On Mount Sinai, God established a covenant with his people. It was a covenant etched quite literally into two stone tablets. This covenant established the relationship between God and his chosen people. On the outset, it seemed so simple. After all, God had done all the heavy lifting. He had heard their cries in the land of Egypt, brought them out with a mighty outstretched arm, enabled them to walk through the Red Sea on dry ground, and protected them in a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. They didn’t have to earn that right; they didn’t have work towards this blessing. Instead, they are given a law, one set in stone, that would guide how they live. All they were given to do was live lives that reflected the blessings of their God. They were to have no other god’s before them, not use the Lord’s name in vain, and remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. The list, of course, goes on, but we don’t need to go much further to see that they failed to keep their end of the covenant.

A good story meets you in the midst of life. It tells you something true, something you can relate to. It abducts you. It takes your heart unexpectedly. It gives you the breath of another life as a character in the fairy tale. It becomes a reality you dream is yours. It paints a world you cannot quite touch. It draws you in with emotion and connection, love and heartbreak, familiarity and fantasy. That is when you know it is a great story.

They call it the Great Commission. It is the sending out of the Church of God with a purpose, a mission that gives it its definition. This is not a one-time or temporary thing the Church is to do, like a checkmark on a long list of other priorities. No, this is its very identity. It is what we are to fill our days with as we await the end of all things and the return of our Lord. On a mountaintop in Galilee Jesus meets His disciples. There they worship their resurrected Lord and He says to them, “All authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

We all ought to love the story of Nicodemus and his conversation with Jesus in John chapter 3. It is a fitting text for modern readers of the Word of God and plays well with our own understanding and practice of the faith. Nicodemus was a Pharisee and like all the Pharisees of his time the discussion of Jesus was first and foremost on his mind. He was not a figure anyone was going to ignore.