Monday, December 28, 2015

Lesson on Matthew 28:16-20

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I was asked to teach this a few weeks ago.  

The book of Matthew is like a bookshelf with stories of Jesus life and records of his teaching, and it has two bookends.  As we look at the verses known as the Great Commission, we will see that the first chapter and the last five verses or so are like bookends to what is in between.

The Great Commission is a passage you have probably heard a lot of sermons on, especially at Missions Conferences, but to be honest, there is a whole lot more there than a command to do missions, although that is of course the main takeaway as Jesus is ending his time on earth after the resurrection.

Read passage.
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.
17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

1.     Setting.  After the resurrection, not specific as to when in that 40-day period, but also not the same time as Acts 1:8, which is the ascension.  So this is not the last time they see Jesus.  Interestingly, the last time they see him (Acts 1:8), he tells them essentially the same thing—spread the good news until I return. 

Acts 1:8-11.  He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.
11 "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."

            We are not entirely sure where this takes place in the Bible, but it is not Jerusalem.  After the resurrection Jesus appeared in different places, quite far distances from one another.  The end of John, where he forgives Peter after the fishing trip, is in Galilee.  So is this one.  In both Acts 1 and Matthew 28 “Galilee” seems to be important.  He is pointing out to them that they may be from Galilee but that will not be where they end up. 

II.  Characters. 
A.     The eleven (not Judas, very clear on that). 
B.     Obeyed as to the place they were supposed to go.
C.     They worshipped, but some doubted. 
a.     Even in worship, some were doubting.  Is this possible?  Very much.
b.     Even in the face of the resurrected Christ, they were doubting. 
c.      What kind of doubt is this? 
                                                        i.     Not to be taken as settled unbelief or willful unbelief.  The Bible is honest about belief and doubt.  Jesus often said, O Ye of Little Faith or Why do you doubt?  Sometimes we see it in word, sometimes in action. 
                                                       ii.     Could be seen as hesitation based on the miracle of the resurrection.  These were real people who knew nobody rises from the dead, that just doesn’t happen.  They had reason to be overwhelmed.
                                                     iii.     Some scholars interpret this as not recognizing Jesus in his resurrected appearance from a distance..
                                                     iv.     Discussion:  Is doubt always bad?  Where does doubt come from?  When do we doubt, and why? In the face of evil, majority pressure, Satanic or cosmic messages (usually through the media!) unanswered prayer, physical illness or fatigue?

III. Main character:  Jesus.
A.     The doubt was no surprise to Jesus.  John 2:2, Luke 5:22.  He knew the hearts of men.  Whether this means he was omniscient over what the people around him were thinking all the time or that he knew what was the motivating force in people (or both), he was fully aware of their reactions.  But as usual, he doesn’t berate them.  Notice how often in his dealings with people, Jesus doesn’t judge but at best chides in a kind way.
B.     The answer to doubt is a clear understanding of who Jesus is.  So he says, “All authority (power) is given to me in heaven and earth.” 
C.     We could stop here and do a whole study.  This is not random or isolated but a fulfillment of prophecies from the Old Testament and the bookend of Matthew.  Let’s go back first to Matthew 1:1. (this is where this fits in with Advent).  Read 1:1, 18-25. 
a.     Verification that he is the Son of David.
b.     Psalm 2
c.      Daniel 7:14.
d.     Jesus had authority before the resurrection, but after the resurrection he has all authority. 
e.     Notice how many times all is repeated in these verses:  all authority, all nations, all things I have commanded, always I am with you.  This is a very final and absolute command. 
IV.  Doctrinal teaching
A.     Missions is needed because Jesus has authority over all, and they must let that be known everywhere. 
B.     Make disciples:  More than giving a message, but outcomes.  It doesn’t say here or the other passage to “preach.”  The commands are go, teach (which takes many forms), see to baptism for identification, and move toward obedient lives with people.  The personal nature of this is very clear—you can’t do any of this without relationship.
C.     No quotas.  It’s not a contest.
D.    The trinity:  IN the name of  (not names) the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
E.     I am with you. 
a.     Here is the other bookend:  Immanuel, God with us. 
His presence is not ended by the ascension.  The name Immanuel did not apply only when he was physically on earth.  What a thought for Christmas. 

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