This passage occurs both in the Narrative Lectionary and the Revised Common Lectionary (Trinity Sunday).
Well, this passage clarifies a few things:
* Jesus did have to suffer
* The law still exists in the new creation
* Commissioning is just as important as proclamation
* Baptizing is subordinate to making disciples; yet Baptism binds us to God
* The resurrection changes God's name
While we are at it, let's also clarify two other things
* The Trinity was in Matthew's Gospel
* Some, not all, doubted
I will be less pugnacious, but Matthew brilliantly closes out of his
Gospel. Only five verses, but it really does tie together so much of
ορος ("mountain", 28:16)
Mountains show up at many key points in the Gospel of Matthew: The
sermon on the Mount, the tranfiguration and the betrayal of Jesus.
Matthew may be connecting some of the "dots" within his story here. I
wrote about this in my comments on Matthew 5 as well.
("command" from τασσω, 28:16) Even after the resurrection, the concept
of obedience still exists. I write this because recently I've been
engaged in some discussions with "hyper" Lutherans who want to
functionally deny the role of the law within the new creation. The law
still exists; the new creation does the law. But okay, let's avoid this
discussion and actually get to something that we can preach: Living as
a disciple means obeying, even as we doubt. (See below for more on law
and Gospel post resurrection)
from προσκυνεω, 28:17) and εξουσια ("authority" or "power", 28:18). The
President of Luther Seminary once gave a great sermon linking this
passage (Matthew 28:16-20) with the temptation of Christ. It will be on
a mountain that the devil offers Jesus all authority if Jesus would
worship him. Poetically, here it is on a mountain that the disciples
worship him as the hear that Jesus has all the authority. The point of
the sermon (by Dr. Richard Bliese) was that devil tried to convince
Jesus that suffering wasn't necessary for his authority and glory, but
Jesus would have none of it.
εδιστασαν ("doubt", from
δισταζω 17) Back in chapter 14, Jesus rescues a sinking Peter and asks
him why he doubted. Here we are, after the crucifixion and
resurrection, and doubt still lingers. Interestingly, Jesus does not
rebuke them for their faith (or even false worship) but simply puts them
to use and offers them the promise of his presence. What is Jesus
response to failure on the part of the disciples? Commissioning and
promise. I would argue that in both John 22 and Matthew 28, Jesus not
only hands over the promise but also employs people. This to me
suggests that law can function as Gospel when it lets us know that Jesus
cares about us. In other words, when someone tells us to quit smoking,
we can hear this as law but also as love in that the person cares about
us. The failure of church to commission people is a failure to
communicate God's love for them. Ultimately I would argue that it is
the promise of Jesus' presence that will give them the strength to carry
out this command!
μαθητευσατε and βαπτιζοντες ("teach"
and "baptize", 19) Interestingly, the only imperative verb in verse 19
is "make disciples." The rest are participles that likely describe the
verb "teach." [Grammatically you can argue that "go," although not an
imperative, functions like this because of its position.] In the
Greek, baptizing and teaching are not imperatives, they are participles
that describe the manner of making disciples. This is true in the
parish too; we make disciples by baptizing them and teaching them. One
should not press too hard here because even if "baptize" only modifies
"make disciples" it is still commanded to us by Jesus! However, it
reminds us that Baptism without teaching is not what Jesus commanded.
I would also add that the purpose of our teaching is making disciples...Do we look at Christian Education as formation??
note on the verbs here: The main verb (μαθητευσατε ) is in the plural
(second person). No one of us is commanded to make disciples. It
always take the community to accomplish this task.
το ονομα ("into the name" 19) Two points here. First off all, there
is only the most scant evidence that Matthew's Gospel did not originally
have the Trinitarian name. All the major manuscripts have it. In
fact, each and every manuscripts has it. The main evidence against it
consists of one or two Greek Fathers who don't include it when they cite
Matthew, most importantly Eusebius. However, Eusebius wrote around
300; the Didache (110 AD), which heavily quotes from Matthew's Gospel
includes the name Father, Son and Holy Spirit within its Baptismal
formula. (The Didache also use the word "into" and not "in" reflecting
Second point, we are baptized into the name of God. There is something that happens in Baptism that joins us to Christ.
υμων ("with you"; the word μεθ is μετα but the letters change before a
vowel, much like "a" becomes "an", vs 20). It is a good reminder that
Jesus offers a plural promise here: "With all of you." More
importantly though, the words "with you" appear in the middle of the
words "I am." "I am" or εγω ειμι can also signify the name of God (see
one of the previous' weeks entries on this). Here though we find the
construction "I with you am." In the middle of God's name is "with
us." I would argue that God's name has been changed by the death and
resurrection of Jesus. God is forever bound to humanity in a way that
God was not before (see tearing of temple curtain). Even if the whole
name of God thing seems like a stretch, Jesus is indicating that after
the crucifixion and resurrection he is truly Emmanuel, or God with us,
as the angel declared in the beginning of the Gospel.
Grammar: How Greek often switches subjects.
verse 17, Matthew says that "some doubted." He actually doesn't use
the word "some," but the words οι δε. These two words simply mean "The
and." How did the translators get to "some" from "the and"?
particular construction (δε ("and") following the word οι/ο ("the"))
almost always implies a new subject. Often times Greek writers will do
this; perhaps to save space because it is quicker to write "ο δε" then
to write out "the other person I was just writing about." This device, I
assume, almost functioned like a period or a paragraph start;
"attention reader, new subject." For example, Matthew uses this
construction back in verse 16 to switch the narrative from the Jews to
the disciples. We have a paragraph marker there, but in the original
Greek, which lacked punctuation, this didn't exist.
verse 17, the question becomes, who is Matthew referring to when he
switches the subject? We are not told of anyone on the hill. It seems
the only option is to assume Matthew here switches from all eleven
disciples to a smaller group within that. While a minority think he
means all the disciples (and thus is NOT switching subjects), most
people assume he is referring to a subset within the disciples. Regardless at least some of the people on that hill are doubting...and Luke tells in Acts they all keep moving forward with the team!