With the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus God’s plan of redemption is accomplished. Through these events, God overcomes the curses of sin and death which resulted from the very first sin. And because of the resurrection, Jesus becomes the first sign of the new creation. The resurrection is the dawn of a new day. Just as Jesus is raised from the dead, recreated, so all of us will someday experience this same resurrection. The new creation has begun. Even though the new creation is not recognized by all, and not even fully realized yet, it has still begun. The resurrection of Jesus is thus a turning point in the continuing narrative of the world.
The story however does not end at the resurrection, and even though the new creation has broken in, the narrative does not proceed immediately to the new creation. Instead, there is an intervening period, a period in which, the message of Jesus and his ministry is taken to the rest of the world. After the resurrection, Jesus gathers his disciples and gives them what has become known as the great commission. “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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew28:19-20) Jesus gives the disciples, and the church, a mission; to make disciples of all nations. The early Christians are to replicate themselves. The family of God’s people is to grow. As Jesus tells them before the ascension, they are to be his witnesses. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) The disciples are to take the message of Jesus to the rest of the world. To witness to what they have seen and heard. To proclaim the Lordship of Jesus and the opportunity for new creation life that has now been made available to all people. Just as Israel was to be a light to the nations as a priestly kingdom and a holy nation, the church is now to fulfill the same role. Jesus’s mission will continue through the church. The newly gathered community will continue the mission of God, to take a message of healing to a broken world.
And the greatest news is that the community will accomplish this task through God’s help. The community will not be left alone. Jesus promises to be with the disciples always, even to the end of the age. And they will be given power through the Holy Spirit. The mission still belongs to God and God will see that the mission is completed because God will provide the power to accomplish it. Easter and Pentecost thus belong together. Jesus commissions the disciples to be his agents in the world, but he also provides them with the power to accomplish the task. The truth of Easter compels the disciples into a lifestyle of witness. They are to be witnesses to the world that the new creation is breaking in. But Pentecost provides the disciples with the power to accomplish the task. It is the power of the Spirit that will draw all nations to God. God is still responsible for the mission. Individuals are able to accomplish great tasks and draw others to God through the empowering of the Spirit.
Thus disciples are called to be witnesses of all that Jesus has done, but it is more than just witnessing to the death, burial and resurrection, and more than just baptizing non-Christians. Their role is to invite others to accept the true story of the world. To remind them of the good beginning and the good ending. And they are given the power to accomplish this through the Spirit. As Michael Goheen explains in A Light To The Nations, “The coming of the Spirit transforms God’s people. Their communal mission is to point backward to the life God intended for humanity in creation, to point forward to the time when God will restore that life again at the culmination of history, and to stand against the idolatry of the nations that would destroy that life…The coming of the Spirit gives the renewed Israel, the church, a foretaste, an experience in the present of the life to come. They are now empowered to fulfill their calling; eschatological Israel is a Spirit-filled community”
As a part of the Spirit-filled community, the church joins God’s mission to restore relationship with the creation. The ministry of Jesus continues.