The Festival of the Holy Trinity
June 11, 2017
The Holy Trinity Revealed
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV1984)
Dear fellow worshipers of the only true God,
Ever since the dawn of time mankind has known that God exists. For Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden there was absolutely no question as to who the true God is— He is the Almighty God who created the heavens and the earth, He is the loving personal God who walked with them and talked with them in the garden in the cool of the day (see Genesis 3:8). Tragically, when Adam and Eve rebelled against the true God and brought sin into this world the knowledge of who the true God is quickly became obscured. Relatively speaking, it did not take long for mankind to “create” or perhaps we should say, “invent” their own gods. It is probably pretty safe to say that every single culture throughout the history of mankind has come up with their own version of “god.” Some of the best-known man-made gods come from ancient Greece and Rome. Cupid is the Roman god of love. Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love. She is also known as the “queen of pleasure.” Jupiter was one of the chief Roman gods while Zeus was his Greek counterpart. And do you know why so many marriages take place in the month of June? It is because the month of June is named after Juno— the Roman goddess who is the patroness of marriage.
When you stop and look at all the man-made gods in this world one thing quickly becomes clear. All the man-made gods are nothing more than glorified human beings. While they may be bigger and badder and stronger than us ordinary folk they are driven by many of the very same emotions: greed, anger, lust, power, jealousy. As glorified human beings all the man-made gods are relatively easy to understand. If you get one of them upset then you do something to appease them.
Today is the day which for centuries has been set aside by the Christian church as an opportunity to clearly proclaim that there is only one true God. He is the God who has revealed Himself to us on the pages of Holy Scripture. He is the Triune God— Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The true God is not a God that we can comprehend with our limited, logical, mortal human minds. The true God is not a God that mankind could ever or would ever come up with all on his own.
Our text for today is commonly known as the Great Commission. This portion of Matthew 28 contains the “marching orders” or the “job description” of the Christian Church here on this earth. At the same time these words of our Lord serve very well as a text for the Festival of the Holy Trinity because in these words we see: The Holy Trinity Revealed. We have two goals this morning. First, we want to see the power of the Holy Trinity. Then we want to experience the love of the Holy Trinity.
The event recorded here in our text took place on a mountaintop in Galilee. The risen Christ had gathered there with His disciple so that He might give them some final instructions before He ascended home to heaven. Matthew tells us, “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’”
We get the impression here that there were more than just the eleven disciples there on that mountain top. This could easily be the group of more than 500 disciples that Paul refers to in I Corinthians 15:6. At any rate, some people bowed down to worship the risen Christ there on that mountaintop while others— who may be seeing Jesus for the very first time since His resurrection— doubted. Because of the mixture of believers and doubters Jesus came near to them and spoke those extremely important words, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Can you sense how that one statement reveals to us the power of the Holy Trinity? If not, let me help you!
First, to see how that statement reveals the power of the Holy Trinity you have to take this one scene— the risen Christ meeting with His disciples on a mountain top in Galilee— and put this one scene, this one piece of the puzzle, into the context of the entire history of this world. As we mentioned earlier Adam and Eve knew who the true God is. He is their Almighty Creator. After Adam and Eve sinned their Almighty Creator could have just destroyed them— but He didn’t! Instead of destroying the crown of His creation God promised to send them a Savior. This Savior would be a true human descendant of Adam and Eve. This Savior would enter into battle with the devil himself and crush Satan’s head. This Savior would endure the punishment that Adam and Eve and all sinners (including us) deserved! For thousands of years this same Almighty Creator guided and directed the affairs of this world so that when the time was just right this Savior could be born (see Galatians 4:4). When that perfect moment in time arrived the power of God the Holy Spirit came upon a young virgin named Mary and she conceived a Child (see Luke 1:34-35). At the same time Mary was told that her Child would not be just an ordinary Child. Her Child would be the true eternal Son of the only true God! Mary’s Child would be Immanuel— God with us! For 33 years this Child, who was both true God and true Man in one Person, lived an absolutely perfect life in our place. Then in accordance with the Father’s Plan of Salvation for mankind the Son of God and the Son of Man allowed Himself to be nailed to a cross to pay the penalty for mankind’s sin. What outwardly appeared to be a crushing defeat on Good Friday, however, was openly revealed to be a resounding victory when the Son of God and the Son of Man physically rose to life again on the third day! Sin, death and the devil— the three great enemies who once had absolute power over us— have now been completely vanquished! How? Not by your power! Not by my power! No, my friends, our greatest enemies have been defeated purely by the power of the one true God— by the power of God the Father who planned out our salvation, by the power of God the Son who secured our salvation and by the power of God the Holy Spirit who worked in our hearts the gift of saving faith thereby making everything that Jesus won for us our personal possession. That entire Plan of Salvation needs to be kept in view as we hear the victorious risen Christ say to His disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Yes, my friends, the power of the Holy Trinity is indeed revealed as Jesus gathers with His disciples here on this mountaintop in Galilee.
It is on the basis of that power and that authority that Jesus then says to His Church, “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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
You can search the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and you will not find the words Holy Trinity or Triune God. At the same time when by the grace of God we are able to accept the Scriptures at face value then we will see that the truth of the Holy Trinity is clearly and simply taught throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation! We have an example of that right here in our text when Jesus commands us to baptize in the Name of the Triune God.
Now we could literally spend hours talking about this one portion of our text. But since we are studying this text on Trinity Sunday I would like to focus on how this portion of Scripture enables us to experience the love of the Holy Trinity.
As I was preparing this sermon I went on the Internet and typed the word “God” into my search engine. According to Google there are “about 19,300,000” web sites linked to the word “God.” That’s a lot of web sites! I then did a search on the words “true God.” That search produced “about 7,860,000” web sites. People are searching, my friends. People are searching for answers. People are searching for meaning. People are searching for purpose. People are searching for hope. Whether they realize it or not people are searching for God! You have the ability to end their search. You can end that search by truly experiencing the love of the Triune God as you go out and “make disciples of all nations.” As Lutheran Christians you also experience the love of the Triune God every time you remember that God Himself has supplied you with all the “tools” you need to share and to proclaim the one true God. Those “tools” are brought out in our text when Jesus tells us to make disciples by “baptizing” (Sacrament) and by “teaching” (Word). When we are faithfully using and proclaiming God’s holy inspired Word and when we are faithfully administering God’s holy Sacraments not only do we experience the love of the Holy Trinity on a personal level, but others are exposed to the love of the Holy Trinity as well!
Another way in which the love of the Holy Trinity is revealed in our text is when Jesus gives to us His solemn promise, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Knowing that Jesus is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, knowing that Jesus is one in essence with both God the Father and God the Holy Spirit only underscores the love that we experience knowing that our Triune God is always with us! As the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth there is nothing that is too big for our heavenly Father to handle and nothing that is too small for our heavenly Father to be concerned about. As our victorious Redeemer there is no length to which God the Son is not willing to go to keep us close to Him for both time and for eternity. As our powerful Sanctifier God the Holy Spirit continues to guide us and strengthen us as He works in our heart and in our life through His holy Word and Sacrament. And so while the words, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” may seem like simple words, the love that you and I experience in those words goes far beyond description.
This morning you and I joined together in confessing the Athanasian Creed. This creed was composed by the Christian Church at a time when many people were both attacking as well as denying the teaching of the Holy Trinity. I have two favors to ask of you this morning. First, take a moment to go back and quietly re-read the Athanasian Creed on your own. As you do so, I would like you to consciously look to see how the power and the love of the Holy Trinity are revealed in this confession of faith. Secondly, every time you are reminded of the power and the love of the Holy Trinity consciously remember how that love and that power— the power and the love of the one and only true God— form the rock-solid foundation of your eternal salvation.
To God be the glory!