Jesus’ Meeting with His Disciples in Galilee, 28:16-20
The closing verses of Matthew’s gospel record Christ’s meeting with the eleven disciples in Galilee, prophesied in 28:7, 10. This is not clearly identifiable with any other appearance of Jesus. The appearance recorded in Mark 16:15-18, though often considered the same as this appearance in Matthew, could just as well fit the meeting on the second Sunday night, recorded in John 20:26-31. Sometimes also, the reference in Matthew 28 is linked with 1 Corinthians 15:6, where Jesus is said to have appeared unto more than five hundred brethren at once. The meeting mentioned in 1 Corinthians, however, may be another appearance of Jesus not found anywhere else in the gospels. The fact that “some doubted,” that is, were not sure the person they were seeing was Jesus, as mentioned in Matthew 28:17, might indicate that there was a larger crowd than just the eleven.
Lenski argues that the one hundred and twenty which met in Jerusalem in Acts 1:15 were a smaller company, and, because of the many converts in Galilee, a group of five hundred there would be understandable. The meeting in Galilee has a prominence in Scripture because it was mentioned three times before, in Matthew 26:32; 28:7, 10. Just as the mountains of Galilee had been the scene of some of Christ’s great messages, such as the Sermon on the Mount, and had been the scene of His transfiguration, Galilee was a fitting place for a last meeting with a large group of His disciples.
The fact that “some doubted” is at first glance a problem, but it seems to indicate only a preliminary reaction as to whether or not this was indeed Jesus, not doubt concerning His resurrection. This doubt was soon dispelled, as Jesus spoke 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” (28:18-20). Only Jesus could speak such words, and it must have brought reassuring faith to all who were there. As Criswell states, “The commission is mandatory, not optional. High mountains, deep oceans, wide deserts, starvation, shipwreck, death are not to be excuses for not going! We are to preach the Gospel to every creature.”
In keeping with the theme of Matthew’s gospel, presenting Jesus as the King who was rejected but who will return to reign in majesty and power, these words were the final orders of the King concerning what should go on in His absence. He began by reaffirming His power or authority, both in heaven and in earth. On the basis of this authority, they, as His representatives, were to teach all nations. This was much wider than the purpose of Jesus in relation to Israel. Now the worldwide results of His death and resurrection must be publicized. As they recognized believers by the act of water baptism in the name of the Triune God, they were to instruct them concerning the obedience required by their faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.
In commanding them to observe “whatsoever I have commanded you,” Jesus was not referring to all His teachings in general, some of which were interpretative of the Law of Moses and were under the older dispensation, but to what He had commanded them as the believers who would be members of the church which was His body. Specifically, in using the word commanded, He was recalling the new commandment which He had given them in the upper room and the particular instructions that applied to the disciples in the organic union, symbolized by the vine and the branches. His presence with them, captured in the statement “ye in me, and I in you” (Jn 14:20), was going to be enjoyed by believers to the end of the world, that is, the end of the present age, which would culminate in His coming for them.
In these words, the gospel of Matthew, which began with the genealogy of the King and recorded His lowly coming in Bethlehem, where according to Luke, He was laid in swaddling clothes in a manger, ends with His reigning authority and commission to those He left behind. Ours is the glorious commission to proclaim the good news of what Jesus accomplished in His first coming and also to announce the fact that He is coming again.
Matthew 28:16-20 Breakdown
The Great Commission 16So the eleven disciples went to Galilee to the mountain Jesus had designated.
Jesus met the eleven disciples at a designated mountain in Galilee.
17When they saw him, they worshiped him, but some doubted.
Man is so totally depraved and evil that he can see the resurrected Christ with his own eyes, yet he will still doubt and even disbelieve. Thomas was one of the disciples who doubted, but God later opened his eyes. Man has no hope of eternal life unless God opens his eyes.
18Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Jesus has been given all authority over heaven and earth.
19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
Jesus was talking to the eleven disciples, not the modern church. The disciples were not sent out to share the gospel, but to disciple the nations. The disciples were to baptize their new disciples into the one singular name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is a Trinitarian passage. This verse also stresses discipleship, not evangelism. Discipleship and evangelism cannot be split up into two different programs.
20teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
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