Matthew 28:16-20 – The Great Commission and Promise
SummaryAs he has promised, Jesus meets his disciples on a mountain in Galilee. They worship him, though some doubt. Jesus claims all authority in heaven and on earth and then commissions his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them all he has commanded. In his last words in the Gospel he promises to be with them to the end of the age.
AnalysisThe Great Commission is clearly for Matthew the climax and conclusion of the Gospel. The last words in the Gospel belong to Jesus. His words recall for Matthew's community and readers what the Gospel has intended from its beginning-the promise that, in this Jesus, God is indeed Emmanuel ("God with us") and abides with God's faithful people. The mission and response are now entrusted to the disciples and to readers of the Gospel who, obedient to the Lord's command, carry on the Lord's mission in the meantime with the promise of his presence and power.
Every word and detail in the passage is significant. As with the Sermon on the Mount, the action takes place on a mountain. The disciples come here at the direction of Jesus, and they respond to him in worship in the midst of doubt (it is telling that the same two words, "doubt" and "worship," occur in association only here and in the story of the disciples in the boat, 14:31). Jesus claims all authority from God as risen Lord and Savior (see 11:25-27). He commissions the disciples to go and make disciples for the kingdom just as they have been "made disciples" of this Jesus the Messiah (the word "make disciples" occurs only here and at the end of the parables of the kingdom, 13:52). They are to baptize in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. The trinitarian confession is unique and climactic in the Gospel. Now, in Jesus' last words in the Gospel, for the first time the disciple community is authorized to "teach" in his name and are so entrusted with the "words" of Jesus that have so clearly shaped Matthew's narrative structure. Finally, Jesus' promise to be "with you always, to the end of the age" (28:20) frames the gospel with the same promise spoken to Joseph at its beginning: in Jesus, God is Emmanuel (1:23; see also 8:25-26; 14:27).