19 June 2019Matthew 28:16-20
'Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.' (v.20)
Psalm: Psalm 144
Today’s passage comes from the very end of the gospel of Matthew. It includes Jesus commissioning, or sending out, his disciples to share the good news of the Kingdom of God with the whole world, usually referred to as ‘the Great Commission’.
The events described in these verses take place in the days after Jesus’ resurrection. The four gospels, while agreeing on the fundamental facts of the empty tomb and Christ’s bodily resurrection, contain different events from this time in Jesus’ life, and Matthew’s account varies here from Mark, Luke and John’s. The passage opens with reference to the “eleven disciples” (v. 16). Earlier, we learned that the twelfth disciple, Judas Iscariot, had taken his own life after betraying Jesus in a passage unique to Matthew (Matthew 27:3-10). They have left Jerusalem and Judea, and returned to Galilee; the area in the north of Israel, where Jesus and most of the disciples came from. Before his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus had promised his disciples he would “go ahead” of them to Galilee (26:32; see also 28:7, 10). Mark contains a similar reference to Galilee (Mark 16:7) and John includes accounts of the resurrected Jesus appearing to his disciples there (John 21:1-25). However, John also includes references to Jesus appearing in Jerusalem (John 20:1-29) and Luke’s Gospel contains no references to Galilean appearances (Luke 24:1-52).
Although we do not find the story of ‘doubting Thomas’ in Matthew’s gospel (John 20:24-29), there is clear reference to the mixed reaction of worship and doubt here (v. 17). Jesus still passes on his work of teaching and baptising to his disciples, though, things that previously only Jesus had done (Matthew 7:28-29; 23:8). He sends them to “all nations” which most commentators understand as meaning “all Gentiles” (ie non-Jews). This represents an important development in Matthew’s Gospel, where previously the disciples had been told to go “nowhere among the Gentiles” (10:5). The assurance of Christ’s abiding presence with his people (v. 20) at the very end of the Gospel, recalls the promise made in Matthew’s first chapter that Christ would truly be the Emmanuel: "God with us" (Matthew 1:23).
- How significant are the differences between the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ appearances to the disciples after his resurrection?
- Are worship and doubt incompatible (v. 17)?
- What does Jesus’ final promise to the disciples in Matthew’s Gospel (v. 20) mean for you?