MESSAGE - Matthew 28:16-20 - The Great Commission
INTRODUCTION: Today I'm not going to give you the traditional "Empty Tomb" Easter message but plan to focus on Jesus post resurrection appearance to the eleven disciples Galilee as recorded in Mt. 28, where He delivered what we call the "Great Commission." But before I get into the lesson text, I would like to share of couple of interesting resurrection facts with you:
1. Differing Gospel Accounts: Each of the four Gospels describes an account of the resurrection, and there are some noticeable differences among them. However, these differences do not contradict the Scriptures, but simply bring to mind that the four accounts were written independently from different perspectives by different writers at different times, who all record Jesus' resurrection appearances to different people at different times, e.g., only Luke reports Jesus' encounter with the two followers on the road to Emmaus (Lk. 24:13-35).
2. Earliest Account of the Resurrection: The earliest (verified by date) written report of the resurrection didn't appear in the Gospels but in 1 Cor. 15:3-8 in 55 A.D. However, it might have appeared earlier since there been much scholarly debate over the dating of Gospels, from 50 to 70 for the Synoptics and 80 to 90 for John. But none of the accounts describes the resurrection itself-Jesus actually getting up and leaving the tomb-but records eye-witness testimony of those who saw (1) the empty tomb and (2) the risen Christ.
INTRODUCTION TO LESSON: The text for today's message will be Mt. 28:16-20, which is commonly referred to as "The Great Commission." The various Gospels stress different aspects of this Great Commission, and from the beginning, the Gospel of Matthew emphasized Jesus' teaching. In fact, the Sermon on the Mount of Jesus' early ministry recorded in Mt. chapters 5-7, constitutes the largest body of Jesus' teaching in the NT. In today's lesson, we will see Matthew portray Jesus' last act of ministry as teaching His disciples the very basics of Christian ministry: (1) Going, (2) baptizing, (3) making disciples, and (4) teaching. This text has had had a significant influence of the church. It stamps Jesus' approval on baptism as a key element of discipleship and supplies the Holy Trinity formula ("in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) that churches have followed through the centuries. It also emphasizes the vital importance of discipleship and teaching. So, when you move from the Gospels to the Book of Acts, you will see a church that takes on an evangelical, mission-oriented character that is a huge contrast to the disciples seen up to that point. The explanation for this change in two-fold: (1) they have seen the risen Christ and (2) they are responding to His Great Commission. Please open your Bibles now to Matthew 28, starting with verse 16:
Mt. 28:16 - BUT THE ELEVEN DISCIPLES WENT TO GALILEE
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.
v. 16a: "eleven disciples went to Galilee" - This reminds us of Judas' treachery-where there were twelve, based on the 12 tribes of Israel-there are now only eleven. Although Acts 1:12-26 reports the restoration of the 12 with the elevation of Matthias as an Apostle, Matthew here reports the Great Commission falling on the eleven, an imperfect number. The church that Jesus sends into the world is fallible (like all of us); Yet, Jesus uses such a church to accomplish His perfect work, and the same Christ who began the perfect work with eleven is continuing it with us. They went to "Galilee." It has been referred to as "Galilee of the Gentiles" because it was home to so many of them. And this area-vastly different from the more orthodox and less tolerant region of Judea-was where Jesus grew up and spent most of His ministry. So, He returns "home," to commission His disciples.
v. 16b: "to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them" - In this Gospel, important things happen on mountains: the Sermon on the Mount, the Last temptation, and the Transfiguration. We aren't told the name of this mountain, but its location really doesn't matter.
Mt. 28:17 - BUT SOME DOUBTED
17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.