Monday, August 25, 2014

The Great Commission Given

Matthew 28:11-20

As the ladies from Galilee were on their way to the tomb to embalm the body of Jesus properly, there was an earthquake, and an angel rolled the stone away from the opening of the tomb.  The guard were petrified by his appearance and concealed themselves as best they could.  After looking into the tomb, and talking to the angel, they started back to Jerusalem, but were stopped by Jesus, who gave them a message for the disciples to go to Galilee.  They then ran to share the news. 
“Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and showed unto the chief priests all the things that were done.” (Matthew 28:11)

The ladies were still on their way to town when some of the guard got to the chief priest’s palace and reported what had happened.

“And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.  And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you.

So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.” (Matthew 28:12-15)

After meeting with the Sanhedrin, the chief priests offered the guard large bribes to say that they had gone to sleep on guard duty and the disciples had taken his body while they slept.  Sonce roman law required that a guard who went to sleep on duty be executed, they promised to bribe or make whatever other arrangement were needed to prevent the soldiers being executed.  As a result, even at the time Matthew was written a large contingent of Jews believed that  Jesus’ body had been stolen rather than that he was resurrected. 

A half century after Jesus’ crucifixion, the historian, Josephus would question why the soldiers would publicly claim to have gone to sleep on duty and were never punished when the law was rigorously enforced in every other case of which he was aware.

Apparently it took the disciples several hours to really assimilate the fact that Jesus had been resurrected and wanted them to go to Galilee, because according to Luke 24:33-37  they were still in Jerusalem when the two who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus came to tell them they had seen Jesus.  “And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.  

And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.  But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.”

The disciples were discussing how Jesus had appeared to Peter when Cleopus and his companion came and described their experiences.  While they were still talking about it, Jesus appeared, scaring them badly.  John 20:19-23 tells us, “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.  And when he had so said, he showed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.  Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

“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.” (Matthew 28:16-17)

After seeing Jesus that evening, the disciples went to Galilee ads Jesus directed them.  John 20:24-29 tells us, “But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.  The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord.

But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.   Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.

Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”

It was while they were still in Galilee that Peter and the others went fishing, as described in John 21.  Later they returned to Jerusalem.

“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 alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

It was there Jesus gave them the “Great Commission” to go and disciple or win people to Christ, to baptize them, and then to teach them everything he had taught them.  He said that he had been given all the authority of heaven and earth and would accompany and empower his disciples till the end of the world.

John 20:30-31 makes it clear the accounts do not detail every event, but only tell us what we need to know to believe in who Jesus is and obtain eternal life.  “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”

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