Congratulations, after you read Matthew 28, you’ll have read the first book of the New Testament all the way through.
After some very long chapters covering the final week of Jesus’ life in detail, Matthew wrapped up his account of the ministry of Christ very rapidly. Jesus’ dead body was hastily prepared for burial and buried on Friday afternoon because the Sabbath was coming. Remember that in the Jewish world a day begins at sundown the night before. So, Friday evening is when the Sabbath begins.
Mary & Mary came to give Jesus’ body a more thorough embalming (v. 1). When they came to the tomb, the did not find Jesus there; instead, they found an angel who informed them about his resurrection (vv. 2-7). Then they saw Christ risen and received instructions to pass on to Jesus’ disciples (vv. 8-10). The men who were supposed to guard Jesus’ tomb concocted a story to explain his disappearance (vv. 11-15), Meanwhile, Jesus and his disciples met up in Galilee where they received final instructions from him. Note that Matthew didn’t record or describe the ascension of Christ into heaven; he ended his Gospel with the last words of Jesus.
The last words of Jesus, the famous “Great Commission” begins with a reminder of Christ’s authority in verse 18: “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’” This authority belonged to him all along because he is the creator of all things. When humanity rebelled against God in the garden of Eden, Satan began a titanic struggle to wrest control of God’s creation. Although millions worship and serve him and the kingdoms of this world operate largely under his moral control, when Jesus rose from the dead he accomplished two other things in addition to securing our salvation.,
Christ began the redemption of his creation when he rose from the dead. Romans 8:19-23 describes the fact that, when Christ returns and establishes his kingdom, creation will be redeemed. By rising from the dead, Jesus re-asserted his Lordship over creation and demonstrated his power to redeem it.
Christ began the process of establishing his kingdom when he rose from the dead. Christ’s kingdom has not yet been established, but he is gathering citizens into it through the gospel. His command to the disciples in verses 19-20 to “make disciples, baptizing them… and teaching them” all flow from the truth of verse 18: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” The reason why we go to “all nations” is that Christ is Lord over all nations. His kingdom will supersede all human governments (see Rev 11:15). The laws of earthly governments mean nothing if they seek to restrict the spread of the gospel because Jesus has all authority over them.
These are Christ’s final words to his disciples and they remain our responsibility until he comes and finishes what he began to establish his kingdom. What is your role in this and how can you use the place the Lord has put you to help all of us, as his followers, be obedient to this commission?