Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mat 28:16-20)
“And when they saw him they worshiped him. But some doubted.” It doesn’t say what they doubted. We know Thomas originally doubted the resurrection. But that was confirmed for him within a week, and presumably the others. He was the first we know of to fall and worship Jesus exclaiming, “My Lord and my God.” The resurrection proved that to him. But that is what the some doubted. That he was God, that they should be worshipping him. In fact many still doubt this. They questioned how he could have died in the first place if he was God. The church struggled with it for a long time in many and various ways. The fruit of these struggles is the Nicene Creed whose triumph was secured by the long and tortuous career of St. Athanasius. The man’s life, and his struggle with Arius and the Arians reads like an action adventure novel. It was for him the creed we confessed today was named, though he didn’t write it. The creed that says you cannot be Christian if you don’t believe Jesus, the man, is God.
Even today there are some who would call themselves Christian and yet who would disparage us for worshiping a man. And he is a man, that isn’t really up for debate, though it has been debated from time to time. Today even the most liberal of scholars have to admit that Jesus existed, that he was a man. They too debate as to whether he was God or just a great teacher. But then as C.S. Lewis points out. He claimed to be God. That means either he is God or he was a lunatic. Great teacher is out of the question. Great teachers don’t claim to be he who created the world, and in whom we live, breathe and have our being. And this is by definition who God is. He who created the world. He in whom we live, breathe and have our being.
Jesus answers the question for those who doubt, who don’t know what to make of it. Don’t know how he can be God if he prayed to the Father. He says all authority on heaven and earth has been given to me, now go disciple all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This would be the key to the disciples who were Jewish and understood name to mean being, rather than a mere moniker. Oh they might not know how it was possible. It is hard for us who are finite to understand the infinite. The Bible tells us that God is actually beyond our comprehension, that we cannot fathom him completely. But he reveals this to us in his son who died for our sins and was raised for our justification. That he is three in one, that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit all share in the same substance and being, that they share a unity that is of essence, and not merely of purpose, while still maintaining separate persons. And that in the person of the Son, who is light of light and very God of Very God, God became man for us men and for our salvation. That in the person of his Son, God himself died, and tasted the bite that is common to all man. God himself died, that when he rose, we who were dead in our trespasses would be given life. Now we live. And how God can die should not be that big of a problem for us. God is God, he does whatever it is he wants to do, this includes dying for you.
See that is the point, if Jesus isn’t God then his death doesn’t do anything for us, nothing for you. One man cannot die for the world, he can’t even die in the place of another. But God, when he dies. Well this is what made the fight so fierce in 325 between Arius and Athanasius. Arius wanted to believe Jesus died only as a man but not as God. For Arius, Jesus was a great teacher, who became God by living a moral life and even dying because of his morals. And in doing so taught us how we could become God by living that moral life we have all failed to live and continue to fail to live. But the church and Athanasius, they knew better. God died. Some would go so far as to say, that it was in death that God truly became man, truly became one of us, though he had our flesh and blood before. And they couldn’t help but to love a God who would die for them, because a God who so loved his people that he would taste death was a God who cared about the entirety of one’s life, for whom no worry was too small to be bothered with, no care too great for him to handle. No, our God is a God who died, that we may live, and therefore found his greatest glory, in that which man fears most, death. And it is precisely for that reason that he is worthy of our worship, praise and thanksgiving. Precisely because he glories in our salvation, and so has been given all authority in heaven and upon earth that your salvation would be secure in him.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.