Matthew ends his resurrection chapter, and his gospel story, with a bang! After the geologic, tectonic, meteorological and supernal fireworks earlier in chapter 28, that’s really saying something! But there are two very significant elements of Matthew’s second and ultimate resurrection appearance of Jesus.
The eleven (minus Judas) gather on a nearby mountaintop in Matthew 28:16-20, reputedly Mount Olivet where centuries later Egeria would excitedly summit several times during the Great Week. Astoundingly a few demur from worshipping Jesus, even after all the salvific drama has unfolded to this point. Matthew mercifully does not name the doubters but does clearly identify more than one. The majority of the eleven need no more miraculous signs, as the Risen Jesus stands before them. They fall to their knees in praise of Jesus whom they now know beyond any doubt is God Himself in human form. He is both Messiah and Lord. Jesus confirms this with Matthean words recorded nowhere else in scripture: All authority in heaven and on earth has been conferred upon me. Just like He prayed earlier in this gospel, which we now call the Lord’s Prayer, on earth as it is in heaven. The Risen Jesus inhabits both and all realms, global and cosmic! Then he gives the disciples, and therefore us, a divine assignment we’ve come to call the Great Commission: 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. Teach them to obey everything I commanded you to obey, and remember, I am with you always, to the very end of time itself.
Of extraordinary significance here is Jesus’ commissioning of them and us. Look at the string of action verbs…go, make, baptize, teach. The entirety of this gospel now functions as the primer for salvation, a deceptively simple command which echoes so resoundingly down through the ages that our lives have been so impacted. The church, globally and locally, fulfills her Lord’s dream when she is going, making disciples, baptizing, teaching (and let’s add communing, or if you prefer more technically, eucharisting) to fulfill her divine mission. When the church stands still, she looks pathetically sad. Jesus Himself articulates the Christian triune God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, which we quote today when we bless, absolve, consecrate or dedicate. Secondly is Jesus’ magnificent promise, that He will be with us always, everywhere, until time itself runs its appointed course. He had to leave us at His agonizing death, but risen and resurrected Jesus will never leave us or forsake us. Thank you Matthew!
- Matthew’s soaring, majestic resurrected Jesus encompasses all space and time, His death and rising inaugurating the Kingdom of the Heavens on earth. Take a moment to do what the disciples did in this overwhelming moment, and worship Jesus as Lord of Heaven and Earth. Wow.
- What is your particular assignment under the umbrella of the Great Commission? To whom are you to be deployed to go, make, baptize (perhaps with a little assistance!) and teach?
- The living presence of our Risen and Resurrected Lord bound Himself eternally before God and His best friends to be with us here and now. With us, incarnated through us. If you cannot discern His living presence, take a moment to pray that Jesus be manifested with you in a manner you can see, hear and perceive. Life gets super exciting like that, I promise!