The Great Commission
1. Recognize the context: Historical and literary Context-
In chapter 28, Matthew provides his account of the resurrection. The women who went to the tomb encountered an angel who informed them of the resurrection. As they left the tomb to return to the disciples, they met Jesus. After their brief encounter, the women continued to the “brothers” as Jesus had instructed them to do.
Some of the tomb guards went to the chief priests and elders to report the events that occurred at the tomb. These leaders bribed the guard to make false claims, and they agreed. The guards were paid to say Jesus’ disciples came and stole his body.
In verses 16-17, we know the eleven remaining disciples met Jesus in Galilee on the mountain he told them. When they saw him, they worshiped, but some doubted (or were hesitant). Although only the eleven were explicitly mentioned, we are not sure if they were other disciples there as well.
2. Read the Scripture: Matthew 28:18-20
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
3. Reflect on the Scripture:
These final three verses of Matthew are often referred to as the “Great Commission.” The scope and magnitude of Jesus’ words can be found in the “all” language used throughout the passage. “All authority” is given to reach “all nations” and teach them to obey all things (“everything”) Christ has commanded, and he will be present all of the days (“always”) to the very end of the age.
The Gospels expressed and demonstrated the authority of Jesus during his earthly ministry. Therefore, it is unlikely verse 18 indicates any quantitative or qualitative difference in Christ’s authority. Rather, this proclamation was for the benefit of his disciples. They needed to recognize the basis of their commissioning. Here Jesus was drawing on imagery from Daniel 7:13-14.
In the final two verses, the verbal emphasis is on making disciples. However, the remaining verbs in the passage go, baptize, teach, and obey shouldn't be under-emphasized. They describe the elements involved in the disciple-making process.
The baptism is to be done in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit. Here we have early evidence of the doctrine of the Trinity from the lips of Jesus.
In the final verse, Matthew has taken his Gospel full circle. In chapter 1, the birth of the long-anticipated Messiah was announced. With language from Isaiah 7:14, we’re told he would be called “Immanuel," meaning "God with us." The birth of Jesus gave this a whole new understanding. Humanity can now know and experience God in ways that couldn't happen before Christ's birth. Returning to Matthew 28:20, Jesus' final promise was to be with his disciples to the very end of the age.
4. Relate to life:
Remember, it is important to be a doer of God’s Word, not merely a hearer or reader (James 1:22-25). Here are some practical ways to actively respond to God’s Word. Consider these or create other ways you can apply the message.
Today, prayerfully reflect on these words of Jesus.
Today, prayerfully consider these verbs: Make disciples Go Baptize Teach Obey How do they characterize your life? Today, prayerfully remember Jesus is with you.
To do: (Actions with the Holy Spirit's help)
Given the prayer suggestions above, how do you need to respond today? Think about your attitudes, actions, and words. Think about your family, friends, church community, and co-workers. Commit this verse to memory if you haven’t already. How does your faith community do with this Great Commission? What specific action can you take this week to get more involved?
To study: (Always make sure to read the immediate context of the given passage.)
Read and study the verses above.