Matthew 28:16-20 = Great Commission
Bible Background: In Matthew, this is the only appearance of the risen Jesus to the group of disciples. It takes place on a ‘mountain’ (remember: close encounters with God often take place on mountaintops in scripture!), in Galilee. Matthew makes it sound like it happens the first Easter evening.
Digging Deeper: 1. Luke and John report multiple appearances of the risen Lord. Matthew suggests only this one. It takes place in “Galilee”, where Jesus had said he would meet them (and where the angel at the empty tomb also repeated that direction.) There are only 11 of the 12, since Judas is deceased.
2. When they saw him, they worshiped him, and some doubted. It’s interesting in Matthew that the male disciples never worship Jesus without doubting him; and they never doubt him without worshiping him! How is that good news for us? If those who saw Jesus with their own eyes, and heard him with their own ears still had some doubts, does that mean our doubts might be understandable? If they worship him anyway, isn’t that also an example for us? We’ll never have all the answers or ‘proof’ we might desire. But we have the risen Jesus!
3. Jesus has (all the) authority to confer on the disciples! (Recall Philippians 2:10, where “every knee shall bend, on heaven and earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father!”) He gives them the authority to go and make disciples of all nations, to baptize, and to teach. This is what we call The Great Commission. Would you have entrusted that group of guys with this much responsibility? Did Jesus know what he was doing?? Does the whole future of the faith depend on a bunch of fallible people getting the word out?
4. One of the questions that should always be asked is “Are we a Great Commission church?” Do we see it as our calling to go and make disciples? If we answer “yes”, then the question becomes “How do we do that? What are the best ways to reach people and invite them to follow Jesus?” How would you answer these questions? It’s not just the job of pastors or bishops or leaders to ponder and act on this!
5. The closing line of Matthew’s gospel is one of ultimate reassurance: And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age! How do we ‘remember’ this, day in and day out, year after year? How do we remember when life is smooth and when things get tough? How do we convey this good news to others who may not feel Christ’s living presence? How would you put this promise into your own words?