bible blog 1321

This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:


mother and child

mother and child

Matthew 28:16-20

J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)

16-17 But the eleven went to the hill-side in Galilee where Jesus had arranged to meet them, and when they had seen him they worshipped him, though some of them were doubtful.

18-20 But Jesus came and spoke these words to them, “All power in Heaven and on earth has been given to me. You, then, are to go and make disciples of all the nations and baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to observe all that I have commanded you and, remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”

go yeThis brief and laconic narrative is Matthew’s summing up of the resurrection faith of the disciples.

1. Like Mark, Matthew points to Galilee as the key rendezvous of the risen Jesus and his disciples. This is covers a whole history, which we cannot know, of how the resurrection faith emerged after the crucifixion. Galilee is named as the homeland of Jesus and his disciples, the place of Jesus’ ministry, from which the mission of the disciples probably began. Matthew makes it a hill, because he wants to remind the reader of the hill where Jesus preached his gospel (“sermon on the mount”) and other hills in his narrative such as the hill of the transfiguration, the Hill of Olives and the hill of Golgotha, that especially depict Jesus as God’s beloved son.Matthew is quite specific about the nature of resurrection faith: it is to worship Jesus. That represents a huge jump for people brought up in Jewish faith for whom it is axiomatic that God only is to be worshipped. To worship Jesus is to reckon him as God or at the very least, as God’s unique representative. This is the dividing line between Christianity and Judaism and Islam, both of which see Christian worship of Jesus as blasphemy.

2. Jesus’ words proclaim his divine authority. It is a derived authority, given by God, but it is comprehensive, over heaven and earth. This universal authority is also a universal gospel which the disciples are to carry to all nations. It has three elements:

a) immersion (baptism)  in the character (name) of God who is no longer “Yahwe” (the holy unspoken name of God in Judaism) but “father, son and holy spirit”, that is, the God revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the son of God. 

b) training in the teaching and example of Jesus

c) trust in Jesus’ presence in the believing community

A narrative not a formula

A narrative not a formula

It’s important not to interpret this passage in terms of later ecclesiastical and theological developments. Baptism here  is the dynamic incorporation of a believer into the nature of God who has sent his son to represent his compassionate justice in the world and has raised him up in the power of his holy spirit. The disciple must learn that compassionate justice from Jesus and be empowered by that spirit. The nature of God is not a fixed formula but a transforming story.






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