Jesus’ earthly ministry comes to a halt. He passes the job on to his disciples.
This location may be the same place where the Sermon on the Mount took place. The Greek is a little ambiguous, but it could be translated something like, “to the mountain where Jesus had taught them.” That is not a sure thing, of course, but Matthew loves to have important meetings take place on mountains.
Jesus reiterates his authority, given by God. Perhaps reflecting Daniel 7, truly he proclaiming that his kingdom is already underway. That would probably carry more weight with the disciples after the resurrection. We must continue to deal with the already-not yet nature of the kingdom, but it has been instituted.
Going, Make Disciples
The disciples are not told to preach the gospel. I suppose that is understood. They are told to make disciples. These guys know what disciples are and they know discipleship is a deep level of commitment. They are hunting for good soil of the fourth kind.
Their mission is to all the nations. They are not turning from Israel, but they are turning toward the gentiles.This is a big change and must have been a surprise to the disciples.
Since John, baptism has not played a big role in Jesus’ ministry, so this one is kind of a surprise. Also surprising is the placing of the name of Jesus on a level with the Father and the Spirit. We should not read into this a full trinitarian understanding, but that is where it is heading.
There is not mention of faith here, but again, it seems we are to understand that faith in Jesus must precede baptism.
The disciples are not to teach a philosophy or a pattern of beliefs. Matthew has been at pains throughout this gospel to show us that following Jesus is a way of life. The teaching is to be about obedience. Jesus left a deposit of teaching and most of it is about how to live, which of course includes how to think but a lot more.
If our teaching is limited to doctrine and philosophy, we are missing the boat. If our aims are not at making true disciples, we are not even trying to fulfill the mission.
Jesus leaves his final word with the disciples and with the church. He will be with us. Always.