One of my favorite passages in the Bible is found at the very end of Matthew. It’s part of the Great Commission. We usually focus on the “doing” part of this paragraph, where Jesus tells us to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
But there’s more to this passage. In fact, we can’t obey this command unless we also include both the verse immediately before it and the verse that follows. What comes first? Jesus announces that “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go…”
Do we act as if Jesus is in charge? Do we defer our planning to His plans? Our efforts to His power? Our desire for recognition to His glory? Do we consult with Him to find out what His agenda is, and then trust Him to fulfill it? Or do we make plans that sound good to us, pray, and then get mad at God when He doesn’t answer our prayers the way we think He should?
Remember, our battle is against spiritual forces, not people (see Ephesians 6:12), and only Jesus has the power to overcome evil. We can’t do this in our own strength. We have to go in Jesus’ authority!
Then, what comes last? “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” The amazing thing about Christmas is that we have Jesus’ presence, not just as a cute December baby, but throughout the year, as the One with all authority both in heaven and here on earth!
Consider Mark 3:13-14—
Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach….
Most of us would look at this verse and assume that the main point is Jesus sending the twelve out to preach. But what about the first sentence? He called those he wanted to be with him! In fact, our being with him comes before the preaching.
Especially here in the West, we tend to think of our Christianity as something we do, rather than Someone we’re with. Yes, we’re called to go and preach the Kingdom, but first we have to know the King. It’s that relationship we have to share with others.
Moreover, if we’re not “being”—abiding—as part of God’s vine, we’re cut off from God’s power. Remember Jesus’ teaching recorded in John 15? Here are verses 4 – 5, where Jesus says:
Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
It may look like we’re doing something, but the result won’t be eternal fruit.
I find it easy to go through life simply doing, especially when the doing is something I’m good at. Why do I need to get God involved in getting dressed, scrambling eggs, cleaning the bathrooms, or even shipping books for my employer? Yet, God wants to be a participant in every part of our lives. We need to abide when we’re solving the world’s problems—and when we’re picking up eggs at the market.
As we go through the motions during this Christmas season, baking cookies, decorating our homes, exchanging presents, going to church, I want to make sure I allow the incarnation to permeate my life—Immanuel, God with us.