The Epilogue

13. Passion and Resurrection of Jesus. 26:1-28:20

xii] The disciples are commissioned for service


The disciples join Jesus in Galilee, and on a mountain he charges them and sends them out into the world. The Great Commission is the final instruction that Jesus gives to his disciples.


Under the authority of Jesus, believers are responsible for disciple-making, a process accomplished by immersing people in the gospel ("baptizing") and instructing them in the way ("teaching").


i] Context: See 26:1-16.


ii] Structure: The disciples commissioned for service:

Setting, v16-17;

The commissioning, v18-20;

"all authority .... has been given to me";

"go and make disciples .....";

"baptizing .....;

"teaching .....;

"I am with you always to the very end of the age."


iii] Interpretation:

O. Michael in The Conclusion to Matthew's Gospel, claims that this passage "is the key to the understanding of the whole book." This is unlikely, but it is none-the-less very important, although it has prompted endless debate, both in its meaning and application. Conservative commentators generally take the line that Jesus "reinstates his apostles after their failure and sends them forth to teach his law and baptize all nations to be a people for God's own possession", Cox. Of course, it all come down to what Jesus means by "baptizing them in the name ..." These notes posit a rather left-of-field interpretation (see below): "Therefore, as you go [under my authority to authorize and enable this mission, v18] make disciples from all nations by immersing them in the gospel ("baptizing them in the name") and teaching them to commit themselves in faith to all my words."

Jesus' instruction to his disciples can be divided into three parts:

"Go and make disciples of all Nations". It is probably best to translate this phrase "while you are on your way, make disciples from all nations" ie., As the disciples move about in Palestine and beyond, they are commissioned by Jesus to undertake a program of disciple-making. Jesus is certainly not telling the disciples to Christianize the Nations, but rather to evangelize them. Jesus then goes on to tell them how.

"Baptizing them into / in the name." There are two key words in this phrase: "baptizing" and "the name." Baptizing simply means "immersing", and "the name" refers to a person's being, here of God (a person's name represents their person and authority). God's being is revealed here as multi-personal, he is for us, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The disciples are to immerse people in / under the authority of God's person, ie., tell them all about the Lord, or in simple terms, communicate the gospel to them.

Those who respond to the gospel must then be instructed in the Christian faith, in particular, instructed to rest in faith on God's promises. Jesus concludes with a particularly beautiful promise, "I will be with you always to the very end of the age." Here Jesus promises his presence and power to those who follow him; He will be with us to the completion of this age.


What does Jesus mean by "baptizing them in the name"? Translators cause us no end of problems when they transliterate the Greek word baptizw into English. Whenever we see the word "baptize" we think of water baptism. The meaning of the word is "immerse", either literally in water, or figuratively (fig. = overwhelm), eg., immersed / baptized in / with the Spirit (Mk.1:8), or immersed / baptized into suffering (Mk.10:39. Lk.12:50). It seems more than likely that a figurative sense is intended in this passage, here of an immersion "in / into the name" = placed under the authority of the divine. Such authority is encapsulated in God's Word, in particular, the gospel. Gospel preaching is surely the immersing that Jesus is telling his disciples to get into. Jesus is commanding the apostles to make disciples by immersing people in the gospel of God, a word bearing the imprimatur of God's authority. This immersing "in / into the name" can well involve immersing in water under the authority of "the name", the authority of God, where someone has responded in repentance to the gospel (water baptism serves as a sign of repentance). Yet, it is more than likely that the water dunking / sprinkling element is not the dominant part of the "immersing" that Jesus is referring to - the Baptist came baptizing; Jesus came preaching. The tradition of water baptism was certainly set very early in the Christian church as a visible expression of repentance. The rite is evident in the NT itself, although we should remember that Jesus didn't perform water baptisms, cf., Jn.4:2. In the end, the making of disciples is not achieved by the sacrament of water baptism, but by immersing a person into the nature and character of God. This is achieved, not by actions, but by words, namely, the communication of the gospel.


Authenticity: The nature of this passage, and particularly the trinitarian baptismal instruction, has prompted some to doubt its authenticity. There is though, no textual evidence that it is anything but original. The evidence of Acts is that the early church was driven to proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth, with the best explanation being a commissioning for disciple-making by Christ - the mission to all nations. A commissioning for disciple-making is certainly not a Matthean invention given that commissionings are recorded elsewhere, eg., John: "peace be with you; as the Father sent me, so I send you / if you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven."


iv] Synoptics:

This passage is without parallel in the other gospels, and this fact has prompted many scholars to argue that it is redactional, yet it is more likely reflects the tradition (probably oral) available to Matthew at the time of writing. It presents as an amalgam of sayings of Jesus framed within a primitive knowledge of the commissioning of the apostles by the risen Christs. Hubbard, in his exegesis of Matthew 28:16-20m, SBLDS 19, summarizes the tradition as "Jesus appeared to the eleven, When they saw him they were glad, though some disbelieved. The he said 'preach (the gospel) to all nations. (Baptize) in my name for the forgiveness of sin. (And behold), I will send the Holy Spirit to you." D&A agree, but suggest that "to all the nations" may be Matthean. They also note the Mosaic aura emanating from the passage, presenting Jesus as a Moses type.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 28:16

The commission, v16-20: i] The disciples return to Galilee, v16. There is a strong tradition of Jesus "going before" the disciples to Galilee. Obviously, this was a time of teaching, although presumably direct contact with the risen Lord was limited. It was during this time that Jesus met with his disciples and commissioned them for their missionary task.

de "then" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

oiJ ... endeka "the eleven [disciples]" - the eleven [disciples went to galilee]. "The eleven disciples" serves as the nominative subject of the verb "to go." The apostles go, minus Judas.

to oroV "[to] the mountain" - The phrase can mean "into the hills", although "to the mountain" is probably best, even though we don't really know what mountain. The presence of the article may be particularizing, possibly alluding to a Moses type mountain, a mountain where the new Israel meets with their God and where Jesus plays out the role of the second and greater Moses. Tradition identifies Mount Tabor, the mount of transfiguration, but symbolism is Matthew's intention here, not geography.

ou| adv. "where" - where. Local adverb. "To the mountain to which Jesus had instructed them to go", Barclay.

etaxato (tassw) aor. "had told [them] to go" - [jesus] assigned, ordered, told, commanded. The disciples were summoned to this meeting by both Jesus and the angels at the tomb of Jesus.

autoiV dat. pro. "them" - to them. Dative of direct object after the verb tassw when taking the sense "order, command."


ii] There on a mountain the disciples meet with the risen Christ, the messiah, the second and greater Moses, and they worship him, v17. The response of the disciples to Jesus is rather difficult to understand. Some "worshipped" Jesus, ie., prostrated themselves before him - by this act they recognized his divinity. Yet, some "doubted", ie., they stood back, not quite sure that it was Jesus. It seems that Jesus was not always easily recognizable after his resurrection. Mary Magdalene, as well as the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, failed to recognize Jesus at first sight.

idonteV (oJraw) aor. part. "when they saw [him]" - having seen. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV.

prosekunhsan (proskunew) aor. "they worshiped him - they fell down, did obeisance. The word is used to describe an act of adoration, so probably "they did homage to him", Cassirer.

de "but" - but/and. Here best taken as adversative, as NIV.

edistasan (distazw) aor. "doubted" - hesitated, were uncertain. The word "doubt" implies a lack of faith, but it is better to understand the response as one of uncertainty; "some were not sure (that it was Jesus)", Barclay.


iii] The risen messiah, vested with universal sovereignty, proclaims his authority to authorize and enable the mission to all nations, v18. Jesus claims absolute authority and thus, the right to make the following demands of his disciples. Of course, with the right goes the power. What Jesus commands can be done because he enables the doing of it.

proselqwn (prosercomai) aor. part. "then [Jesus] came" - [and] having come, approached. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to say"; "Jesus approached and spoke to them." Possibly adverbial, temporal, as NIV. It is very rare for Jesus to do the coming, since people usually come to him. None-the-less, there is no significance to be drawn from this.

autoiV dat. pro. "to them" - [jesus spoke] to them. Dative of indirect object.

legwn pres. part. "and said" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle, redundant, expressing action accompanying the verb "spoke", "spoke and said; "Jesus came and said to them", ESV.

exousia (a) "[all] authority" - [all] authority, power. The word primarily means "freedom of choice", but extends to mean "absolute authority", as here. There is some debate over whether Jesus has acquired some new authority/power since his resurrection, or whether he has always possessed such power/authority, temporarily set aside in taking upon himself the frailty of human nature (without setting aside his divinity, of course!). It is certainly true that Jesus, the coming messianic Son of Man, has now entered the heavenlies and is enthroned at the right hand of the Ancient of Days with all "dominion, glory and kingship", but whether this power and authority is new, or reinstated, is unclear. Either way, the point of the statement is that Jesus has the authority to commission and enable the mission to all nations; cf., Dan.7:14.

en + dat. "in [heaven]" - Local, expressing space / sphere.

epi + gen. "on [earth]" - [and] upon, on [the earth]. Spacial. "In" heaven and "on" earth are both spacial terms and although descriptively different, are not significantly different.

moi dat. pro. "to me" - [was given] to me. Dative of indirect object / interest, advantage.


iv] Jesus commands that his disciples undertake the task of disciple-making by means of immersing in the name and teaching, and this under the promise of his presence to the end of the age, v19-20.

oun "therefore" - Inferential, drawing a logical conclusion.

poreuqenteV (poreuw) aor. pas. part. "go" - having departed, gone. The participle is adverbial, probably temporal, "while you are going." The commission is to "make disciples", not to "go", although we should not depreciate the going. The participle is often treated as attendant circumstance, "go and make", but the going is surely secondary; "while you are on your way, make disciples ..."

maqhteusate (maqhteuw) aor. imp. act. "make disciples" - disciple those you meet:. The two modifying participles explain how disciples are made, but as these notes indicate the how is anything but settled. "As you move through life, introduce everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life."

baptizonteV (baptizw) "baptizing" - immersing. The participle is adverbial, possibly modal, expressing the manner in which disciples are made, or better, instrumental, expressing the means by which disciples are made.

eiV "in" - to, into. The preposition is "into", not "in", a distinction that should be noted, so Turner - into a relationship with and under the authority of the person of God facilitated through his word. It is difficult to make a distinction with regard this preposition since it is sometimes used instead of en, "in". It, of course, my be adverbial, reference / respect, "baptizing them with respect / regard to the name ......"

to onoma "in the name" - the name [of the father and the son and the holy spirit]. The three following genitives are possessive. As above, "in the person and authority of God", a God who is experienced as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, ie., a triune God. The words "in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit" are used as a formula with water baptism, such that within catholic and reformed catholic (eg., Anglican, Lutheran, ...) churches, a baptism is only valid where the formula is used, usually with the signing of the cross. It is unlikely that Jesus is dictating a formula, although there is nothing wrong with using it as such. Given the divine revelation evident in Jesus, faith in God "naturally issues in the concept of the trinity", Johnson, and it is this multi-personal God whose being / name is revealed in the gospel, a gospel in which we must immerse the world. The suggestion by Morris that the title distinguishes Christian baptism from other forms of water baptism seems unlikely.


didaskonteV (didaskw) pres. part. "teaching" - teaching [them]. The second modal / instrumental participle expressing how / by what means, disciples are made. So, "immersing them in the gospel and teaching them."

threin (threw) pres. inf. "to obey" - to keep, to guard.... (better than, observe, practice, do). The infinitive is best classified as epexegetic expressing the content of the teaching, namely "that they obey." The word "obey" always leads to the thought "obey the commandments." Rather than obey the commandments, the apostles are to instruct the new disciple to hold to themselves / keep / guard, the teachings of the Master, ie., the kerygma, the apostolic preaching of the cross.

eneteilamhn (entellomai) aor. "I have commanded" - i commanded, ordered, gave orders. Here in the sense of emphatic or important instructions. See above.

uJmin dat. pro. "you" - [all things whatsoever i command] you. Dative of direct object after the verb entellw, "to command."

kai "and" - Usually treated as coordinative, but possibly epexegetic, "namely", ie., introducing an explanation of the crucial piece of information / instruction that we should "keep".

idou (oJraw) - Interjection "surely" - behold, take note, pay attention.

egw pro. "I" - Emphatic by position and use.

meq (meta) + gen. "with [you]" - [i am] with [you]. Expressing association / accompaniment.

pasaV taV hJmeraV "always" - all the days. Adverbial phrase, accusative of time; "I am with you perpetually."

e{wV + gen. "to" - until. Temporal preposition serving to introduce a temporal construction.

tou aiwnoV (wn wnoV) gen. "[the very end] of the age" - [the completion, consummation] of the age. The genitive is adjectival, partitive. The completion of the age = the completion of God's purposes for this age / the world and human society.


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