The Great Commission
In Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-18)
While in Galilee, the eleven apostles met with Jesus on a mountain where Jesus as previously told them to go. The eleven worshiped him, but even at this late time, Matthew mentions that some still had doubts. A few commentators wonder if this meeting was attended by more than just the eleven and might have been the meeting of 500 mentioned in I Corinthians 15:6. If so, they then explain the doubters as being among the 500 disciples. More likely, however, is the mentioning of their doubts is to let us know that these were honest men who were not easily pull into a false scheme. That they had become convinced by the day of Pentecost shows the strength of the evidence that they witnessed.
Jesus declared that all authority has now been given to him, both on earth and in heaven; thus fulfilling Psalms 8:6 and Daniel 7:13-14. Paul also talks about Jesus’ authority in I Corinthians 15:27-28, Ephesians 1:20-23, and Philippians 2:9-11. This isn’t limited authority, but absolute and complete authority over all the works of God.
From that position of authority, Jesus commissions the disciples to do the task he had been preparing them to accomplish. They were to go into all the world and make disciples of Jesus from all the nations (Isaiah 52:10; Romans 10:18; Colossians 1:23). This would be done by baptizing them with the authority of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – the full authority of the entire Godhead. Such an absolute command based on such authority ought to make everyone wonder why some declare baptize to be unnecessary. A person who believes and is baptized – two equal conditions to be met – would be saved, but a failure in just one, such as a lack of belief would result in condemnation.
Signs would be given to these disciples so that those hearing them would see evidence that their teaching was from God. With Jesus’ authority they would be able to cast out demons (Acts 16:16-18), speak in new languages (Acts 2:4), can survive handling serpents (Acts 28:3-6), won’t be poisoned, and heal those who are sick (Acts 5:15-16).
These new disciples are then to be taught all the things that Jesus had taught them. One Christian passing on his knowledge to the next generation of Christians (II Timothy 2:2). The emphasis is on what Jesus taught and not on what the disciples thought. It isn’t teaching for knowledge alone, but instructions in how to live in accordance to those teachings (James 1:22-25).
Jesus promises all his disciples, not just the ones with him then, but also those who would come after them, that he would be with them throughout the rest of earth’s history (Isaiah 43:2; Matthew 18:20; Revelation 1:18).
In Jerusalem (Luke 24:44-49)
While many similar themes are touched upon in Luke’s account as those found in Matthew and Mark, there is enough differences to cause one to believe this took place at another time and location. Verse 49 leads us to conclude that this event took place in Jerusalem. Whether it took place before or after his appearance in Galilee is not easily determined. But, it also doesn’t make any difference in understanding the duties laid upon the disciples by Jesus.
Jesus explains to the disciples that while he was with them, he had told them what must happen for the fulfillment of the prophecies concerning him. There were prophecies concerning the Messiah in all parts of the Old Testament, in the Law, the Prophets, and in the Psalms. He then went through the Scriptures, as he did with the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, to help them understand the Scriptures. He concluded that thus it was written and thus it was necessary for him to have suffered, die, and rise from the dead three days later.
But those same prophecies mean that the teaching of repentance and remission of sins must be preached to the whole world, starting in Jerusalem (Psalm 22:27; Isaiah 49:6; Jeremiah 31:34; Micah 4:2; Malachi 1:11). The disciples were witnesses of these things and, thus, would be the ones to carry the message of salvation to the world.
Once again Jesus reminds them that he would be sending the promised Holy Spirit to them (John 14:16-17, 26). Therefore, it was necessary for them to wait in Jerusalem until the Spirit came (Isaiah 44:3).