Jesus’ special instructions. MATTHEW 28:16–20
By June Renie
Today we celebrate Trinity Sunday. Our gospel reading speaks of the disciple’s mission to the world. Here Matthew portrays Jesus’ last act of ministry, teaching His disciples the basics of ministry, of going out into the world, teaching, baptising, and making disciples.
This is Matthew’s interpretation of the Great Commissioning and the scene is a mountaintop experience. Scripture has taught us that the mountain is often designated as a meeting place with God. Jesus therefore arranged to meet His disciples on a mountaintop as He intends to give them special instructions before His departure to Heaven.
This is the place where Jesus had arranged to meet them, the now remaining eleven disciples on another mountain in Galilee. It is an uneven number, and we know why. We are told “When they saw him, they fell down before him though some hesitated ” (Mt 28:17).
We can only surmise that those who hesitated did so knowing Jesus had died and could not believe that He was alive again. Nor should we be surprised at either reaction: hesitancy or worship.
It was fitting for the disciples to worship Jesus. They knew He was executed and buried but now they see Him alive again, confirming beyond doubt that He is the Messiah. Now, He is the Lord of Life, executing power even over death. Nothing in their experience had prepared the disciples for this.
In response, Jesus accepted the worship of those who did. Still, He did not reject those who hesitated. He understood their doubt and frailty but spoke to their faith in calling them to carry on His work.
We can be confident, therefore, that in choosing the disciples in their frailty opens the door for Him to choose us in our imperfection to do His work.
Matthew 28:18 recounts this narrative between Jesus and His disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” This is a very important and informative admission made by the resurrected Jesus, that all authority has been given to Him, inter alia, to forgive sins, to send the Holy Spirit, to grant eternal life to those whom He chooses and to raise up on the last day, and to mediate before God and man.
This authority of which Jesus speaks and exercises was given to Him by God on completion of His earthly ministry. He became man and humbled Himself to death on a cross and became the perfect sacrifice that redeemed us from our sin. This authority/kingship spans time and place, and there is no time and place where it does not apply.
“Go therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Mt 28:19). Baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit indicates that a new relationship is formed in the Trinity. This is the commission given to the disciples at the time though it applies to all of us today.
The mission is primarily to make disciples of all nations and, in so doing, we go out into the world to teach, to live and to spread the truth of the Good News. It was prophesied by the prophet Daniel, even before Jesus was born, “on him was conferred sovereignty, glory and kingship and all men and peoples, nations and languages became his servants” (Dn 7:14).
“…and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you and know I am with you always: yes, to the end of time” (Mt 28:20). It is a responsibility to teach new disciples what Jesus taught, but the promise is that the risen and ascended Lord will be always with us, even to the end of time.
We are secure in this knowledge and in the fate that He will never leave us or forsake us even in this Covid pandemic. We are challenged to be witnesses in our lives and to answer this call when and where we are and in the company we find ourselves.
The gospel meditations for May were by June Renie, a retired law librarian and a graduate of the Catholic Bible Institute. She is an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist at St Anthony’s parish, Petit Valley.