By Chuck Griffin
At the end of each worship service, I “send us forth,” to use the language of fourfold worship. The obvious question is, “Send us forth to what?”
The answer, of course, lies in the word of God.
The Matthew text linked above is typically used as an Easter reading. Easter—the day we celebrate the resurrection of Christ—also is the key to understanding “sending forth,” however. We’re going to use Matthew’s story of Christ’s resurrection to help us better understand what we’re sent forth to do.
Jesus doesn’t appear until late in the story, but as he is the starting point for all things, we’ll begin with him. Even if you’ve heard this core story of Christianity a thousand times before, try to hear it with fresh ears today.
In the resurrection, Jesus is revealed fully as the Christ, the son of God, the promised gift of God sent to redeem the world. As we understand the resurrection more fully in the context of other holy writings, we see he is God in flesh, God among us.
We also want to consider some of the humans in the story, the two Marys and Jesus’ disciples.
The two Marys. One is identified as Mary Magdalene, a woman Jesus freed from demon possession. She was clearly devoted to Jesus. The “other Mary” is less easily identified; Matthew would never have referred to Jesus’ mother in such a way. She was likely the “mother of James and Joseph” identified as being at the cross. If you haven’t figured out by now, Mary (Miriam in Hebrew) was a very common female name in Jesus’ day and place.
What I take away from their part in the story is faithfulness, likely combined with an expectancy that something more was to happen. Unlike the other gospels, Matthew says the Marys merely went “to see the tomb,” rather than going with a specific purpose, such as to anoint Jesus’ body more thoroughly. I think that unlike many of the male disciples, the women had fully heard Jesus’ words about what was to come after his death, and hope remained in their hearts.
Through their faithful attendance to Christ, even when all seemed lost, they became important witnesses to mighty events surrounding the resurrection, standing at an intersection of heaven and earth. They also became the first humans to declare the truth about the remarkable event that changed the world.
The Disciples. Just as they were Jesus’ primary audience in his three years of ministry, they seem to be his primary audience immediately after the resurrection. The angel told the two Marys to go to them with word of the resurrection. Jesus repeated this instruction when he appeared to the women suddenly, as they ran to the disciples.
Later in Matthew, we’re told something interesting about the 11 remaining key disciples—despite seeing Jesus, some doubted. I wonder if they muttered in Aramaic, “It’s just too good to be true.” Jesus told them to go forth and spread the word of the resurrection, however, baptizing believers in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
It’s clear they finally did believe. After all, we’re here on the other side of the planet, worshiping Christ as Savior.
As people who gather to worship Christ, we have the potential to fulfill some of these roles as we go forth into the world. Where do we fit in the story?
At a minimum, I pray we’re like the disciples, following Jesus, even enamored with Jesus despite our occasional doubts. Can we do as they did and become more like the Marys? Can we declare what has been revealed to us through God’s word? Can we live as if we expect greater things to happen?
That is what we’re sent forth each week to do. Despite our current circumstances, most of us have gathered in worship week after week and equipped ourselves through the word. We’ve celebrated what has been declared.
Let’s never stop sharing the good news about Jesus Christ with those who so desperately need to hear it!
Lord, regardless of how we worship, may we always go into the world declaring Christ as Savior to all who need to hear. Amen.