April 12 – Matthew 28


Passage Intro

“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile.” (1 Cor. 15:17) Jesus is the object of our faith, he’s the anchor to which our hope for salvation and eternal life is attached. But Paul points out that this hope hinges on a real, historic event. While Christ’s death for our sin is necessary to salvation, we only know that his death was sufficient for our salvation by his resurrection. I’ve heard a number of pastors conclude that, in place of the standard Christian symbol of the cross, we might should use a symbol of the empty tomb. That’s the moment we knew our salvation was complete.

I love that Matthew ends his Gospel on such a fast-paced high note. We go from earthquakes to angels to the Marys racing off to tell the disciples they’ve seen Jesus alive. In twenty verses Matthew covers almost every sort of reaction you can have to the Good News of Jesus: the Marys have both fear and joy, the disciples are divided on belief and doubt, the soldiers know the facts but don’t believe, and the counsel hears the news but tries to undermine it. Matthew doesn’t even get to the ascension or whether or not the disciples obeyed Jesus’ last words. He just finishes off with Jesus’ last command to the disciples, the Great Commission.

Here in verses 18-20 we receive Jesus mission for the church, what he’s wanted us to be doing for the 2000ish years since his ascension. He starts by telling us he’s the king, and he’s in charge of everything in heaven and on earth. Because of that we’re sent into the world as his ambassadors and emissaries, to make disciples by baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything Jesus has said. Here we see the three-fold office of Jesus as prophet (his teaching), priest (ritual cleansing), and king (authority). Our commission to go into the world and make disciples is mobilized, energized, and accomplished by Jesus working in and through us. All we have to do is go.

The resurrection shows us our hope in Jesus, and Matthew ends his Gospel with a commission to go tell others so they might hope in Jesus too. And that hope applies not just to eternal life, but to this life as well (if we only have one, and not the other, is it really good news?). Two things stand out to me about how this chapter connects with life right now. Firstly, the angel told the Marys not to be afraid, but they still left the tomb with both joy and fear. Then Jesus appeared to them, and when they fell at his feet he repeated again, “Do not be afraid.” He didn’t chastise them for not listening to the angel, but apparently he was interested in helping them lay down their fear while they were at his feet.

Second, Matthew finishes his Gospel with a reminder that Jesus is Immanuel, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”(28:20b) “I am with you always” is a precious comfort, and it has been for the church through the ages, through wars and rumors of wars, famines, diseases, tribulation, syncretism, heresy, and apathy. Jesus isn’t still in the grave, he’s alive and with you wherever you are, and that is very good news.

Questions for Discussion

• Can someone read Matthew 28 for us?

• What stands out to you from this passage?

• How do you connect emotionally with this chapter right now?

• Why do you think Matthew ends his Gospel this way?

• What can this tell us about Jesus’ kingdom?