Farewell blessings are interesting. The Swahili farewell is “Mungu akubariki.” That means “God bless you.” The English “good bye” also means “God be with you,” but “bye” comes from “be with you every time.” In our reading we are looking at how Jesus is bidding farewell to his followers. He does not say, “It’s been great. I hope we meet again in heaven.” Matthew writes about that moment on the mountaintop in Galilee as Jesus starts his farewell with, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (Matthew 28: 18)”
Jesus starts his farewell with his trump card. He’s the boss and what he is about to say comes from his position of authority, not as a friend and buddy. He is not speaking as a bumper sticker on a car fender or as a mug in the cupboard to put a cup of coffee to calm your nerves when you feel stressed. Jesus is speaking with authority. He is not requesting or inviting or proposing. He is not inviting comment. He is speaking as God.
I fear we have familiarized the spiritual world into cute cartoon fairies and Jesus has become more of a loving friend who walks with us, our good shepherd. Our tendency is to forget that the shepherd is also the one with the stick to fight the wolf and who has the responsibility to discipline the wayward. I do not think that makes God the micromanager of reality, dictating each moment of our lives so that we are only pawns. We have real agency but as Jesus bids farewell to friends, he reminds us that all authority is his in all realms of reality. He is about to give his followers an impossible job, to change the world using all he has taught them.
Perhaps today there is something in your life that is feeling impossible and insurmountable. Perhaps you are feeling like a minority like the disciples. Perhaps you are feeling unwanted and unpopular. Or maybe it is just Covid, unemployment, and the ordinary problems of life. It is good to stop and meditate on Jesus’ words, “All power is given to me in heaven and on earth.” The situation may be beyond our ability to cope but it is not beyond his and he walks with us. That is worth remembering. Blessings as you journey.