Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and learners! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com. In this week’s Lesson, we continue in Matthew where we left off last week and then transition to the Acts of the Apostles. Jesus has been resurrected, he has left the women along the road who were going to tell the disciples to meet him in Galilee and Jesus and the disciples are now in Galilee. While in Galilee, Jesus appears to the eleven disciples and after all they have seen, heard, and experienced some still doubt. Jesus gives the great commission to the disciples essentially telling them that the Gospel message is not just for Israel, but for all the world. When the lesson transitions to Acts, the disciples want to know if Jesus will now restore the kingdom to Israel. Again, He points them not to a worldly kingdom but to be witnesses to all the world. Stay tuned to learn about our call and commissioning and how we are called to make disciples.
Background for today’s text begins with The Gospel according to Matthew and then transitions to The Acts of The Apostles:
This is the fifth week we’ve studied the Gospel According to Matthew. This week I’ll simply reinforce a few of the central themes to remember and then cover the background of Acts. Matthew is written about 70 A.D. after the fall of the temple. It is written to Jewish Christians who are struggling with their own identity. They are not accepted in the mainstream Jewish community because they believe in the divinity of Jesus. Matthew writes to reassure them of God’s plan and God’s place in their lives. While writing to this group of Jewish Christians, Matthew provides sacred hope and guidance to a marginalized community that is every bit relevant today as it was when written.
The New Interpreter’s Study Bible explains that The Acts of the Apostles “is a sequel to the Gospel of Luke and continues the narrative account of the early church”. The author is the same and Acts is written with similar theological themes, and style. Whereas Matthew is written primarily to Jewish Christians, Acts is written “to a mixed community of predominantly Gentile Christians about 80 and 85 A.D. shortly after the Gospel of Luke”. Additionally, “Luke, presumably a Gentile Christian, helps his readers to know how to remain faithful to tradition while reinterpreting it for their new circumstances”. So the book of Acts continues in this theme. Acts helps these mostly Gentile believers to both understand Jewish customs but also to know that they are not Jewish. Nor are they beholden to Jewish customs and tradition.
Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week:
Last week two women, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, went to see the sepulcher where Jesus was supposed to be. We discussed that perhaps Matthew was trying to tell us that:
1. It is women who first acted on the belief of the resurrection.
2. It was women who first saw the risen savior.
3. It is women who first proclaim that Jesus was raised from the dead.
You may also recall that there was a great earthquake, the earth shook. And the Angel of the Lord certainly delivered earth shaking news. The angle rolled back the stone of the sepulcher and told the women “Don’t be afraid; I know that you’re looking for Jesus who was crucified. And then the angel delivers perhaps the greatest news of all time. “He’s not here; for he has been raised, as he said”. Then the Angel tells them to “go quickly and tell the disciples that he is risen from the dead; he will meet you in Galilee”. The women leave to proclaim the resurrection and as they went to tell his disciples, Jesus met them along the way. Jesus tells them again “go tell my brethren to go to Galilee and there they shall see me”. We noted how Jesus calls the disciples his brethren. He calls them brethren even after they have denied, rejected and fled from him in his time of trouble.
Finally, the text describes how the priests attempt to cover up the resurrection of Jesus by bribing the guards to say his disciples stole the body while they slept. We discussed the two different messages that left the tomb. Boyd’s Commentary mentioned “The women with a message of hope and victory for the disciples, and the guards with a message of confusion and failure for the chief priests”. Then the women go forth proclaiming the victory of Jesus. He lives! This week we pick up where we left off in Matthew and continue into Acts 1. We explore the ideas of Call and Commissioning in Townsend Commentary and Boyd’s Commentary and Called to Make Disciples in Standard Commentary. The Scripture text comes from Matthew 28:16-20 and Acts 1:6-8.
What Takes Place in This Passage:
Verse 16 The text begins in Matthew exactly where it ended last week. The resurrection of Jesus has just occurred and now the eleven disciples have gone away to Galilee. The scene begins with Jesus now in Galilee after the resurrection. Verse 17 tells us when they saw Jesus they worshipped him but some doubted. After all they had heard, seen, and experienced some of the disciples still doubted. I suppose that can be said of many people today. After all God has done in and with and through, and for us, some still doubt.
Verse 18 tells us Jesus spoke to them saying “all power (or all authority) in heaven and on earth has been given to me”. Townsend Commentary explains this term from power or authority means “the power of influence and the right of privilege”. In other words, Jesus has all the right, all the privilege, all the freedom and all the license to stand as God has given him victory over death. After his announcement Jesus gives them instructions. He begins by telling the disciples to go. And let me just interject here that God is a sending God. He tells the disciples to go. But not just to go, but to go and teach. The Savior, who was once called teacher, now sends his disciples to teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
This is the great commission. This is the commission that Jesus gives the disciples and that commission applies to all who call the name of Jesus as their Savior. Townsend Commentary tells us that it is “after the death and resurrection of Jesus that the limitation of the Gospel to Israel is removed. In other words, the good news is not just for Israel anymore. The direct commission is given to take the message of Jesus to all nations. Only Matthew records the command of Jesus for them to baptize”.
It’s also interesting to note that entire denominations have been started based on whether people baptize in the name of the Holy Ghost. Sometimes we can make mountains out of mole hills. Trinity I also want to highlight the fact that verse 19 is one of the few places in scripture where we see mentioned the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost in the same place. While you won’t find this term in the protestant Bible, the doctrine of the Trinity refers to these three distinct personalities as the same person.
Verse 20 closes with Jesus reassuring the disciples that “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” That is perhaps the second greatest news of all time. Knowing that Jesus is present with us in good times and not so good times helps us to bear the burdens and trials and tribulations of life.
Our text then moves to Acts chapter one verse six. In this scene the disciples are gathered together and they ask Jesus “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel”. The disciples are envisioning Jesus on the throne much like King David reined on the throne about one thousand years earlier.
Jesus tells them in verse seven, “it is not for you to know the times or the dates the Father has set by his own authority”. So Jesus plainly tells them you don’t need to know. There are some things that we simply can’t know and some things we just don’t need to know. There are some things that God is going to handle in God’s own good time.
But Jesus doesn’t leave them there. In verse eight he tells them “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. And you will be witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”. Again, in the book of Acts we see Jesus is a sending God. He sends his disciples into the entire world to become witnesses of who Jesus was and what Jesus means to the world. Again, this is our mission today, to be witnesses for Jesus Christ in our everyday living.
A few weeks ago I mentioned how a few decades ago several truly amazing young men and women and I were commissioned as Second Lieutenants in the United States Army. We swore the oath of office to support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. That commissioning oath was our fundamental baseline purpose. Everything we would do over the next years and decades would be tied to that oath. The last time I took the oath of office was for my promotion to Lieutenant Colonel. I’ve been retired over a decade now, but hearing the words of the oath still holds special meaning to me. In today’s text, Jesus gives his great commission to the disciples. He empowers them and he empowers us to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This is our great commission and the words of the commission should hold special meaning to every Christian today.
Key Characters in the text:
Jesus Christ – Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah and according to the Christian church the incarnate second Person of the Trinity. He was crucified on a cross and raised from the dead by the power of God (Acts 3:15; 13:30). His followers (Christians) worship him and seek to obey his will.
Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion):
Missionary – One who is sent on a mission, usually by the church, with a focus on sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ in some way.
Trinity, Doctrine of the – The Christian church’s belief that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three Persons in one Godhead. They share the same essence or substance. Yet they are three “persons”. God is this way within the Godhead and as known in Christian experience.
The Great Commission – The command of Jesus to his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel, as recorded in Matthew 28:19-20. While some scholars dispute its authenticity as being Jesus’ own utterance, the passage has served as a warrant for the church to spread the gospel and for Christian evangelism.
Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas:
- God is a sending God
- When God sends you, God is with you
1) Does the great commission apply to all Christians today?
2) Some of the disciples doubted after Jesus appeared to them in Galilee. Discuss why they might have doubted.
The great commission is a charge to every Christian to make disciples. One does not have to be a preacher to do this. In fact, many fathers and mothers have discipled their children and children’s friends for Jesus Christ. The points is, we all should go forth into our own communities and make disciples for Jesus. It is our job to teach and train the words of Christ. It is the Holy Spirits job to do the rest.
Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:
Next week we begin a four week study in the book of Romans. Jesus has now been resurrected and he has given us the great commission. Over the next four weeks we will explore the spread of the Gospel in relation to our own calling. We will hear a very familiar passage in Romans 3 verse 23. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”.