Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a meditation based on Matthew 28:19 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Delivered: Graduation Service, Thursday, May 24, 2018
Excluding words like and or the or even of, each word in this passage that you chose as your class verse could be the subject of hours of meditation all alone, but tonight, let’s take just a few minutes to focus in on the very first word of this passage—a word that often gets overlooked, but really sets the stage for what Jesus commanded his disciples, and you and me, to do on that day almost 2000 years ago. Let’s ask the Lutheran question, “What does this mean?” about the word Therefore.
The disciples of Jesus, that close-knit group that had been following him since the beginning of his ministry, were now only 11 in number. For 3 years, they had truly been his disciples—that is, they were his students and followers. They had been taught by their rabbi, Jesus, in a variety of ways.
At times, Jesus taught them with his words. The Sermon on the Mount, the parables, and his extended discourses systematically went through a variety of doctrinal truths—from Jesus’ dual natures, being both God and man at the same time, to the Kingdom of faith that Jesus rules in the hearts of his people, and all the way to some simple stuff like being a good neighbor, not only to those you love, but even those who might be your enemies.
Other times, though, Jesus taught with some dramatic object lessons called miracles. He provided for his people, using his divine power to signal his authority and making the blind to see again, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk, and the diseased cured. Through those wonderful, extraordinary acts, Jesus drew attention to himself, so that more and more would not only listen to his message, but believe and trust it to be true.
And then, of course, there were those times when Jesus would teach without words or wonders, but with his love. He led and taught by example. He met with tax collectors and sinners in their homes. To teach the importance of prayer, he prayed in front of them, modeled a perfect prayer that is still in use today, and even set aside times where he could meditate and participate in private prayer.
Those three years of schooling by rabbi Jesus have been seen by some as the very first Christian seminary training program. They received their instruction and now, after Jesus’ Thursday night graduation service at his Ascension, it was time for them to go to work. They had been taught, they had been equipped, they knew the authority Jesus had over all things and that he had shared his authority with them through his Word and then, therefore, because all that was true, it was time for them to go out into the world and be his representatives and to make more disciples—more followers and students of Jesus.
Over the years of your education at Peace Lutheran School, you, too, have been disciples—followers and students of the faculty here. They, too, have taught you in a number of different ways. They have lectured, used illustrations and metaphors, crafted experiments and case studies, and even, at times, simply modeled proper words, behaviors, and actions.
Through those educational techniques, you have learned to read, to write, and to compute complex mathematics. Your standardized tests show that you have been trained and equipped to score higher than the average students in your grade in your city, your state, and across the United States. And, more than simply scoring well on a test, you have been prepared with skills that will help you succeed as you continue in higher education and in whatever careers you might choose for yourselves.
But your teachers, and this congregation that 50 years ago started, and continues to support, Peace Lutheran School, aren’t simply concerned with you succeeding in this life. Their hopes, their prayers, and their combined efforts far exceed 70 or 80 years on this earth. They have trained you for eternity by setting you at the feet of the perfect professor, on a daily basis, to hear him and, with the eyes of faith, to see him, to learn the same truths that the disciples learned.
Unfortunately, that is something that you had to be taught. Like solving for x, who Jesus is and why he came to this earth would be completely unknown to you without instruction. As you studied in your catechism classes, this world around you and your own conscience can surely teach you a lot about who you are and what punishments should deservedly be yours because of that.
But, thankfully, listening to and meditating on the message of that perfect professor, you learned about his great exchange for you. Jesus saw your struggle against sin and Satan’s temptations and lived his life as a perfect substitute for yours. He satisfied the demands of the Law on your behalf so that, when God calls you to account for your life, he will only see Jesus and the robe of his righteousness which covers you completely.
And, to not only cover the requirements of the Law, but to account for God’s justice, Jesus took the punishment of God’s wrath that was rightfully yours onto himself when he went to Calvary’s cross. He endured it himself, like a lightning rod, so that there would be none left to seek you out and find you.
Through that exchange, Jesus, your substitute, won forgiveness for you and for all. And, through faith in that promise, you have been made a disciple of Jesus for now and for all of eternity.
And so, disciple of Jesus, here you are on a Thursday night graduation service, listening to the Word of Jesus. You have been taught, you have been equipped, you have learned the authority of Jesus and, through his Word, that authority has been shared with you. Therefore go. Go and continue to be life-long learners of math and science and reading and writing and, because of your training, lead successful lives in whatever careers you choose.
But, also, do what the disciples of Jesus 2000 years ago and his disciples today have done. Make more disciples. Teach others by setting them at the feet of the perfect professor. Use his words and make them see, with the eyes of faith, his signs, wonders, and actions accomplished in love. Because you know the forgiveness he gives to you, therefore, teach it and give it to all those you encounter after this graduation service. Amen.