Theological Reflection from Matthew 28:16-20

In Matthew 28:16-20, we see that Jesus gathers his people and proclaims the gospel. He focuses on the climax of his work, reigning as the King who has all authority on heaven and on earth. I’ve read, memorized, and studied this verse a hundred times over and never noticed that Jesus is actually proclaiming the gospel. And yet, this is not what primarily stood out to me.

In Genesis 1, the first instance where authority, rule, or dominion is mentioned is when we see the LORD giving the early humans full dominion over all of creation. From the very beginning God reveals that his purposes in creation is to form a partnership with humans.

Of course we know how that ends right? In their infant like spiritual states, they are quite easily deceived into thinking that God is withholding something from them. They are told by one of the creatures in the garden, “The Lord knows that when you eat of the fruit you will become like God.” Eve should have responded with, “We are already like God. He has made us in his image. We own everything that you see. They only thing we are free not to do is eat of this tree.” We all know how the story goes. They eat of the fruit and the world is spun into chaos. Sin and death enter the world as humans reject their vocation and throne in exchange for a meal. For centuries, sin and death wreaks havoc in the world. Nothing is left untouched by the decaying presence of evil. Despite continued beauty in the world, fruitless toil, chaos, frustration, and death have their hands on everything.

Then enters Jesus. He of course comes as Israel’s promised Messiah. He proclaims the in-breaking of God’s rule to defeat the forces that inhibited humanity from continuing in her vocation to rule in self-emptying love like God. Jesus is eventually betrayed by his on people, denied by his closest friends, and killed unjustly by state power. But God. On the third day God raises Jesus up and vindicates him as the true Messiah and rightful Lord of the world.

Jesus announces the climax of the good news he embodied and proclaimed, that all authority has been given to him. It seems that all authority is given to him because only he knows what to do with it right? He does alone what humanity should have done collectively. If one of us was given responsibility to rule an inheritance after the last guy burned down the shop, we’d probably consolidate as much power as possible.

The good news is that Jesus is not like us. He does not see authority like we do. He does not seek to consolidate authority for himself. He does not think, “Maybe I should give my authority to people I know will not make a mess of things.” But authority embodied by Jesus is not about meticulous control. It is about empowerment and freedom into a life transforming vocation.

Jesus is worshipped by some and doubted by others as seen in vs 17. And yet, he immediately shares his authority with them too. Isn’t it odd that one of the first things that Jesus does, after going through the agony of the cross because of human sin is to empower his disciples with authority to go into the world proclaiming good news and making disciples? Even those who are doubting and unsure?

It seems to me that God is just unwilling to let his purposes go. He is not content to move on without having humans as his co-partners in ruling creation as mature and genuine image bearers. God’s authority, revealed in Jesus is not something to be hoarded but something to share.

Reflection

  • What are your thoughts on this?

  • What changes for us if God’s authority is less about control and more about empowerment?