Learning from the Great Commissioner

February 22, 2011

The concluding verses of the Gospel of Matthew reveal vital information concerning the Great Commissioner. Concerning Him, the final twenty verses of Matthew’s Gospel display a striking contrast that becomes clear through close attention to the flow of thought. 

As is true of the other Gospels, the conclusion of Matthew includes testimony concerning the appearances of Jesus to His disciples. In these accounts, Matthew 28 features two instances of people worshiping Jesus. First, we read that Jesus met and greeted two women. The women responded by coming to Him and worshiping Him (28:9). These Jewish women did so because they believed that Jesus was God. Because Matthew and the Holy Spirit chose to inform us of this event, we must keep it in mind as we further examine the flow of thought. 

After five verses (28:11-15) not directly concerning the appearances, we read of a second appearance. Jesus met His disciples in the place that He had appointed them (28:16). Seeing Jesus, the disciples worshipped Him, but some doubted (28:17). Once again, Matthew presents us with testimony about those who believed that Jesus was God. 

Matthew’s placing two such accounts in rapid succession suggests strong emphasis on the deity of Jesus. Intriguingly, the next verse, however, contrasts strikingly with that emphasis. Moreover, it does so through recording the statement with which Jesus as the Great Commissioner chose to preface His commissioning of the disciples. Jesus came and said to them, “All power [Gk. authority] is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (28:18). He could easily have said, “I have all authority in heaven and earth,” but He did not. Had He done so, the strong emphasis on His deity would have been continued, instructing all His disciples throughout the ages that He wants their attention directed chiefly to the authority that He had then and continues to have today as God. 

Because Jesus chose not to preface His commissioning in this manner, we must conclude that He wants to emphasize to us that His God-given authority is the primary source of His authority as the Great Commissioner. Whatever else we do with the rest of the information given about the Commission, both here and elsewhere, we miss out on a key part of our discipling others concerning world evangelism and discipleship if we do not give attention to and emphasize His intermediate authority.

Moreover, this feature of Matthew 28 should serve to instruct us to attend carefully to many other seminal statements concerning Jesus’ role as the Agent of God (John 5:22; 26-27; Acts 1:7-8; 2:36; 3:26; 5:31; 10:42; 13:23; 17:30-31; Rom. 15:8-9; Gal. 4:4; 1 Thess. 4:14; Titus 3:6; Heb. 5:5-6; 1 Pet. 1:21; Rev. 2:27; 3:12). When we do so, we discover that the ending of Matthew 28 is not an exceptional instance that only serves to confirm the “rule” that emphasizing the deity of Christ is what we should primarily focus on in our evangelism and discipleship. Thorough attention to the entire New Testament shows that the New Testament writers greatly emphasized the agency of Jesus. We need to learn from Matthew 28 and many other passages that the Great Commissioner Himself wants us to do likewise. 

Although we are to emphasize the deity of Jesus in our evangelism and discipleship, we must not stop there. We must also emphasize His agency. 

Rajesh

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