An Expository Study of Matthew 28:16-20 -- By: D. Edmond Hiebert

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 149:595 (Jul 1992)
Article: An Expository Study of Matthew 28:16-20
Author: D. Edmond Hiebert

An Expository Study of Matthew 28:16-20

D. Edmond Hiebert

Professor Emeritus of New Testament
Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, Fresno, California

But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Matthew’s concluding picture of the risen Jesus commissioning His disciples on a mountain in Galilee forms the glorious climax of his portrayal of Jesus as the incarnate Messiah. He thus centered on that crucial post-resurrection appearing of Jesus that connects itself with the missionary assignment of the apostles and the universal church. Concluding with this brief but vital encounter of Jesus with His followers, Matthew omitted mention of all but one other resurrection appearance of Jesus (28:9–10) and gave no indication of His ascension to the right hand of God from the Mount of Olives. Having borne explicit witness to the reality of Jesus’ bodily resurrection and the reactions it evoked (28:1–15), Matthew concluded his portrayal of the risen Jesus with this dynamic scene of His authoritative commissioning of His followers to preach the gospel to all the world.

Interpreters have characterized this final paragraph, unique to Matthew’s Gospel, as the key to understanding the entire Gospel. Gundry points out the rich significance of these concluding verses:

They offer a compendium of important Matthean themes: Jesus as the greater Moses, the deity of Jesus, the authority of his commands, the trinitarian associations of baptism, the danger of doubt among disciples, the teaching ministry of disciples, discipleship as keeping Jesus’ law,

the presence of Jesus with his disciples, and the directing of Christian hope to the consummation. Paramount among these themes, however, is the mission to all the nations.1

Based on the fact of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and the reactions of the Jewish leaders to that reality, Matthew here marked a turning point in the operation of God’s redemptive program in the world. During His earthly ministry Jesus had limited the preaching of His disciples to the Jewish people (

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