Scripture: Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20 ESV
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Observation: Recapping Yesterday’s Daily Focus, Matthew revisits the religious leaders’ cover-up (see last Friday’s Daily Focus) and brings closure to this subplot. Concurrent with the two Marys hurrying to tell the disciples the good news that Jesus had risen from his grave as promised, some of the guards at the tomb returned to Jerusalem and reported to the religious leaders all that had happened. So the elders took counsel, provided the soldiers with hush money, and instructed them to tell fellow Israelites that the disciples stole his body while they slept on duty. Moreover, they promised the soldiers that if Pilate were to hear the same report, they would resolve the matter with him. Happily, the guards took the bribe and followed instructions.
Today’s reading concludes Matthew’s Gospel with a well-known passage called the Great Commission (verses 18-20). But the story begins with the Eleven heeding the two Marys’ message from the Lord to go to Galilee, where he will meet them (v.10). There remains ambiguity among scholars with Matthew’s notation of “some” doubting. Does this refer to some of the Eleven or those of the larger circle who also traveled with them? The latter is more likely, given Luke writes that the Eleven were of one accord when receiving Jesus’ last instructions before his ascension and when appointing a replacement for Judas to round out the Twelve (Acts 1).
Regardless, Jesus received their worship before he charged them with the Great Commission (more said below). He then uses the Greek word for “all” (πᾶς) in its various forms as the qualifying determiner to emphasize the extent and completeness of his Great Commission:
- I possess all authority.
- So make disciples of all nations.
- Teach them all I commanded you.
- I will always be with you to the end.
And with Immanuel’s closing assurance (that he is with them), Matthew need not write anymore. Indeed, just as Jesus’ mission of substitutionary atonement found its fulfillment on his cross, Matthew, now in old age, finishes his mission by completing his historical record of the Gospel of his Christ.
Of note, as explained in previous Daily Focus devotions, there are no mountains around Galilee as defined by today’s standard. So we can understand a mountain as a steep hill rising from the Sea of Galilee—the perfect setting to remind Jesus’ disciples of where it all began.
Takeaway: Just as the two Marys bowed to Jesus and worshipped him before speeding on to tell the good news to his disciples, here also the Eleven and most of the larger circle of followers bow down and worship their King, for worship fuels missions (see Monday’s Daily Focus). Undoubtedly, missions and evangelism without worship as the foundation will lead to burnout. But authentic worship lifts our spirits into the presence of the Father and Son. And heartfelt worship fills our souls with joy and peace, overcoming our fears and sorrows.
Lastly, regarding the Great Commission, worship flows through us to effectuate our outreach to the least, the last, and the lost. And it solidifies in our minds the truth that Christ possesses all authority. Paul poetically writes to the Philippians: “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (2:9-11 ESV). Hence, as his ambassadors, we too come under Jesus’ authority, that his Father might make his appeal through us to all nations (2 Corinthian 5:17-21). And his Holy Spirit will teach us all things (John 14:26).
So we pay it forward in tandem with Christ, who is with us and in us as we take his Gospel wherever his Holy Spirit leads. Again, appealing to Paul, he writes to the Colossian church, “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (1:27 ESV). Indeed, our Hope of Glory possesses all authority and is always with us in our successes and failures, celebrations and mourning. And all the while, Christ’s glory shines through our imperfections (2 Corinthians 5:7-12) as we put into practice and teach all he commands to all those he brings across our paths. It’s all-encompassing!
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, whose life, death, and resurrection are all-encompassing to meet our every need and those we serve. And we thank you for the Holy Spirit, who instructs and guides us each step of the way. Still, we confess that we do not always avail worship of you and your Son when seeking to fulfill his Great Commission. So would you please help us develop a worship rhythm that fuels our missions? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling