My Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I share with you Reflections on Matthew 28:16-20 “Doing What We Are Told.”
How good are you at doing what you’re told? For me, it all depends on who’s doing the telling. Throughout the account of Jesus’ death and resurrection, there are a whole lot of examples of people telling other people what to do and what not to do. Pilate tells the religious authorities “You have a guard of soldiers. Go make the tomb as secure as you can.” (Mt 27:65) They did what they were told and sealed the stone.
The two “‘Marys” go to see the tomb and experience an earthquake, an angelic visitor, and a set of instructions, to go tell the disciples to meet their Lord in Galilee. All of this is observed by the guards. The women do what they are told and tell the disciples what to do. The disciples obey their instructions and gather at the mountain in Galilee to wait for Jesus.
In this closing scene from Matthew’s gospel, we are clearly told by a trusted source what to do: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of The Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you.” (Mt 28:19-20)
Doing What Jesus Tells us to Doesn’t Require a Perfect Past
Obedient to the women’s command, the disciples have gathered. Well, eleven of them at least. The phrase “the eleven disciples” (28:16) instead of the customary “the Twelve,” reminds the reader of Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denials and that all were scattered, scandalized by Jesus’ death (26:30-35). It is to these less-than-perfect disciples that Jesus gives the responsibility and authority to “make disciples of all nations.” (28:19a). Apparently, we don’t have to have perfect pasts to take Jesus’ message into others’ futures.
Doing What Jesus Tells us to Doesn’t Require Having No Doubts
“When they saw him, they worshiped him, but some doubted” (28:17) It would seem that those who worshiped Jesus had some hesitation mingled in with their worship. Jesus entrusts authority to make disciples to doubting disciples. There is a contrast between these disciples and the women. The women, when seeing Jesus, worship him (28:9). Their fear does not cancel out their joy, worship or obedience. The disciples do not initially acknowledge that it is God’s power that raised Jesus. The women never questioned this. Even the guards and the priests and elders showed a little bit of faith, in the form of the fear that God was behind the empty tomb. Why else go to such pains to stage a cover up?
Doing What Jesus Tells us means: Taking Action Right Here, Right Now
Clearly, we are to do what Jesus tells us to do. The goal of the Christian Church is to make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The message of this closing scene in Matthew is that any and everybody is called to make disciples any and everywhere. With no excuses, no postponements of justice, and no obstacles that God can’t do something about.