Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” —Matthew 28:18
Matthew’s book, the most Jewish of the Gospels and the one immediately joined to the last page of the Old Testament, ends with Christ’s Great Commission to the whole world. Matthew begins his account by designating Christ the son of David, son of Abraham, and King of the Jews (1:1; 2:2); and he ends it with a missionary mandate to the nations (28:18-20).
Furthermore, it’s incredible that Matthew didn’t choose to conclude his Gospel by describing our Lord’s spectacular ascension. He doesn’t even end with a promise of Christ’s return. He says nothing about the coming of the Holy Spirit. The last chapter of the first Gospel climaxes and ends, abruptly and dramatically, with a command to take the news of Christ’s resurrection to the last place on earth until the last day of history.
If you read chapter 28 carefully, you’ll notice there are actually two other “great commissions” leading up to this final “Great Commission.”
In verses 6-7, the angel told the women at the tomb: “He is not here! For He has been resurrected, just as He said. Come and see…. Then go quickly and tell.”
In verse 10, Jesus Himself intercepted the women as they ran from the tomb. “Go and tell,” He commanded them.
Then in verses 18-20, we’re all commanded to “go and tell,” and this command is preceded by an all-encompassing claim. Jesus declares that all authority is His in heaven and on earth. With that supreme authority, then, He has appointed you and me to do our bit, throughout every day and wherever we go, to spread His good news.
The Great Commission was apparently spoken by Christ on a mountainside in Galilee. We know the eleven apostles were there, but perhaps He had a larger audience. As far as we know, this is the only time the risen Christ made a prearranged appearance. The other ten or so postresurrection appearances were unannounced; but this one was arranged by Jesus in advance and explained to the disciples even before He died on the cross (Matt. 26:32; 28:7, 10, 16). There’s no indication this was secret information so presumably the disciples came with their families, children, and friends in tow; and this is likely the time when a crowd of five hundred saw the risen Savior (1 Cor. 15:6). Some of these, having only heard the rumors of the resurrection, were doubtful (Matt. 28:17). Seeing Him in the distance, they questioned. But as He came closer, they all saw Him and worshipped (vv. 17-18). The words Jesus spoke have fueled the mission of the church for two thousand years and will propel its ministries until He returns.
The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed.—Hudson Taylor
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