Matt. 28:16-20, The Great Commission

Introduction: Historical Context

This passage is called the Great Commission.  It is the final instructive word from Jesus to His church.

Jesus had just risen.  The Jews had killed Him and were equally ready to do away with His disciples.  The Roman empire was a strict ruler that didn't like people causing any problems.  The ruler of the land was Herod.  There was a great tension between the Jewish community and the Roman power system.  The Jews wanted to be free from Roman rule.  The Romans wanted this small strange country called Israel to be peaceful.

The dominant religion in the Roman Empire was emperor worship.

Tiberius Caesar was the ruler from A.D. 14-37.  Next was Caligula (37-41), Claudius (41-54), Nero who persecuted the Christians (54-68).  In 70 A.D., the Jerusalem was besieged by the Romans and the Temple was destroyed.  You need to notice the similarities between the Roman Empire and America.

Both are not Christian nations, but only have Christians in them.

Both have officials in high places who are antagonistic to Christianity.

And... it was into this world, that Jesus commissioned the disciples.  Their commission was difficult....

  1. Verse 16, "But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated."
    1. The mountain is often used in the Bible to designate a meeting with God.
      1. Moses received the ten commandments on Mt. Sinai
      2. Jesus spoke to the woman at the well about which mountain to worship God on.
      3. Jesus went up on the mount for the transfiguration, probably the same one spoken of here.
      4. This was a meeting, not behind closed doors, but out in the open.  They were not hiding.
    2. They went where Jesus commanded them to go.  If you want to maintain communion with Christ, you must go to where He has appointed you to go.
  2. Verse 17, "And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful."
    1. An interesting contrast: Some worshiped, some doubted, even though He had been crucified and risen from the dead.
      1. Jesus did not reject those who doubted.  They were there.  They had made the journey.  He did not reject them.
      2. Also, Jesus accepted the worship of those who were there.
    2. Jesus is worshiped in many scriptures: Matt. 2:2; 2:11; 14:33; 28:9; John 9:35-38; Heb. 1:6.
      1. Jesus receives worship and does not rebuke them.  He said in Matt. 4:10 that you are to worship God and serve Him only.  Yet, Jesus receives this worship.
      2. This is important because it means He is God.
        1. Which is why He could say later, "I am with you to the end of the age."
  3. Verse 18, "And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth."
    1. This is one of the most crucial statements that Jesus ever made.
    2. Jesus has all the authority... in heaven and on earth.
      1. Authority to forgive sins (Luke 5:20; 7:48).
      2. Authority to mediate to the Father (1 Tim. 2:5).
      3. Authority to send the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26).
      4. Authority to open the hearts and minds of His people (Luke 24:45).
      5. Authority to reveal the Father (Matt. 11:27; Luke 10:22).
      6. Authority to give eternal life to whom He chooses (John 10:27-28).
      7. Authority to raise us up on the last day (John 6:40).
    3. Jesus, before His incarnation, was equal with the Father and He possessed all authority and power.  He is still equal to the Father, but now He has two natures: God and Man.
      1. Therefore, as the God-man, as the Mediator, all power was given him;
      2. This is because Jesus was a man (Phil. 2:5-8) and had humbled Himself.
  4. Verse 19, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit"
    1. This commission is mainly given to the disciples then present. But it applies to you as well.
      1. You are called by Jesus to make disciples of all people, to go out into the world and teach and live the truth of the cross of redemption.
    2. Baptism was a common practice back then.  It was for converts to the faith and was practiced by more groups that the Christians alone.
    3. However, Christian baptism is a picture of the death of one's self and rebirth in the Son (Rom. 6).
    4. To be baptized is to show your commitment to the Lord and to His call.
      1. What did your baptism mean to you?
      2. Was it a social event that you did because, "It is the thing to do"?
      3. Was it because your parents wanted you to?
      4. Or... was it because you have identified with the Lord and have committed yourself to Him?
    5. The Baptism Formula
      1. There are cult groups that say you are only to be baptized "In Jesus Name."
      2. They deny the doctrine of the Trinity and they deny the baptismal formula of "in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." They are false teachers.
  5. verse 20, "...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
    1. When someone becomes a Christian, he is to follow the ways of the Lord Jesus.
      1. Being a Christian means that Jesus is Lord.
    2. Jesus is always with you.  He will never leave you.
      1. This is a sign of His deity and it is a comfort to know that Jesus is always with us.  He will never leave us or forsake us no matter what the situation.


Jesus wants you to finish what He began.  He came to the disciples, taught them, and worked with them.  He then died on the cross and rose from the dead.  But, before He ascended into heaven, He gave them, and us, the commission to convert the world.  He will not ask you to do the impossible.

You need to know that your efforts to honor Christ by obeying His call to make disciples of all nations is something that you can do.  Do it where you are, with those whom you meet, with the those you work with, with those you go to school with, etc.  Be a witness for Jesus in your lives and when necessary, talk about Him, too.

When seek to accomplish God's will, He will bless your efforts because you're seeking to obey Him.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.