The movie Blues Brothers was a 1980’s cult hit that was based on a sketch from Saturday Night Live. Now, I know none of you have seen the movie, because it carries an “R” rating and no good Christian would ever see an “R” rated movie. But I saw the movie back before I was a Christian, and the basic premise of it, was that the two main characters were trying to raise $5,000 to save the orphanage they grew up in. One of the iconic lines from that movie was, “We’re on a mission from God”.
And for the last several weeks we’ve been talking about the actual mission from God that Jesus himself sent his disciples on, in what’s called the Great Commission. So today we’re going to return one final time to Matthew 28, verse 16 as we wrap up this series on the Great Commission.
For the last three weeks we have been really focusing on our side of the commission. We’ve talked about the the fact that God can use us in our doubts, just as he used the eleven disciples in their doubts. We’ve talked about how under Jesus’ authority, we have been delegated authority. And in that authority, we must always remember that any authority we have comes from Jesus, and we must not misuse that authority for our own temporary gain. And then last week, we talked about how we are called to disciple as Jesus discipled; as disciples who disciple others to make more disciples.
But one thing we haven’t talked about is God within the commission. Though we’ve mentioned God in the commission in so far as he is the Commissioner, and from him we are delegated authority, we haven’t explored how, who he is, is the very basis for the commission.
So today, as we read through the passage one more time, I want us to focus on three words: worship, authority, and name. Now two of those words we’ve gone into detail about their meanings. But after we read through the passage of Matthew 28 verse 16-20, I want us to quickly review them, because we’ve had such an influx of people since we’ve talked about those words.
So let’s read and talk about the Great Commission in Matthew 28, starting in very 16.
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 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, baptizing 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.”
There are those three words: worship, authority, and name. Let’s get a quick recap of the first two of the words: worship and authority.
Worship is the Greek word, proskuneó (pros-koo-neh’-o) meaning to give reverence to someone by getting down on your knees and kissing their feet. Jesus says early in the Gospel of Matthew that only God is worthy of proskuneó (pros-koo-neh’-o), of worship. If we were to read through the whole Gospel and at the end come to where Jesus is receiving proskuneó (pros-koo-neh’-o), it should strike a note in our mind, that by him accepting the worship of the disciples, he is communicating that he is in fact God.
The second word is authority, which is the Greek word, exousia (ex-oo-see’-ah), which means the power to act, the right to have, the freedom to do, or as most common, the authority over. We talked about how this word is mostly used in the New Testament in connection with God in general or Jesus’ specific authority. In fact the majority of the time we’re mentioned to have authority, is in telling us that our authority is bestowed or delighted from Jesus.
I want us to understand these two ideas of worship directed towards Jesus, and Jesus having authority over everything, because the rest of the time, we’re going to be spending focused on the third word, name, and these two words interact with the concept of God’s name in the Old Testament.
Jesus says in verse 19, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”
Names in the ancient world were very important. Today we tend try to name kids with names that sound good, or that someone important to us had, or in more recent years, we try to come up with names that might be common, but have unique spellings.
For me, a lot of people comment on my name because it’s in the Bible and I’m a pastor, but actually my Dad named me Jeremiah after Jeremiah Johnson the mountain man. And my middle Daniel was after Daniel Boone. My sister, named her daughter Abigail Nicole Wood, because they wanted a name that couldn’t be easily made fun of. It wasn’t until after she was born that someone noticed that her initials were ANW, like the root beer.
But the purpose for names today is very different than the purpose of giving names in the past. As probably most of you know, names carried with them, not just a way to identify a person, but also the essence or future of that person.
And so when Jesus tells his disciples to baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”, he is revealing something deeper than a simple procedural step in the baptism ceremony. He’s revealing an aspect of who God is that had only been alluded to in the Old Testament.
And I think that by understanding the names in which God gives himself, do we get a greater sense of why we are being commissioned to make disciples of all nations.
Today, I want us to look at five names God gives himself in the Old Testament that reveal the heart of God in commissioning us.
Now, there are about sixteen names of God in the Old Testament, but we’re only looking at the ones that God specifically gives himself. The other eleven are names given to God by people as they experience who he is. But the five we’re going to look at are the ones that God specifically calls himself. And as we’ll see, the names in which God calls himself, reveal the God who commissions us.
Let’s start with the book of Genesis chapter 17 verse 1. The context is that God is speaking to the man Abram right after Abram tried to fulfill God’s promise his own way, and right before God fulfills his own promise. Genesis 17:1 reads, “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless.’”
This first name is El Shaddai, which means God Almighty. This name focuses on the authority of God over all things. In other words, nothing is greater than God. Jesus echoes this exact idea when he says in Matthew 28:18, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
Just as we discussed two weeks, Jesus returning to his authority after his death and resurrection, the first name God gives to himself in the Old Testament, is the name of the one who has all authority.
Now the last four names all come form the book of Exodus.
First, let’s go to Exodus chapter 3 verse 14. In the last couple of decades there has been a revival of this particular name in common use. The context is Moses speaking to God in the burning bush. Moses asks God to give him a name to tell the people as to who it was that sent him. So God responds with this, “God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I am has sent me to you.”’”
This second name is Yahweh, or Yahovah. This is seen as the true name of God, by the Jewish people. It is used over 6,500 times in the Old Testament. But it was seen as so holy, that the Jews stopped using it altogether and replaced it with Adonai. In fact the correct pronunciation of Yahweh has been lost to time, because of this. Even the name Adonai has started to be seen as too holy, and so the name HaShem has gained more traction over the years, which simply means “The Name.” But the name Yahweh or Yahocah has the connotation that God is far removed from us in the sense that he is distinct from his creation and unique among it. Each of us is need of something, God is not. Each of us came from someone, God did not. Each of us is limited, God is not. All of this is wrapped up in the name Yahweh, I am that I am, or as we could also say, the Unique One.
The second name found in Exodus comes in chapter 15, verse 26. Here God is calling the people of Israel to follow him so that he can keep them from the judgments he had to place on the Egyptians. This is what he tells them in Exodus 15:26, “He said, ‘If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.’”
This name is Yahweh Rawfaw, the God who heals. The prophet Isaiah said this about Jesus’ death in the 5th verse of the 53rd chapter of his book, it reads, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
God’s desire is that the grief, pain, sorrow, and afflictions of humanity would be healed. But that healing is only found in the God who heals. And that God is the Jesus who lived to die, who by his death and resurrection brings healing to our lives.
The third name found in the book of Exodus, is found in chapter 31, verse 13. In this passage God is calling the people to a day of rest and worship. A day of communion between them and him. A day where they would trust God for their safety and their sustaining. And God reveals his intent for this day of rest when he tells Moses this in the 13th verse of chapter 31, “‘Say to the Israelites, “You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy.’”
The Sabbath, or day of rest, was meant to sanctify the people. Which means God was working in their lives to bring them closer to himself. God is holy, or set a part, perfect, we saw this in his name Yahweh. But God does not want us to be separated from him, and so any that would follow him, he makes holy. So he gives himself the name, Yahweh M-qadash. The Lord who heals.
This is fully revealed and accomplished in Jesus, who Paul the writer of the letter to Ephesians tells the husbands to be like. In Ephesians 5:25 and 26 Paul writes, “25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word…”
God’s desire is to make us holy, but why do we need to be made holy? Because the Bible tells us that when we break even one of God’s commands, it taints us. Again the prophet Isaiah says this in his 63rd chapter, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away (v.6).”
God recognizes, and if we’re honest with ourselves we recognize too, that even on our best day, we’re not perfect. Even in my best deeds, there’s a hint of selfish reasoning behind it. Because if I compare myself, not to the people around me, but to God’s standard of good, then I fall far short. But through Jesus’ work on the cross, taking the punishment for sin on our behalf, God cleanses us from any imperfection we have.
This brings us to our final name of God. In Exodus chapter 34 verse 14, God is calling Moses and the people into a legal contract called a covenant, where he will be their God, and they will be his people. Both sides have a responsibility to that contract. And to the people God gives them this warning. “Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” God gives himself the name Qanna [kan-naw’]. There are a couple of different Hebrew words that mean jealous, but qanna is the only word meaning jealous that is used of God. And it means that he is the only one who is the rightful recipient of the people’s worship, because he is the one who created them.
Most of the time jealousy has the connotation of wanting what isn’t yours and being upset that you didn’t get it. And in fact that is what God himself implies in Exodus 20:17. But that type of jealousy is desiring what is not yours, but when God calls himself jealous, he is after those things that are his. A husband can be jealous of his wife, because his wife committed herself to him in her vows, and the same of the wife towards the husband.
Those who enter into a relationship with God through Jesus, God is jealous for. Because we are his. He created us, he is worthy of our all.
These five names of God paint this picture:
God is all-powerful, therefore he is Creator of all things.
God is unique, and therefore beyond his creation.
God seeks to heal the brokenness in our lives from the sin we have caused.
God desires to cleanses us of all sin that would lead us to death.
God wants us, because he is deserving of us.
We are commissioned by this God, who paints his work with us through the names he gives himself.
He is El Shaddai, the all-powerful. He is Yahweh, the unique one. He is Yahweh Rawfaw, the God who heals our brokenness. He is Yahweh M-qadash, the one who cleanses us. And he is Quanna, the God who is deserving of us.
This paints the picture of God’s relentless pursuit of us. We each have gone our own direction, desiring ourselves over the One that created us. But in so doing, we have brought pain and hurt and destruction to not only ourselves, but the world around us. Injustice prevails. War destroys. Families are broken. Famines and diseases run rampant. And it starts with the sin, the rebellion the we as individuals have against God. Yet God still seeks us. The all-powerful one, who is nothing like us, stills seeks to heal and cleanses us. And in response we must accept what he has done through Jesus.
We must accept his gift of the forgiveness of our sins, and follow him the rest of our lives. Becoming his disciple, and discipling others along the way.
Jesus gives us a new name for God, a name that Lutheran theologian Robert Jenson argues is the proper name for God. “…in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Today, we must seek to know this God who is revealed to us. We must grapple with the ideas of who God is. Because the identify of God, is the most important question that will ever be presented to us. Jesus’ words, “Who do you say I am? (Mark 8:29)” Echo from his first disciples, to us today.
In grappling with this question, C.S. Lewis once wrote, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to (Mere Christianity).”
My challenge for you today is this. If you have not accepted Jesus as your Savior, nor do you know what that even means, then you must seek the answer to the question “Who is Jesus?” Is he the God who reveals himself to be apart from us, yet willing to die for us even in our rebellion against him, or is he nothing. There is no in-between. If he is the God who died for us, then that means that you, like me, are a sinner. And we need Jesus’ forgiveness for those things that we have done against him. We must confess that we are a sinner and that Jesus in his mercy saved us from the fate of sin which is struggle on earth and eternal death.
But if he is nothing, then all purpose we suppose we have, is in fact false. There is no God, no moral or ethics, there is no afterlife, there is only the hear and now and dust. As the atheist William Provine wrote in his book Scientists, Face it! Science and Religion are Incompatible, “No inherent moral or ethical laws exist, nor are there any absolute guiding principles for human society. The universe cares nothing for us and we have no ultimate meaning in life…”
There are two choices in the matter, and each one of us needs to make that choice. And that choice’s ramification, is either we die and no one is the wiser, or we will continue into eternity. And so I plead with you today to seek Jesus, wrestle with who he says he is, and accept him as Savior from sin, and Lord of your life.
And to you who have accepted Jesus as your Savior, my challenge to you is simple, take the names of God that we have studied today, and seek him in how his names effect how you carry out the commission you have been sent on. Do you live as if God is all-powerful? Do you understand the uniqueness of God from his creation? Do you understand his healing and cleansing work? And do you understand how worthy of your worship he truly is?
Let us leave here, desiring a deeper encounter with the God who gives himself the names in which we are to know him. So that we may know him deeper than we have ever done before. Amen.