Matthew 28:19-20 – Fearful & Free

Matthew 28:19-20 – Fearful & Free

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20ESV

Most kids, it seems to me, love puppets and clowns. They’re funny, they’re outgoing, and they inspire the imagination. I was not like most kids. By three years old, I had decided both these things were scary and untrustworthy. My mom would take me to the fair, and she couldn’t get me to go anywhere near the clown shows. Even the Christian clowns made me uncomfortable.

I remember one fair, when I was very young, we were walking past a tent where they were doing a kids’ event, and they were appealing to families walking by to come into the tent. It was a clown show, and I could see the kids gathering around the clowns doing the presentation. Amidst the rising fear, I reached for my mom’s hand. As she held my hand, the fear was still there…but I also felt safe. I knew my mom was there, that she wouldn’t leave me…that I would be okay because she loved me.

In Matthew 28, the disciples are coming to the end of three-and-a-half incredible years at the feet and side of Jesus. Not only had they seen Him heal the sick, cast out demons, stand up against the Pharisees, raise the dead, and feed thousands with a poor boy’s meal…He had enabled them to do the same in His name. What is more, they had watched Him die a brutal, agonizing death…only to rise from the dead and walk with them and teach them even more. Now…He is about to ascend into heaven, and He has just given them an incredible responsibility:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20aESV).

In other words, Jesus is telling them, “Make faithful believers of the whole world.” May it be noted the leaders of the most powerful nation on earth – namely Rome –  just decided Jesus was a threat and had Him executed with no evidence of a crime. The religious leaders of the Jews, the very leaders ALL the disciple’s friends and family are part of, conspired for Jesus’ murder to take place. And the world outside Rome is no safer for lone people with no apparent protection. Add to that, Jesus is leaving. While He had sent the disciples on missions before, it was always with the plan of them returning to His side to learn and grow again at His feet. To their eyes, this time He will not be there to physically turn to. They will not be able to have the same deep, heart-to-heart and mind-to-mind conversations.

Can you imagine how daunting this task would seem? How afraid they might have been?

But, like my mom taking my hand when I was afraid, Jesus acknowledges their fears with these final parting words, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20bESV). He isn’t leaving them alone to this task, with no support and no help. He will be with them through it all, speaking the truth to their hearts, speaking the truth through their mouths and hands. And to be honest…they faced a brutal road. Every disciple, except for John, would be murdered serving this mission, and John himself would die in exile on a prison island. Yet they did not die alone. In death they leapt into the arms of Jesus because He was never away from their sides.

The same stands true for you, believer. In every moment of fear, every breath of terror and uncertainty, every sense of inevitable, crushing defeat… Jesus has never left your side. As He promised the disciples, He is with you always, even to the end of all we know. The fear may persist, but you are not abandoned.

You are never alone.

  • On a piece of paper, list all the fears you are facing right now, great or small.
  • When you think about all these fears, how do you feel? Whatever feelings or thoughts came to mind, note them under your list.
  • How might Jesus’ constant presence in the midst of these fears and feelings impact how you deal with fear?
  • Challenge for the week: Jesus has promised to be with us in fear. Memorize Proverbs 3:5-6 and speak it to yourself whenever your fear begins to rise.

Luke 5:1-11 – An Illogical God

“On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’ And Simon answered, ‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.’ And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’ For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.’ And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.” – Luke 5:1-11ESV

It was the summer of 2002. The Hayman Fire was raging across Colorado. Colorado summers were already boiling hot, but we were also in the middle of a significant drought. The sky was orange with ash, the sun a bleary eyeball of fire peering through. To top it all off… the United States was in a brutal recession. My father’s company, prior to eventually collapsing, finally laid him off. Jobs were scarce and unemployment…time limited.

Leading up to this, my family had been saving for years to build a barn. I had inherited a love of horses from my mom, but we wouldn’t get a horse without proper shelter. We were supposed to start building, but I was sure my dreams of a barn and horse had vanished along with my dad’s job.

Against all logic, my dad started building. He had been praying to find time to build the barn, and he maintained as the months progressed this time unemployed was God providing the time. It made no sense, to be spending savings when we didn’t know when he would get another job, but despite soil so dry it crumbled at a touch and days so hot we could only work an hour at a time, the barn rose. And within days of finishing the barn and unemployment ending…my dad had a job again.

In Luke 5:1-11, Jesus asks Peter to do something that went against all logic as well. The time to fish was over. Peter had been fishing all night, and his fishing crew was already pulled to shore cleaning their nets. As you may know, broad daylight is not the time when you’re going to catch a lot of fish. What is more, Peter, a professional fisherman, had failed to catch anything all night long. Yet to this, Jesus (a career carpenter I might add) tells Peter in verse 4, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Now, from reading we can tell Peter wasn’t just any fisherman. He had a team of fisherman who worked for him, and being a small business owner wasn’t a dream many ever achieved in the ancient world. He was undoubtedly a respected professional, already stinging from failure at his chosen trade by coming in empty-handed from the night’s fishing. If we’re following logic, Jesus telling this knowledgeable professional to go out in front of a crowd of his neighbors, employees, and more to fish at the absolute wrong time of day was a sure path to social humiliation. Yet in verse 5, Peter replies to this illogical request, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

And what a result! Luke 5:6&7 tells us, “And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.”

We live in a world that celebrates doing what is logical. Doing what is practical. Doing what “makes sense.” But sometimes what is wise and logical and “makes sense” to our culture does not take into account what could be wise, logical, and “make sense” to a God Who crafted the universe with merely a flexing of His will. Sometimes, to our limited reason, the logic of an infinite God seems like none-sense and a sure recipe for disaster. Yet this is the God who tells us in Isaiah 55:8-9ESV, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Obedience to God is not always logical to our limited reasoning. Where it will lead can seem frightening and uncertain and even dangerous. It may even be costly. But as you dare to step into obedience to what God has called you, remember this: the God who has called you also, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8ESV) out of love for you…to be your hope and your companion every step of the way.

  1. Have you ever had to do something your were scared to do that ended up working out? Describe what it was and how you felt.
  2. Why is it so hard to trust God to be faithful, despite what we know about Him from the Bible?
  3. Think about the deepest relationships with people you have in your life. What has created the strong trust and connection you have with them?
  4. Challenge for the week: Strong relationships come from spending time together and getting to know one another really well. This week, spend a little time each day reading about what God has told us about Himself in the Bible. Stuck on where to start? Check out some of these online options or call the church office at 303.424.4454 for more ideas!
    1. Lutheran Hour Ministries Daily Devotions
    2. Portals of Prayer LCMS Daily Devotions
    3. Group Publishing Jesus-Centered Daily Reading Plans