ever more like Him.

Then what happens? Then being sent can begin to bear fruit. People should know there’s something different about us just by observation. This gives us a chance to tell these people about Christ. And there are countless opportunities in our daily conversation to share Christ on some level, whether by not participating in certain conversations, or by offering something from the Bible/Fathers in conversation…we have a lot of opportunity in conversation to bring out our faith and share at least a glimpse of the Gospel. Then there’s the ageless suggestion which we see even from the time of the Apostles, to invite those around us to “come and see.” As the Apostle Philip invited Nathaniel to come and see the Lord, we can make that same invitation to those people around us. Come and see – and in the context of the holy services of our Church, God’s grace is present and ever-working. We have the responsibility to bring others with us, to introduce them to the fullness of the Truth found in our Holy Orthodox Church. But no method of sharing will bear fruit if our lives don’t also convict others of the Gospel. May God give us strength to walk the narrow path, and by following the way of Christ, my our lives also be used to call others to the brilliance of life in Christ.

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

Matthew Jackson