We begin an extensive series on discipleship in the Gospel according to Saint Matthew with civil speech, apologetics, and witness uppermost in our consideration. Several passages will be carefully examined and broad conclusions with respect to our theme will be made.
Let us then look at the very end of this Gospel. It is here that the risen Jesus gives a directive on the disciples’ task: “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped 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 diciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 16-20 ESV)
Mountains are typically places of revelation. The transfiguration took place on a mountain, as did the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus taught the laws by which the disciples were to live as members of the Kingdom of Heaven. When the disciples saw the resurrected Jesus some of them doubted and others worshiped Him. The theme of doubt at the resurrection appearances is found also in Luke and John. Already earlier in Matthew Jesus addresses the doubt of the disciples whom he calls men of little faith.
In Matthew 14 Peter wishes to step out of the boat and come to Jesus who stands upon the waters of the sea. Because of his fear Peter sinks into the water and calls out to Jesus, “Lord, save me.” Jesus reaches out His hand and pulls Peter into the boat, saying “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14: 31b ESV) The response of the disciples in the boat was worship with their declaration, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14: 33 ESV)
Earlier in the Gospel the disciples in a boat on the SEa of Galilee are fearful during a storm at sea, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” (Matthew 8: 25B ESV) Jesus rebukes them, saying, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” (Matthew 8: 26a ESV) Then He calmed both winds and sea. Matthew presents the theme of doubt and faith in HIs Gospel.
On the mountain Jesus gives instructions to the disciples, commissioning them for a worldwide task: “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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 18-20 ESV) Jesus’ teaching is emphasized in Matthew, as iat is here. Five blocks of instruction are found in the Gospel.
The disciples are to baptize and teach among the nations. Jesus went to Israel; they are to go to the nations. It is clear in the Gospel that this worldwide preaching and teaching is to occur later after Jesus’ resurrection. During Jesus’ ministry before the resurrection the disciples were sent only to Israel (Matthew 10: 5-6 ESV) The mission to he nations is reserved for the Church.
The mission among the nations will present some special challenges. In the teaching about the end Jesus says to the disciples, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.” (Matthew 24: 9 ESV) And a little later Jesus says, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24: 13 ESV) Jesus warns in one of His discourses, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. Both Jews and Gentiles will persecute followers of Jesus. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”(Mathew 10: 16-20).
More the next time. In the meantime think of what it means to be wise a serpent and innocent as a dove.
Michael G. Tavella
September 27, 2019
Saint Vincent de Paul