By Peter Amsterdam
August 2, 2022
Each Synoptic Gospel1 ends by describing Jesus’ final interactions with His disciples, followed by His ascension into heaven. Those accounts will be covered, Gospel by Gospel, in this and the next few upcoming articles.
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.2
Earlier in this Gospel, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to Jesus’ tomb, where they encountered an angel and then Jesus, who instructed them to tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.3 The eleven disciples (excluding Judas, who had betrayed Jesus) who had remained in Jerusalem after His death did as they were instructed and started their journey north to Galilee. Their destination was the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. We’re not given the name of the mountain, nor the exact location within Galilee, but from the information Jesus gave them, it’s clear that they knew where to go.
After going to the mountain in Galilee, the disciples saw Jesus, and when they did, they worshipped Him. Earlier in this Gospel, when the women saw Jesus, they worshipped Him; and here the disciples did the same. One author comments: Worship was the natural response to the realization that the Jesus who had meant so much to them throughout his earthly ministry was stronger than death and was alive again.4
While the reaction of most was to worship Him, we’re told that some doubted. Within the group of eleven, some were hesitant and unsure. In this instance, it may be that some weren’t sure it was actually Jesus they were seeing. Elsewhere in the Gospels, the disciples didn’t recognize Jesus. Their eyes were kept from recognizing him.5 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.6 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.7
Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”8
Evidently Jesus was a short distance from the group, for He came to them. It could also mean that He positioned Himself so that He could address the eleven. He started by making it clear that in His risen state He was quite different from the itinerant preacher/healer/miracle worker that they knew so well. All authority in heaven and on earth echoes Daniel 7:14, which says: To him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
Throughout the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus used the language of Daniel 7:13–14 when speaking of the future reign of the Son of Man.
Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.9
Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”10
Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.11
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’”12
Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”13
After stating that all authority in heaven and earth was given to Him, Jesus instructed His disciples:
“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.”14
Rather than focusing on the ways His authority would be exercised, Jesus instead addressed what this meant for His followers. Because He was the risen Christ, the Son of God, and because He had God’s full authority, He could commission His disciples to “go” and to “make disciples.” Their job was to share the news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection; to teach and train those who believed, so that they too would share that message throughout the world.
Jesus’ last words in the book of Matthew are: Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. This Gospel ends with a final promise that the disciple isn’t going to be left alone to follow Jesus the best he or she can; rather, Jesus will be with them always. As one author explains:
The Jesus of whom Matthew writes is no small Palestinian figure, but a mighty Person who is with his followers wherever they may be. And this, he says, will last through time. He is not speaking of a temporary residence with first-century disciples, but of a presence among his followers to the very end of time. This Gospel opened with the assurance that in the coming of Jesus God was with his people (Matthew 1:23), and it closes with the promise that the very presence of Jesus Christ will never be lacking to his faithful follower. … He will be with them always, to the end of the world and to the end of time.15
(To be continued.)
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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1 Matthew, Mark, Luke.
2 Matthew 28:16–17.
3 Matthew 28:1–10.
4 Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, 744.
5 Luke 24:16.
6 Luke 24:30–31.
7 John 21:4.
8 Matthew 28:18.
9 Matthew 16:28.
10 Matthew 19:28.
11 Matthew 24:30–31.
12 Matthew 25:31–34.
13 Matthew 26:64.
14 Matthew 28:19–20.
15 Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, 749.