Tuesday, 1 April 2008

A Tale of Two Missions

We’re used to thinking of the Great Commission as the beginning of the international Christian mission. And it is.
But in context, there’s actually two missions. Each bent on contradicting the other, and winning people from the other mission to their own.
Matt 28:11:
While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened.

The women and the guards scurry away from the tomb at the same time. The soldiers meet with the chief priests. The women meet with the disciples.
The chief priests then set about denying the resurrection.

Matt 28:12-14:
12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”

The disciples meet with Jesus, who commissions them to proclaim the implications of the resurrection.

Matt 28: 18-20:
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, 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.”

Two different missions. One built on bribery and the irrational denial of the facts. Note that the chief priests & elders can’t deny the reality of the empty tomb. All they can do is cast aspersions on how it came to be empty. The other built not merely on the proclamation of the fact – the bare fact of an empty tomb won’t covert anyone – but on the explanation of the implications of the fact. The risen Christ is Lord of all, and calls everyone to follow him, as he leads us to the Triune God.
We’ve just been through Easter. Have you noticed how at Easter & Christmas time, the media feels the urge to broadcast programs that contradict the message of those two days? Interesting, isn’t it. Seems to be two different missions, each trying to convince the other.
But never mind those two days. Just mentioning Christ in conversation tends to invite a storm of mockery. I remember sitting with a group of friends – who knew I was a Christian – and somehow the conversation turned to Christ. One of the guys said “yeah but the Bible’s full of mistakes and contradictions”. Everyone nodded sagely. And the conversation moved on. Without a chance for discussion. I didn’t have a chance to even say “I’ve got a Bible in my room upstairs – could you show me one of those mistakes or contradictions, please?”
Funny, isn’t it. I’m trying to explain the implications of Christ’s death & resurrection. But someone else denies it – unreasonably, irrationally, without argument.
You’d think there were two different missions.

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