Lexegete ™ | Year A | Matthew
THE HOLY TRINITY
FIRST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
May 18, 2008
Psalm 8 (1)
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
1a. CONTEXT - Matthew 28:16-20
BIBLICAL…Does this brief narrative with its famous saying have a
context in the ministry of the historical Jesus? There is no direct
parallel to this section in the other gospels by means of which Matthew's
editorial work can be determined. Many scholars argue that the passage is
a construction of the evangelist based on a strong tradition about the
appearing of Jesus to the disciples (Acts 1:2). They contend that, had the
saying been known in the early church immediately after Easter, it would
have solved the controversy between Peter and Paul over how gentiles
could become Christians. Evidently the first preachers who went out to
proclaim the good news did not go to the "nations" - at least not initially.
Jack Kingsbury divides Matthew into three parts: the person of
Jesus Messiah (1:1-4:16), the proclamation of Jesus Messiah (4:17-16:20),
and the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Messiah (16:21-28:20)
(MATTHEW:STRUCTURE, CHRISTOLOGY, KINGDOM, p. 25). Our passage
concludes part three. It also serves as the capstone to the gospel, because
it sums up three themes of Matthew: the authority of Jesus, baptism in
his name, and discipleship.
LITURGICAL While in some traditions Trinity Sunday continues to
rank with Easter, Christmas, Pentecost, Ascension, and Epiphany as one of
the six principal festivals of the church year, scholars are beginning to
question its importance. The church was long reluctant to institute a
feast in honor of a doctrine, but it finally did so in the 14th century.
Trinity Sunday remains as a somewhat spurious addition to the calendar.
Contrary to popular assumption, the thrust of the festival is
Christological, commemorating the personhood of Christ. This focus
should be kept in mind by preachers and worship planners.
1b. TEXT - Matthew 28:16-20
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.
17 When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.
18 And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
19 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,
(20) and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.
And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’*
* The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
16οι δε ενδεκα μαθηται επορευθησαν εις την γαλιλαιαν εις το ορος ου εταξατο αυτοις ο ιησους, 17και ιδοντες αυτον προσεκυνησαν, οι δε εδιστασαν. 18και προσελθων ο ιησους ελαλησεν αυτοις λεγων, εδοθη μοι πασα εξουσια εν ουρανω και επι [της] γης. 19πορευθεντες ουν μαθητευσατε παντα τα εθνη, βαπτιζοντες αυτους εις το ονομα του πατρος και του υιου και του αγιου πνευματος, 20διδασκοντες αυτους τηρειν παντα οσα ενετειλαμην υμιν: και ιδου εγω μεθ υμων ειμι πασας τας ημερας εως της συντελειας του αιωνος.
Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition
© 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;
The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition
© 1975, United Bible Societies, London
2. ANALYSIS - Matthew 28:16-20
Matthew 28:16 - "Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the
mountain to which Jesus had directed them."
- Mountains (to oros) are prominent in Matthew's gospel. Kingsbury
believes that mountains are used to "underline the divine authority with
which Jesus speaks" (MATTHEW, p. 57). Mountains are places of
eschatological revelation (cf. 4:8; 5:29; 17:1). Matthew uses the intimate
fellowship with God suggested by the mountain, not in the service of a
"new Moses" typology, but as one element in his Son of God christology. In
the structure of Matthew, Jesus goes to Galilee of the GENTILES (4:12-18)
to offer salvation to Israel so that later the disciples can go to Galilee to
undertake their mission to the nations.
28:17 - "And when they saw him they worshipped him; but some doubted."
- Mark 16:14 and Luke 24:41 also report the doubt (edistasan) of the
disciples, but in both cases the doubt is overcome by seeing the Risen
Christ. Doubt is probably reported by Matthew to set up the coming to
faith, but NOT through the appearance of Jesus. Faith comes by the word
of Jesus. At the time Matthew wrote the appearances were long past. For
Matthew's congregation, "the message of the Risen One and obedience to
this word is the way to the overcoming of doubt" (TRADITION AND
INTERPRETATION IN MATTHEW, p. 132).
28:18 - "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me."
- The basis of Jesus' commission is his authority (eksousia) . Jesus is
portrayed as co-regent with God, having all authority in heaven and earth,
because in his ministry, death, and resurrection he revealed the Father and
the kingdom. The clause "all authority has been given to me" is related to
"all things have been given over to me" (11:27), a passage in which Jesus is
designated as "the Son." The connection of this saying about revelation and
authority with Dan. 7:14 would suggest that, for the writer of Matthew,
the enthroning of Daniel's Son of Man is fulfilled in Jesus.
28:19 - "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in
the name of the Father and of the Son and of th Holy Spirit...."
- The mission of the post-Easter disciples is to make disciples
(matheteusate) of all nations. On the authority of Jesus, the disciples
baptize. "In baptism, one becomes a disciple of Jesus and a son of God and
is empowered by the Spirit for ministry: the disciple continues the work
of the earthly Son of God" (Kingsbury, p. 78).
28:20 - "Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I
am with you always, to the close of the age."
- The sequence of baptism and teaching is crucial for Matthew, because
the baptized person remains a disciple only if the commandments of the
earthly Jesus are obeyed. The Holy Spirit does not speak new teachings
but reinforces the words of Jesus. The disciples are to teach people to
observe "all" that Jesus commanded, but (for Matthew) those teachings are
summarized in the command to love. Bringing the gospel to all is the
mission of th church between the resurrection and "the close of the age:
(tes synteleias tou aionos) In this task the risen Lord upholds disciples
with his presence.
3. STRATEGY - Matthew 28:16-20
An evangelism sermon is one obvious and appropriate approach to
this text. For Matthew, evangelism is based on the authority of Jesus (who
inaugurated the age of salvation) and focuses in the task of making
A summary statement of the content of 28:16-20 might read: On the
mountain the crucified and risen Lord assured his ambivalent disciples of
his authority, commissioned them to make disciples of all people, and
promised them his presence. A sermon sentence would seek to translate
past history into contemporary claim: In his Word the crucified and risen
Lord assures ambivalent disciples of his authority, commissions them to
make disciples of all people, and promises them his presence.
The structure of the unit may well become the shape of the sermon,
following the passage closely in both content and form:
Jesus' authority - then and now
Jesus' commission to make disciples - then and now
Jesus' promise - then and now
There is a sense in which the commission to evangelize is always
appropriate. However, this homiletical approach is especially useful to
inaugurate a parish evangelism emphasis, particularly if visitors are being
commissioned. The sermon will serve to deepen the congregation's
understanding of the great commission even as it functions as a ringing
charge to the visitors.
If the Easter season were marked off as a special time for sharing the
good news of the crucified and risen Lord, the sermon may serve to close
the period. In this case the focus becomes the ongoing task of bringing
women and men through baptism into a community under the word and in
the presence of one who revealed the Father.
Being faithful to the text, the sermon should provide a touch of
reality for veteran disciples and new converts alike. The Christian life,
inaugurated in the font, must draw nourishment and insight from word and
worship or be plagued by ambivalence and doubt. The abiding presence of
the risen Son of God is experience in worship, in preaching and sacrament,
to nourish believers to the end.
A more creative approach to this text might key on the experience
of "endings." Many television series simply disappear when networks
decide to pull the plug. "Lou Grant" should have ended with the Trib
folding. Other silent deaths come to mind. The exceptions are the
confession by the one-armed man on "The Fugitive," Mary Richards turning
out the lights on the "Mary Tyler Moore Show," and the members of the
4077th folding up their tents on "M*A*S*H." Endings are not add-ons.
Human nature demands a sense of completion. In Matt. 28:16-20, three key
themes are reaffirmed that unify the book and summarize the Christian
life: the authority of Jesus, baptism in his name, and discipleship. The
promise of the presence of Jesus with disciples brings closure to the book
and looks forward in hope to that terminus which is a true ending.
4. REFERENCES - Matthew 28:16-20
Bornkamm, Barth, and Held. TRADITION AND INTERPRETATION IN MATTHEW.
Philadelphia: Westminster, 1963.
Fuller, Reginald. PREACHING THE LECTIONARY; THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE
CHURCH TODAY. Revised Edition. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical
Kingsbury, Jack Dean. MATTHEW: STRUCTURE, CHRISTOLOGY, KINGDOM.
Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975.
Schweizer, Eduard. THE GOOD NEWS ACCORDING TO MATTHEW, trans. by
David E. Green. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1977.
5. MUSIC SUGGESTIONS
"O Day of Rest and Gladness" (LBW #251) and "Lord Jesus Christ,
Be Present Now" LBW #253) are trinitarian entrance hymns that keep central the person of Christ. "Christ is Made the Sure Foundation" (LBW #367) performs a similar feat, while "Rise, Shine, You People!" (LBW #393) is strong on discipleship and witness.
Exegete: Rev. Robert G. Hughes (ELCA, Retired) resides in Ocean City, Jew Jersey.
LEXEGETE © 2008
DARTMOUTH, MA 02747-1925