“THE GREAT ASSIGNMENT”
Text: Matthew 28:18-20
Sunday January 22, 2023 – Epiphany 3
Lutheran Schools Week
Trinity – Creston/Mount Ayr
Grace, mercy, and peace is yours from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
Our text for this third Sunday after the epiphany of our Lord is the Gospel lesson from Matthew 28 that was just proclaimed.
Let Us Pray: Dearest Jesus, send your Holy Spirit to. Amen.
Dear Fellow Redeemed in Christ:
Teachers give assignments. The type and complexity of the assignments vary with the age of the student and the content of the subject matter. The early childhood instructor says, “Take this worksheet home with you.” The first-grade teacher assigns students to practice reading with a parent. The fifth-graders may have math problems assigned as homework.
High school students get more sophisticated projects assigned. Teachers (rabbis) in Jesus’ day gave assignments, too. Seeking human knowledge and favor, they taught what Timothy later described as “different doctrine,” “myths” and “endless genealogies.” They were “teachers of the law” (1 Tim. 1:3–7).
Their “assignments” led disciples to the philosophies and ways of the world and away from the truth. The lessons taught a life of guilt and, ultimately, eternal condemnation.
Jesus was “a teacher come from God” (John 3:2). Jesus, the Son of God, was given an “assignment” from His heavenly Father. The assignment was to enter the “classroom” of the fallen creation.
Jesus, the holy, all-powerful Son of God, was to take on human flesh so that He might not only teach the lesson of the kingdom of God but complete the greatest assignment ever given: the saving of sinners. Jesus humbly took on the Father’s assignment.
As the 12-year-old temple “student,” Jesus is already the teacher: “All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers” (Luke 2:47). Jesus clarifies His immediate assignment, “I must be in my Father’s house” (Luke 2:49). All that Jesus does is in keeping with God’s divine curriculum.
Jesus’ ministry begins with His Baptism, “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). The Father affirms His Son’s obedient and perfect response as His journey to the cross begins: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17).
As Jesus is about to enter the “final” stage, the Father again affirms, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matt. 17:5). The Master Teacher was the perfect student.
Classroom students of all ages may have incomplete assignments. Students often have less-than-perfect scores on their assignments. It is impossible for us to meet God’s demand to be perfect students. God’s test of the Ten Commandments gives our grade: “Failed!”
By His sacrificial death, Jesus completes all that is required for our salvation. From the cross, Jesus announces, “It is finished” (John 19:30). The sacrifice is completed and accepted. Jesus’ completion was affirmed and announced to the disciples, “He has risen from the dead” (Matt. 28:7).
Jesus’ resurrection affirmed that His completion was for the disciples and for the world. Jesus’ completion was witnessed by the disciples. Jesus’ resurrection was the message of the Pentecost appearance of the Spirit and was the proclamation of those whom the Spirit had visited.
The blessings of Jesus’ completion were not received by intellectual assent or completing human assignments, but by faith alone. The salvation “assignment” is completed and is ours by grace through faith (Rom. 3:22–28).
Lutheran schools operate under a necessity and sequence of assignments: Congregations give “assignments” to boards; boards give “assignments” to administrators; administrators give “assignments” to staff; staff give “assignments” to students.
However, the mission and ministry of a Lutheran school is to celebrate and share that the Father assigned salvation to the Son. The Son perfectly completed the assignment; the Spirit, through the Means of Grace, brings the message and blessings of the completed assignment to the church, children, staff, parents, friends, neighbors and the world.
Matthew 28, commonly called the Great Commission, is also Jesus’ Great Assignment. Jesus demonstrates His completion through the 40 days of His 9 resurrection appearances.
Shortly before His ascension, Jesus “assigns,” “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”. The apostles’ Spirit-led response to the assignment is shared in the Book of Acts. Peter and John witness boldly on the streets of Jerusalem. Saul, a persecutor of Christians, becomes a missionary to Gentiles. Deacons serve widows and the needy. Martyrs give their lives to defend the Gospel (Stephen).
Others share their witness with travelers (Philip) who take the message to another area of the world. Student responses to assignments are often less than energetic: “Do we have to do the assignment?” “How long is this going to take?” “When do I have to have it done?”
However, the response of Jesus’ disciples was always the work of the Holy Spirit. They went boldly and with great joy. In the centuries since the call of the first disciples, Jesus, through His church, has continued to call and equip His disciples to “make disciples.”
Pastors begin their service to the congregation promising to nurture disciples as they “faithfully instruct both young and old in the chief articles of Christian doctrine” (Lutheran Service Book: Agenda, p. 179).
Our Lutheran school teachers are privileged to “make disciples,” “trusting in God’s care, [seeking] to grow in love for those you serve, [striving] for excellence in your skills, and [adorning] the Gospel of Christ with a godly life” (LSB Agenda, p. 216).
Consider this: “Trinity Lutheran Preschool has been blessed to see God at work through the service of our wonderful staff Joy, Tamara, and Theresa. Trinity Lutheran Preschool has shared the love of Jesus to hundreds of students over the years and brought the Gospel not just to the students but there families as well!
Many of the families sitting in these pews today and over the years are being fed and nourished today with God’s Word(Jesus) because of the mission of our preschool to share the love of God in Christ Jesus to all!
The devil may tempt us to sometimes question the “business” of a Lutheran school ministry. Additional personnel and facilities sometimes put a strain on budgets. It may be difficult to find qualified Christian teachers. Sometimes state and other worldly standards of accreditation challenge boards and administrators.
The time and energy demands for the pastoral ministry and other staff may increase. At times, we may question the “assignment” of Lutheran education. Why is this so hard? Couldn’t we use our resources in better ways? How do we assemble a strong ministry team?
The answer is, “We have been given the assignment to make disciples.” We have heard Jesus say, “Let the little children come to me,” and we are humbled to make disciples of little children.
We had the joy of unchurched parents asking to have their children baptized because a teacher or another parent has taken Jesus’ assignment personally and witnessed to another family.
The school/church family demonstrated deeds of discipleship in caring for another child and family who has faced illness or experienced grief. Lutheran schools make disciples for this life and for eternal life.
In her book Go and Make Disciples (Concordia Publishing House, 1992), author Jane Fryar tells the story of 7-year-old Jon. Jon’s single mother brought her struggling son to the principal’s office at the neighborhood Lutheran school to enroll him.
Throughout the school year, Jon grew academically, socially and spiritually in his new school. Late one Friday afternoon in early spring, the telephone rang in the principal’s office.
Jon’s mom called to share that Jon would not be coming back to school. A drunk driver had hit Jon as he was riding his bicycle, and Jon had not survived the accident. At the funeral home, Mom let the principal hold her close as the two cried together. “I’m so, so very sorry,” choked the principal. “I wish I could have …”
“No, don’t … don’t apologize,” the grieving woman whispered through her tears. “I asked you to tell Jon about Jesus, and you did. Jon is with Jesus now, and we will be, too, someday. Thank you. Thank you for what you gave him, and for what you gave me.”
Trinity Lutheran Preschool school has been God’s instrument of sharing God’s love and grace in Jesus with so many families over the years. God’s servants in our school had been called to “make a disciples” of children and their families no only preparing them for this life but the life to come!
May God continue to direct and bless the ministry of Christ Jesus here at Trinity as we “make disciples for life” to prepare us for eternal life! In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.