A Commission, a Revelation, and a Promise
In today's Gospel, Matthew 28:16-20, the Risen Jesus meets His apostles in Galilee. This reading comes from the very end of Matthew's Gospel. Earlier in Chapter 28, several women encounter Jesus as they are leaving His empty tomb. Jesus instructs them, “Do not be afraid. Go tell My brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”
The eleven apostles obey Jesus' command, go to Galilee, and climb “the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.” The Greek word for “ordered” here comes from the verb tassō, which can mean “to appoint.” Jesus is about to appoint His disciples to a very important task. The verb can also refer to ordering soldiers (i.e., putting them in ranks). Jesus is essentially marshaling His troops. He's getting ready to send them out to proclaim His Gospel throughout the whole world.
The apostles see Jesus there on the mountain in His risen glory, and they worship Him. They are already beginning to understand that Jesus is God, but they are not yet 100% sure. They still have doubts. The Greek word for “doubt,” distazō, literally means “to stand in two ways.” The apostles are worshiping Jesus, but they still can't completely grasp what is going on. They may be asking themselves, “Can this really be true?"
Jesus reassures them: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.” The Greek word for “power” is exousia. It means the ability to do anything, authority, “right and might” not just on earth but also in Heaven. This is a divine power, and it comes from Jesus' union with the Father.
Jesus is now passing some of that power on to the apostles when He says, “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.”
With these words, Jesus gives the apostles the “Great Commission.” They are to make disciples of all nations, not just the Jews, but the Gentiles, too, the whole world. How will they do this? They will preach the Gospel, of course, but they will also baptize those who hear and accept their message. The sacramental element is strong here. In baptism, the disciples will use both matter and form, water and words, to create new disciples of Jesus Christ, new children of God.
Jesus' words also reveal the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Notice that Jesus uses the singular word “Name” when He speaks about the three Persons of the Trinity. One Name, three Persons. One God, three Persons. Here is the mystery of the Holy Trinity.
The disciples will have more to do even after they have proclaimed the Gospel and baptized the new disciples. Jesus tells them to teach the new Christians “to observe all that I have commanded you.” The apostles will teach doctrine, moral law, proper worship, and everything else that Christians must know if they are to live in an intimate relationship with the Blessed Trinity.
Knowing that the apostles are sure to be overwhelmed by such a task, Jesus ends with a promise, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Jesus would never leave the apostles to fulfill their commission on their own, and He will not leave us as we face the duties of our Christian lives. Instead, He will be beside us always, guiding us home to Heaven where we will share in the divine life of the Holy Trinity for all eternity.