On the morning after His resurrection, Christ sent His disciples back to Galilee for short visit. Perhaps it was so that His men might gather up their families and belongings to move to the big city. After this trip home, Christ “commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but (to) wait for the promise of the Father.” The Lord’s “ecclesia” had been a traveling church for many months, but that is going to change. It will become known as the “Church in Jerusalem.” These are things that we learn from the Book of Acts.
Here the disciples, on the orders of the Lord Jesus, gather to meet Him on a certain Galilean mountain. In some ways it was much like a Baptist church service would be in the centuries to come. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it was a Sunday morning. Together, there was undoubtedly instruction given – perhaps another lesson out of the Word of God. Their Pastor knew that He was retiring from His current ministry, so perhaps there were directions in regard to His replacement. Did they sing a few psalms? Did they pray together? Eventually there were the well-known words of the Great Commission – “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” In some ways, the attendees at that meeting atop Mt. Tabor were like us here today. We are told that there were a few doubters; there were disciples; and there were worshippers.
Ah, but there were things which you and I can only imagine. When you came to this house of worship today, your pastor was already here. I don’t say that to boast or to scold – that is just the way it is 99% of the time. But as I envision the church meeting in Matthew 28, the members were there before the Pastor arrived. And then I picture the Lord simply appearing before them. The brethren didn’t think that He was there yet, and then all of a sudden, there He was. And how was it that Christ appeared – what did He look like? I’m sure that there was no doubt that it was Jesus – He was the same. They recognized Him immediately, but were there any differences? Perhaps His appearance was as glorious as it had been on the Mount of Transfiguration. Was He in His pre-resurrection form, or was He in His pre-millennial condition?
I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Christ’s appearance drove them all to their knees. Because “when they saw him, they worshipped him.” It is that worship which I’d like us to consider this morning. It is that worship which should be found in our church services on a regular basis.
First, we have to ask, WHO WAS IT that the disciples worshipped that day?
Of course, it was the Lord Jesus Christ. But this was not exactly the same Jesus that they first met. Generally speaking, knowledge is something which is grasped gradually – step two follows step one. With wisdom that is even more true. In Isaiah 28 the Lord talks about this sort of thing. “Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people…. … the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken. Wherefore hear the word of the LORD.”
How did these disciples come to know Christ Jesus? Their personal testimonies were not identical, but generally speaking it went something like this – They were drawn by the Holy Spirit to the preaching of the first Baptist – John. John pointed to his cousin, Jesus of Nazareth and said, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” At that point they began to follow Christ not fully understanding what they were doing and why. At first, He was simply “Jesus,” but then He became “rabbi” – “master.” It took months, but eventually they agreed with Peter who had determined “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” At that point, they were primarily thinking about Jesus “the Christ” – “the Messiah” – the King of kings. They were focused on the coming Millennial Kingdom replete with peace and great prosperity. But then came the crucifixion and their thinking was forced to ascend to an even higher plain. Actually, they were taken back to the beginning – to their first introduction – “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” As Peter declared early in the Book of Acts – “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things.”
Here in Matthew 28, the disciples were worshipping the man they first knew as “Jesus of Nazareth.” And most people today– all of us – are somewhere along the various stages through which those men had passed. Some may think of Jesus as nothing more than a poor Jew from Galilee. Others, especially among the children, may have progressed to Jesus the miracle-worker. Some listen to Jesus as the philosopher and wise man. Some think of Christ as the Son of God in some way, while others cling to Him as their Saviour. But we all need to learn to fully worship Him. Remember that some day soon all of us will stand before Him in judgment. You cannot afford not to worship Jesus of Nazareth – Christ, the Son of God – Jehovah, God the Son.
And in the midst of this worship, remember the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 4:10. There are people, who consider Jesus a moral teacher, a great philosopher, a wise man of some sort. But they stop short of Jesus, the divine Son of God. Those people need to consider Matthew 4:10 – When Satan was in the midst of his first great assault upon Christ, he had displayed all his earthly power – “all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them.” And then the Devil said, “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” To this Jesus replied, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”
According to Jesus’ own testimony, only Jehovah can lawfully be worshipped. Coupled to hundreds of scriptures, to worship anyone but the Lord is the highest of all sin. And yet on Mt. Tabor in Matthew 28, this same Jesus received the worship of His disciples. Either Jesus is the eternal Son of God and worthy of Jehovah’s loyal subjects, or we should not listen to a word He ever said. And with all the evidence given to us in the Word of God, the first precept is true – Jesus Christ is the Son of God and worthy of our praise, thanksgiving and absolute worship.
HOW did these men worship Christ – what was their manner?
Well, as to the actual details we are not told. We don’t know if they folded their hands or if they lifted them. We aren’t told if they closed their eyes, or if they humbly lowered their heads. We aren’t told that they began to sing praises. We aren’t told anything except that they “worshipped.”
There are two primary Greek words translated “to worship” in the Bible. One means “to venerate” – to revere or to hold in high regard. But this is the other – an interesting and colorful word – “proskuneo” (pros-koo-neh’-o). Its root word refers to a “kiss.” Most lexicons take this word back to the way that a dog might lick the hand of his master. I can’t tell you exactly how the disciples worshipped Christ on this occasion. But you can be sure that it was in the highest and most holy sort of way possible. At the same time it could not have been more humble and loving.
They worshipped Him with body, soul and spirit. They worshipped with knees, minds and hearts. I think that they dropped to their knees and bowed their faces to the ground. To this one with whom they walked and talked; dined and rested, they now prostrated themselves. But their worship wasn’t according to some pattern which they had been taught. They didn’t have a prayer book, telling them that it was now time in the church service to kneel. This was absolutely spontaneous. And more than ever before, they loved the Lord “with all their heart, and with all their understanding, and with all their soul, and with all their strength.” They worshipped and loved the Lord with all that they possessed at that moment, and they would continue to worship with all their lives and all their tomorrows. “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name… worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” “O come, let us worship and bow down; he us kneel before the Lord our maker.” “O worship the Lord in the beautify of holiness.”
WHY did those men worship Christ Jesus – and why should we?
There shouldn’t be a need to consider “why” – but for sake of some, we will. First, it was not because of His spectacular entrance that day. As I have said, He may have instantly appeared in their midst, as He had done earlier in Jerusalem. And He may have appeared in His Heavenly glory. But it was not because of these things that the Son of God deserves our worship. He deserves our worship because He deserves our worship – Christ is Jehovah, the Sovereign God. I don’t know how well the disciples understood it at this time, but Christ deserves our worship as the Creator of the universe. “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth…” And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” If it were not for the grace and sovereign will of God, you, I, the world could not exist for another second.
But in addition to this, there are several more practical reasons – at least as the Apostles were concerned. Every word that Jesus ever spoke regarding His earthly life was authenticated as true. Yes, there are some things yet to be fulfilled, but everything which was meant to be fulfilled has been. “Blessed be the LORD, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised…” It is easy to worship the God of truth, knowing “now that there shall fall unto the earth nothing of the word of the LORD.” Ah, but honesty and truthfulness are attributes towards which all men should strive. Our word should not fail either, even if our promises are on a limited and very lowly plain. But we should not be worshipped for our word, but the words of Christ are on a very different level.
He should be worshipped because in defeating death He did something only deity can do. We acknowledge that through the power of God, people had been resurrected earlier in history. But there is one major difference between the resurrection of Lazarus or the son of widow of Zeraphath and this resurrected Christ. Those others were raised by the grace and power of God. Christ was raised by the holy justice and power of God. Lazarus had no right to expect to be raised, but Christ Jesus did. Christ died, but death could not hold Him, because it had no authority over Him. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” Christ had no sin, so death had no claim on Him. His resurrection from the grave was required by the justice of God.
In prophecy, Isaiah’s 25th chapter gave praise to God – “O Lord, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.” But what the Lord had done, was only a small beginning compared to what was coming up. Isaiah went on “He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord will wipe away tears from off all faces… For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” Not only is this scripture quoted in the Book of Revelation in regard to Heaven and eternity, it is also the basis of Paul’s thoughts at the end of I Corinthians 15 – “So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Christ Jesus should be worshipped as the Saviour. “This is a faithful saying and worthy of acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” And how did He accomplish that? “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.” “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, and that might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.” In Revelation 7 John was given a glimpse into the throne room of God, where he saw a great multitude of redeemed saints, along with angels and others. They were surrounding the throne of the Lamb of God – the glorified Jesus Christ. And the multitude “cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.” And everyone “fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped.” The basis of that worship was the salvation which had been given to them.
Jehovah should be worshipped for a great many reasons – but one stands out above them all. I suppose that it might be possible for someone to acknowledge Christ as the Creator, but that person’s worship might not be accepted. Technically someone might believe that Christ is the holy God, but again his worship might be rejected. The reason is that we are all sinners and alienated from God, because of our sinful condition. Until that univeral human condition is corrected, we have nothing acceptable to offer God – not even worship. Until we be are born again and in possession of a regenerated spirit, we don’t have the means of fellowship with God or the ability to worship Him.
So the question is – have you been born again? Have you joined these disciples at the top of the hill? Are you living in repentance before Him? Is your faith in the finished work of the Saviour upon the cross? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be made fit to properly worship His holy name. I implore you to repent before God and trust Christ – “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”