II.IX, Against Celsus, Origen. (c.246)
As so many of you know I the doctrine of the Trinity is the primary doctrine that informs my theology and ministry. So, I was struck by William Loader's comment, "This is such an important text in the context of Matthew's gospel that there is a danger that its use on Trinity Sunday will lead to too much focus on its tenuous links with the Trinity..." This sense of the importance of pausing and re-engaging the text in a fresh was was reinforced by these words from the Matthean scholar Warren Carter, "The scene has significant Christological elements. It is the risen Christ who commissions the disciples." (Matthew and the Margins, 549) So let us look again at this passage with fresh eyes and seek the testimony being proclaimed by Matthew.
Let me begin by relying heavily on Allison and Davies (Matthew, vol III, 687):
"28.16-20, which was so important to William Carey and the nineteenth-century Protestant missionary movement, is from the literary point of view, perfect, in the sense that it satisfyingly completes the Gospel: we cold hardly improve upon it. Nothing is superfluous, yet nothing more could be added without spoiling the effect. The grand denouement, so consonant with the spirit of the whole Gospel because so full of resonances with earlier passages, is, despite its terseness, almost a compendium of Matthean theology:
Galilee fulfils the prophecies in 26.32 and 28.7 and creates a literary arch with 4.12 that spans the Gospel
Mountain recalls other mountain scenes, especially 4.8 (where Jesus refuses to accept from the devil what he will later accept from the Father) and ...(where Jesus gave them commands.) 5.1
They worshipped him, but some doubted has been foreshadowed by 14.31-3
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me echoes 11.27 as well as a prophecy (Dan 7.13-14) which Jesus has elsewhere applied to himself (24.30; 26.64); it further brings to completion the theme of Jesus' kingship (1.1; etc)
Make disciples reminds one of 13.52 (cf 27.57)
All the nations terminates the prohibition of 10.5-6 (cf 15.24) and announces the realization of the promise made to Abraham (cf 1.1; also Gen 12.3; 18.18; 22.18)
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit' in connexion with baptism reminds one of chapter 3, where the Son is baptized, the Father speaks, and the Spirit descends
Teaching recapitulates a central theme and gives the disciples a task heretofore reserved for Jesus
All that I have commanded you is a sweeping retrospective of all Jesus has said and done
I am with you always forms an inclusio with 1.23 and is similar to 18.20
The end of the age is a phrase used earlier (13.39, 40, 49; 24.3) and puts one in mind of Jesus' teachings about the end
...The climax and crown of Matthew's Gospel is profoundly apt in that it invites the reader to enter the story: 28.16-20 is an open ended ending. Not only does v.20a underline that the particular man, Jesus, has universal significance, but 'I am with you always' reveals that he is always with his people. The result is that the believing audience and the ever-living Son of God become intimate. The Jesus who commands difficult obedience is at the same time the ever-graceful divine presence.One can not more clearly see the power of the ending of Matthew's Gospel; it is almost and exclamation point to the driving force of the narrative. Such connections can often only be seen when one reads the text in one sitting as so many people now are doing. (This is a great Advent event which I cannot more strongly recommend!)
The literary import of this passage is very interesting. But so are the words of Jesus that all are sent (doubters in the midst of the believers). That we who find ourselves in different places along the Way are invited into the missionary work of God for God's people.
We used this passage this week as our bible passage for the Executive Board of our diocese. One of the people in my group had a wonderful saying. He invited us to consider and hold precious our doubts, wrestle with them, and seek enlightenment; however, he challenged that we not stand on doubt as the guiding principle of life or the guiding principle of following Jesus. We are challenged to make the Way and Jesus the road map of our faith pilgrimage along with the doubts that come as conversation partners along the journey.
Warren Carter wrote:
The small, minority, marginal community of disciples is commissioned to nothing less than worldwide mission in proclaiming obedience to Jesus and his teaching. But this mission is carried out in a dangerous and resistant world as the passion narrative and the immediately prior scene in 28:11-15 have made clear. There are rivals for human loyalty, who are, like this gospel's vision, intolerant of other claimants. There are competing understandings of what God and/or the gods want from humans. Post-70 Judaism struggles with diverse visions of its future without the Jerusalem temple, but many do not find the Matthean vision convincing.... [Jesus announcement and commissioning] calls people to recognize God's sovereignty as "Lord of Heaven and earth" (11.25). And it proclaims that God's purposes are supreme. The future is not that of eternal Rome, but of God's just and life-giving empire established over all (chs. 24-25). It is to this mission that the community of disciples is again sent by the one who claims "all authority in heaven and earth." (Matthew and the Margins, 550ff)We are the inheritors of this mission. We have received it from all the mothers and fathers and grandparents who dared to give us the expectation and opportunity of faith. We have received it from as a sacramental blessing from all the priests and deacons who have given countless ours at the altars of God and at the altar of our dining room tables. We are inheritors from the apostles who have gone before us: Wimberly, Payne, Benitez, Richardson, Hines, Quin, Kinsolving, and Gregg. We are inheritors of this sacred journey from saints who with a Mother Teresan mixture of faith and doubt have paved the imperial road of God's kingdom for our pilgrim journey.
What blessings are bestowed upon us; to be brought into the divine community by Jesus Christ, commissioned and handed the privilege of serving as a missionary in God's plan.
The Lambeth Bible Study Method