By Benjamin Stubblefield, Ph.D.
Visiting Assistant Professor of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
We’ve been memorizing the Ten Commandments with our church’s children’s ministry, so I’ve been thinking about them more lately.
We have been observing that the fifth commandment extends an amazing promise and blessing to encourage children to honor their parents. And why? Because the kids have told us: “It’s hard to do!”
To get people to do extraordinary things they have to be extraordinarily motivated.
Jesus is about to commission His disciples for the world’s most extraordinary endeavor, and so He incentivizes them properly.
They have doubts, but Jesus comes to take them away; they have confusion, but Jesus comes to clarify; they still believe themselves incapable, but Jesus promises them His power.
Anybody would have been frightened. A man they watched die and be buried awhile has just apparated in their midst. They believed Him a ghost, which can be an ill omen (see 1 Sam. 28). They were “troubled” and had some “doubts” about what they were seeing.
What I love about what Jesus does here is that He doesn’t write off His disciples. This would have been an easy time for Him to blow a fuse: “Fellas! I just rose from the dead. Y’all are the worst! I told you a hundred times … ugh .. .this whole church thing is never gonna work.” But He doesn’t do that.
He takes all the time, extends all the patience and provides encouragement to His friends. He assures them that what they’re witnessing is true. If you need to touch my flesh and bone, do it, he says. If you need to see me eat some fish, I’ll do it. Whatever it takes to help you in your faith.
Jesus provides the same encouragement for us now. How often have we been doubtful, confused or bothered, and the Lord sent a timely word to bring us along? Just a little refreshment when we’re weary to help our unbelief.
The Lord doesn’t stop there. He demonstrates that what He has done is simply bring to fulfillment what the whole of the Old Testament anticipated.
In other words, Jesus grounds their experience with Him in the very sure authority of the Word.
He explains what they have misunderstood in the law, prophets and psalms. The Messiah would come not to rebuild the nation of Israel back to a Davidic glory. He came to redeem the whole of His creation; to suffer on behalf of those who should suffer instead; to conquer death on behalf of a world that should die; and to make room in the Kingdom for all who, like Father Abraham, would have faith in Him.
He taught His disciples that His ministry was not some trick play or change of plans but rather God’s design from the beginning.
Most Southern Baptists are familiar with the Great Commission, particularly Matthew 28:18–20. Luke’s record of Jesus’ commission shows up in Acts 1:8.
But Jesus prepares them for it here by promising them that they’ll be empowered to keep His instruction by the Holy Spirit. And it’s on this point that we would do well to consider.
Heavenly work requires heavenly power. Certainly, pre-Pentecost church planting would have been a disaster! Brothers and sisters, without Spirit-led ministry, so is ours.
Jesus, in His mercy, persuades, authenticates and empowers His disciples for Kingdom work. I know most of us believe in Jesus, but I wonder: Are we led by and filled with His Spirit?
Perhaps it’s time we do a little more waiting and praying than doing and going. Perhaps when we do, we’ll see more than “mercy drops ’round us,” and find ourselves in the “showers of blessing we need.”