A Reflection on Matthew 28:16-20
(for Trinity Sunday, June 15, 2014)
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ (Matthew 28:16-20, NRSV).
I love the honesty contained in the description of the disciples here: ‘When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.’
These disciples hiked from Jerusalem to Galilee at the invitation of the recently crucified Jesus given through two women who claimed to have seen him. Clearly they though that the relatively remote possibility of meeting Jesus again was worth making this journey. But they were far from sure.
Maybe they just felt there was no better option than to head home via the Gallilean ‘mountain’ and put this nagging hope to rest. The investment of time would more than outweigh the possibility of always wondering. If nothing else this team clarification-pilgrimage kept the disciples together.
And then ‘they saw him’.
No doubt this was a confronting, confusing, bewildering, and mystifying moment. They hoped beyond all reason that Jesus was alive. Yet, of course, even as they obediently walk to this agreed meeting-place they struggle to believe.
And now, while bowing in worship before the one they see, those pestering doubts remain.
There is something very personal about a familiar voice. The distinct timbre and pace of one we have heard often can dash a thousand questions in a moment. It leaves me to wonder whether or not the disciple’s doubts persisted during Jesus’ brief call.
Even the content is familiar. Jesus speaks, as he always did, of ‘heaven and earth’ in a way that assumes a connection. The call to ‘make disciples’ must have been crystal clear to those in whom Jesus invested three years. They remember his baptism and their own cleansing of others in the Jordan River. Jesus regularly prayed to the Father, opened their eyes to the Spirit, and taught them his heaven-soaked ways.
Yes, it is all so very recognisable.
I suspect these words contributed significantly to the dispelling of their doubt. Jesus is back – and doing just what he always did!
And all this climaxes with the promise that it will remain this way. The Jesus who walked this earth, died on the cross, and rose again – that one – is with us ‘always, to the end of the age’.
It must be why we continue to call it ‘good news’.