Lesson 127: The Great Commission
Matt 28:16-20, Mark 16:14-18, Luke 24:50-53
A Blending of The Four Gospel Records. This is lesson # 127. Welcome! After Jesus arose from the dead on that Sunday morning and the angels came and rolled back the stone and the women came to the tomb, Jesus appeared to the apostles that Sunday night and again the following Sunday night. Thomas was present on the second occasion. Even before that, Jesus had appointed a place for the apostles to meet him in Galilee. They knew the time and place. They had gone to Galilee for that meeting, when seven of them took a little fishing trip on the side, we covered that in our last lesson, John ch. 21. We'll finish up the text in this lesson; but, we'll have one more lesson of review and perspective before we close the course. So, Let's read Matthew's remaining text, Matt. 28:16-20. Please turn to that. Matthew attached much importance to this, it's the climax of his book. Have you got that? Matt. ch. 28, beginning in v.16, let's read. "Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen."
The timing here can be determined only within certain limits. Since Jesus appeared to them in Jerusalem on two Sunday nights, this occasion in Galilee would have been at least two weeks after Jesus arose from the dead. On the 40th day, we have evidence they were all back in Jerusalem and had apparently been back for some days or weeks. You may want to read Acts 1:6-12 in connection with this thought. Jesus ascended into heaven on the 40th day (Acts 1:3), i.e. counting from the resurrection Sunday. But, we would like to center this lesson around that grand meeting in Galilee. Matthew, one of the eleven apostles, (Matt. 28:16) said THEY met Jesus on a mountain in Galilee. But, we are not told where that mountain was located. The eleven disciples in this verse, of course refers to the apostles, Judas having already committed suicide and was no longer numbered with the apostles. This is strictly conjecture on my part; but, I have often wondered if that mountain in Galilee was not the same place where Jesus prayed all night in Luke 6:12 and appointed the 12 apostles the next morning, Luke 6:13 and it was the next day that the great multitude came and Jesus gave the sermon on the mount beginning in Matt. 5:1. The occasion discussed here in Matt. 28:16 could not have been far from the same time of year; both occasions were in the spring time. It would have been a most appropriate place, in that it would have been a kind of reunion. Whether it was on that mountain or someplace else, I'm not sure. However, it must have been a grand occasion. Because, the apostle Paul in discussing the resurrection, about 20-25 years later, made reference back to this occasion in I Cor. ch. 15. Paul by inspiration said that Jesus "was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep." (I Cor. 15:5-6). The occasion we're discussing, on the mountain in Galilee, Matt. 28:16, is most likely the occasion that Paul was telling the Corinthians about. The apostles knew about this meeting for sometime in advance. Thus, it is only natural that many other brethren, i.e. disciples went to that place with the eleven apostles. Paul said that over 500 saw Jesus. Two decades later a few of the people that had seen Jesus on that mountain were dead; but, even then most of those disciples were still living. What a grand occasion it must have been. Whether Jesus went with them from the sea of Galilee, after that great breakfast on the beach that we discussed in our last lesson (John ch. 21); or, if Jesus vanished on that occasion and re-appeared to them on the mountain, we are not told. Notice in Matthew's account, he said "when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted." Matthew concentrates his thoughts on the apostles and not upon the 500 other disciples. However, Jesus drove home to the apostles the fact that they had not believed when they were told that Jesus had risen from the dead. This was somewhat of a gross error on the part of the apostles; because, Jesus had emphasized to them over and over he would be killed and raise again the third day. He had compared it to Jonah in the O.T. back in Matt. ch. 12 and in Matt. ch. 16. Starting from the occasion at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus had foretold his death to the apostles three or four times that we have a record. Thus, Jesus impressed upon the eleven on this occasion on the mountain; that some doubted. Although, we may look back and say, they should have believed; it is easy for us to be guilty of the same error. John said he wrote his book to give us evidence; i.e. that we might believe. Obviously, Matthew and the others wrote their books for the same reason. When something doesn't fit the usual molds, we tend to be skeptical. So, in effect these apostles tried to teach us to overcome the same error with which they themselves grappled. It just can't be true, and yet it's true. It's a question of faith.
In connection with this point, let's flip over and read Mark's account. We want to read five verses, Mark 16:14-18; we'll save the last two verse for later. But, we're going to begin reading in Mark 16:14. Have you got that? Let's read. "After he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."
It's obvious that these writers skipped over volumes and volumes of material that we would like to know. But, John said there's enough written here to produce faith. Notice that Mark after briefly telling us about the two disciples on the way two emmaus in two short verses (Mark 16:12-13); simply summarizes the rest of what happened in the weeks and months ahead in seven verses. Astounding, really! But, would it have served the purpose any more and any better if every detail had been written into volumes and volumes? The writers saved us a lot of work, really, by giving us a nutshell account. Mark's reference in v.14 is a very brief account; so, wecan't be sure which occasion he wrote about. Both of the two Sunday nights would fit; but, it might have reference to the occasion on the mountain in Galilee. However, notice this, each writer emphasizes the slowness of the apostles and disciples to believe. Mark said, Jesus upbraided them about their unbelief and hardness of heart. To "upbraid" means to blame or scold. Their faith was a subject in which Jesus spent much time on that occasion. So, they in turn are passing the importance of this on to us.
But, then the second aspect of Jesus' sermon on this occasion, closely connected and predicated upon the first thought; is what we often call the GREAT COMMISSION. You will not find that word in the N.T.; but, it describes the thought very well. When I say the word "commission", you think of authority and commitment and authorization and delegation of authority and all of those things. This was a kind of graduation exercise for the apostles, if that makes sense. Remember, they had been with Jesus for many months. They had gone with Jesus over Galilee and Jesus had preached to the multitudes and at the same time He was training the apostles. Later, Jesus sent them two by two over Galilee and told them to teach, the kingdom of heaven is at hand. After this training exercise, although it was more than a mere training exercise, Jesus met with them again and taught them some more. Later, during the last six month of Jesus' life, they conducted another two by two canvas over all Judea and the surrounding area (Luke ch. 10). The operation was expanded by sending another seventy disciples. But, on that mountain in Galilee, after Jesus put much emphasis on faith; Jesus gave the apostles authority and commissioned them for all time. Matthew summarized this last part of Jesus' speech by beginning like this, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." The word "power" here is sometimes translated "authority." Jesus has all authority. How much authority does that leave for me and you? NONE! Absolutely none! Where is it, that Jesus has all that authority? IN HEAVEN! and IN EARTH! So, that's not only all authority, that's in every place, as well. So, Jesus has all authority; what did he command the apostles? Now, please notice at this point, Jesus WAS talking to the apostles. Matt. 28:16 called them the "eleven disciples". V.17 said, "THEY saw him." V.18 said, "Jesus spake unto THEM." V.19, Jesus said, "Go ye therefore...", i.e. as a result of the authority I have, I command you, the apostles, you do this! Do what? "Go!" Go where? "Go... and teach all nations..." How many nations? All nations! How many does that leave out? NONE! Notice, Jesus is the King, the commander- in-chief . His territory includes heaven and earth. His subjects include "all nations." That's another way of saying all people. Now, (#1) the apostles were to GO! (#2) They were to go to ALL NATIONS! (#3) What were they to do to all nations? TEACH! Thus, these are the components of a kingdom. Jesus is the King! The world, all nations, is the territory. All people were intended to be the subjects. What these ambassadors (called apostles) were to teach was the constitution and by-laws of Christ's kingdom. Therefore, the idea of a kingdom, that John the Baptist came preaching and that Jesus had preached over and over was finally taking shape. What were the action words Jesus commanded the apostles, i.e. the commission, look at it close: "Go. . .teach. . .baptize. .." "...Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost..." Now, there's more to the sentence; but, back up just a minute. Where were the apostles to GO? Into all the world! How were they to baptize? In the name of, or by Jesus' authority and by the authority of the heavenly Father, and by the authority of the Holy Ghost. Now, Jesus told them where to Go, how to baptize! But what were they to teach? That's v.20, "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you..." How much is included in "all things whatsoever?" Thus, the apostles were to teach those, that the apostles baptized, everything that Jesus had taught the apostles. That's guite an assignment; but, that's the assignment. Now, let me ask you again; how much were the apostles to teach? EVERYTHING! What all did that include? Well, don't miss this point! Jesus had just taught and commanded the apostles about 10 seconds before to: (#1) Go into all the world, (#2) Preach to every nation and (#3) to baptized by the authority of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and (#4) the apostles were to teach those that the apostles baptized to do like wise, observe all things (v. 20), everything that Jesus had taught and commanded the apostles. Thus, the apostles were to teach those they baptized, i.e. their converts, to: Go into all the world, preach to all the world, baptize all the world, and to teach the selfsame things that Jesus had taught them, i.e. the apostles. That's like as if Jesus had said, I have passed it on to you, you pass it on to others, and the others are to pass it on to still others that will pass it on to others that will pass it on to still others until the world is saturated with what Jesus said. That's the great commission. And although Jesus gave that commission to the apostles; Jesus gave it to you and me through the apostles. Therefore, what the apostles said, in these very writings, became part of that teaching you see. Thus, you have in your hand the constitution and the by-laws of Jesus’ kingdom. You have what the apostles gave us. No library in the world has any more than you have, if you have a copy of the N.T. Paul told Timothy, by God's inspired word, "the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." How many good works? ALL GOOD WORKS! (II Tim. 2:16-17).
Now, flip over to Mark and let's re-read the great commission as Mark gave it. Mark 16:15-16. Look at it close! Beginning in v.15, Jesus said to the apostles, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." Thus, Mark weaves in the faith aspect, we just discussed, with a little more emphasis, than Matthew did. Also, faith and baptism are set forth as requirements for salvation. Both are requirements for salvation. But the lack of faith is sufficient to condemn. V. 17-18 is one sentence and was said to the apostles. Back up and look at v.14. Jesus appeared to the eleven. V.15, "he said unto them," i.e. Jesus said to the apostles. V. 17-18 is said to the apostles, and you must see this in terms of the apostles to harmonize it with the rest of the N.T. Many have made the mistake of trying to apply it to disciples of all ages. It simply won't work. Let's finish our reading in Mark. V. 19-20. Have you got your finger on Mark 16:19? Let's read. "So then, after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen." Who was the Lord Jesus talking to? After the Lord spoke to them, i.e. the apostles, the Lord was received up into heaven. The record of Christ’sascension is in Acts 1:9-11. "And they went forth..." Who went forth? The apostles. "The Lord working with THEM. . . " Who is them? the apostles ! The Lord confirmed the word of the apostles by signs, i.e. miracles. Mark made reference to the Galilee meeting back in v.7 of his last chapter. But his summary here at the end includes more than that Galilee meeting. Now, let's close out Luke's account. Luke 24:50-53. That's the last four verses in Luke. Luke's account picks up after the apostles were back in Judea. Are you ready? "And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen." After Jesus had told the apostles to "tarry in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high," v.49, then Luke said Jesus "was ... carried up into heaven." (v.51). You can read about this from the pen of Luke, in the first chapter of Acts. Thus, Jesus went back to heaven AND the apostles began THE WORK Jesus had assigned them. It was ten days after Jesus ascended, i.e. on the day of Pentecost, that the apostles were endued with power from on high and the kingdom began. That's covered in Acts ch. 2. Until the final lesson have a good day.