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Matthew 28:11-20

Everyone can participate: Sharing and living the good news.

Tom Faletti

May 31, 2024

Matthew 28:11-15 The guards’ dilemma


As we discussed in Matthew 27:57-66, it is not clear whether the guards were Roman guards or Jewish guards.  If they were Roman guards, it is hard to understand why they would have gone to talk with the Jewish chief priests.  If they were Jewish guards, some observers wonder why they would have been concerned that the governor Pilate might cause them trouble; but one can understand their desire to avoid looking like they were derelict in their duty.  On balance, it seems more likely that the guards were Jews, but we do not know.


In verse 28:11, Matthew says the guards told the chief priests “everything that happened” or “all that had happened” (NRSV and NABRE, respectively).  What in particular do you think the guards said?


What plan do the chief priests and elders come up with to address what happened?


Why would the guards need to be paid a large sum of money to say this?


The chief priests might have been seen as guardians of the Torah or Old Testament Law, but now they have constructed a lie, in direct violation of the Torah, to avoid confronting a new truth that confirms the truths Jesus spoke that they already rejected.


The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible describes the story concocted in verse 15 as: “A desperate fabrication by the Jerusalem leaders.  Their bribe of the Roman soldiers illustrates how willful blindness hardens the heart to resist uncomfortable truths, even in the face of evidence” (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, fn. to 28:15, p. 60).


Why is it that people sometimes sacrifice the truth to maintain the status quo?


In what ways might we be at risk of resisting uncomfortable truths?  Consciously or unconsciously, people sometimes choose to ignore evidence that disagrees with what they think.  This can happen in matters of spiritual belief, religious observance, political analysis, business practices, social expectations, and family relations.  How might we be at risk of resisting uncomfortable truths in these areas of our lives?


How important is it to you to know the truth, to believe what is true, and to speak “the whole truth and nothing but the truth” regardless of the consequences?



Matthew 28:16-20 The Great Commission


Where do the disciples go?


In Matthew, mountains are places where important things happen – for example, the Sermon on the Mount.  We do not know what mountain this is.  It could have been the mountain upon which Jesus was transfigured (Matthew 17:1-8).


The rest of what happens in this passage occurs after they “saw” him.  Why is seeing important for believing?  In what ways does seeing the Lord in action give us strength to do what we are called to do?

What do you think it means when Matthew says they worshipped him but some doubted?

This could be an oblique reference to Thomas’s doubting before he saw the Lord (John 20:24-29) or others doubting the resurrection.  If so, “some doubted” might be a parenthetical comment, not a statement of what happened after “they worshipped him.”  The point is that worship was not the automatic or immediate reaction of everyone.  Harrington suggests, “Their doubts (v. 17) may involve the possibility of having such an experience at all or the propriety of worshiping Jesus” (Harrington, The Gospel According to Matthew, p. 113).


Matthew does not tell about any ascension of Jesus into heaven.  Perhaps he thought that was implicit.  Or perhaps he thought that how Jesus returned to the Father in heaven was of little importance compared to the importance of the material he is ending with – that Jesus’s followers were directed to spread the gospel (Matthew 28:19-20, often called “the Great Commission”).



Go back and re-read the first part of Matthew 28:7 and 28:10.  Back at the tomb, what is the first thing the women were asked to do?


Why was their task of sharing important, even though they are not among the “eleven” here?


Some people have big roles that draw a lot of attention.  Some people have smaller or less visible roles where they pass along the word of God in a quiet, unobtrusive way or perform other necessary but often unnoticed tasks.  God uses different people in different ways.  All of the roles are important.  What are some ways that you might be being called or used by God in behind-the-scenes ways to help spread the good news of Jesus?


How might you honor those who do the behind-the-scenes work that help make the more public and visible work of God possible?

Sometimes a simple, quiet word of appreciate goes a long way.


In verse 18, Jesus says that “all authority” (NRSV) or “all power” (NABRE) has been given to him.  What does this mean?

As he walked the earth, the fully God but fully human Jesus was restricted in space and time, and as a human exercised only limited power on earth.  Having risen from the dead, he has been given, by the Father, all power and authority in heaven as well as on earth.  “All authority” means that he can do whatever he chooses to do, and no other power can stop him.


Notice that the Great Commission (verse 19) begins with “therefore,” meaning that it follows from Jesus’s statement about his authority in verse 18.  Why does the Great Commission flow from Jesus’s authority?


Do we live our daily lives as though this is true, that all authority or power has been given to Jesus?  Explain.


In verses 19-20, what does Jesus tell the disciples to do?


What is the significance of baptizing people?  What is the role of baptism in our faith?


When Jesus tells them to teach people to obey everything he commanded, what do you think is included in the “everything”?  Where would you look for the content of what should be taught?



Matthew has been making it clear throughout his Gospel that the message of Jesus is for all people of all nations, so this ending is not surprise.  As early as chapter 2 (vv. 1-12), Jesus is worshipped by Gentiles (the wise men/Magi).  In Matthew 4:24-25, we see Jesus’s message reaching beyond the Jews to people in Gentile territory.  In Matthew 8:5-13 he heals the servant of a (Gentile) centurion.  In chapter 15, Jesus is teaching and healing Gentiles more broadly.  So these final verses are the culmination of a message Matthew has been stressing throughout his Gospel.


How important is the universality of the gospel to the Christian faith?  How central to the faith is the idea that the gospel is meant for everyone?


Different faith traditions think about the Great Commission in different ways.  Some consider it to be particularly a charge for the original disciples.  Some see it as a mandate for the Church as a whole, but with different people called to different tasks and not all people called to evangelize.  Some consider it a command directed toward all Christians.


What role do you think you are called to play in spreading the good news and making disciples?


Do you think we, the Church as a whole, are doing enough to bring the gospel to “all nations”?  Explain.



Verse 19 is probably the clearest statement of belief in the Trinity found in the New Testament.  This Gospel was probably written in the 80s A.D., which shows that even as early as then Christians recognized that God needed to be described in terms of three Persons.  Some skeptics like to claim that the idea of the Trinity was created in the 300s under Constantine.  This is simply not true.  Although some of the final doctrinal language was worked out then, Matthew 28:19 shows that the concept of the Trinity had already been around for more than 200 years before the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325 codified the doctrinal language we use to describe the Trinity.


How does talking about God in terms of all three Persons of the Trinity help us to get to know God better?


Do you find yourself relating more to one of the Persons of the Trinity than another – for example, do you focus more on God as Father, or relate more to Jesus than you do to the Holy Spirit?  What value might there be in trying to relate to God in all three Persons of the Trinity?



In verse 20, Matthew ends his Gospel with an assuring statement.  What does Jesus say?


Considering how daunting it might seem to spread the good news to the entire world, how is this statement comforting?


How might Jesus’s assurance that he is with us always be an encouragement that spurs us on to greater efforts?


Where in your life right now do you need to hear these words: “I am with you always,” even to the end of time?



If you had 30 seconds to tell someone the core of the gospel, what would you include in your short testimony or witness or summary of what the Christian faith is all about?


If someone asked you why they should care about Jesus – what difference does it make – how would you respond?



Conclusion of Matthew’s Gospel


Look back through the entire Gospel of Matthew before answering these two questions:


  1. What do you think Matthew wants his readers to do in response to his account of the life and teachings of Jesus?  Please don’t stop at something simple like, “He wants us to believe.”  Yes, of course he does.  But what would that look like?  What does he want us to do or how does he want us to live our lives as our response to Jesus?

  2. What is your favorite story, quote, or teaching from Matthew’s Gospel, or what part of this Gospel strikes you as most important or most meaningful, and why?


[If you are studying together in a small group, ask everyone to respond to at least one of these questions and perhaps both, starting with the first questions and then moving to the second question after everyone who wants to share on the first question has done so.]



Take a step back and consider this:


Matthew’s Gospel is a call to “go” and “do” – to help those in need, to share the good news, to live a transformed life.  Matthew is not content with words; he wants to us to put our faith into action.  That is the core of his Gospel.  Matthew hopes his Gospel will help us understand at least 5 things:


  • First, Jesus seeks to transform our thinking in response to his downside-up view of the world, to see things from the perspective of those at the bottom of the social scale.

  • Second, Jesus calls us to make changes in how we live our everyday lives, in order to be all that God intends us to be and not just avoid breaking the rules of the Law.

  • Third, Jesus expects us to help those most in need and recognize that when we minister to them, we are ministering to him.

  • Fourth, Jesus calls his followers to share with others what he has taught them and help people become part of the kingdom of heaven.

  • Fifth, this message is meant for all people in all nations, not just an exclusive group or those we like or get along with easily.  The good news is for everyone.  The kingdom of heaven is open to everyone who responds.


This is a visionary life we have been called to, and we have been given the privilege of receiving Jesus’s invitation to live it fully, with him.


We can’t do everything, everywhere, all at once.  As you end this study of the Gospel of Matthew, what is one thing you might consider doing differently starting right now – perhaps, focusing on one change you can make in how you think, how you live, who you help, how you share, and who you welcome in the life you have in Christ?



Click here for the bibliography.

Copyright © 2024, Tom Faletti (Faith Explored, This material may be reproduced in whole or in part without alteration, for nonprofit use, provided such reproductions are not sold and include this copyright notice or a similar acknowledgement that includes a reference to Faith Explored and See for more materials like this.

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