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Matthew 28:16-20

The Greatest Commission

  • Matthew Dodd
  • Sunday Night Messages
  • January 26, 2020

Have you ever wondered, “Why am I here?” or “What is my purpose in life?” If so, you are not alone. Deep within all of us there is a desire to make our lives count. Deep within all of us, there is a longing to be part of something that is great so that when all is said and done, we can look back on our lives and feel that our lives mattered, that we made a difference.

In Matthew 28:16-20, we’re going to study the last five verses of Matthew’s Gospel which record three simple yet magnificent statements from Jesus; statements which reveal why what has been called The Great Commission should actually be called The Greatest Commission.

  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

The Greatest Commission

Matthew 28:16-20                                  


  1. Have you ever wondered, “Why am I here?” or “What is my purpose in life?” If so, you are not alone.
  2. Deep within all of us there is a desire to make our lives count.
  3. Deep within all of us there is a longing to be part of something that is great so that when all is said and done, we can look back on our lives and feel that our lives mattered, that we made a difference.
  4. Tonight, we’re going to study the last five verses of Matthew’s Gospel which record three simple yet magnificent statements from Jesus; statements which reveal why what has been called The Great Commission should actually be called The Greatest Commission.            

Matthew 28:16-20


  1. This is our last study in the Gospel of Matthew.
  2. The last five verses of Matthew’s Gospel have profound significance because they capture some of Jesus’ final instructions to His disciples before He ascended to heaven to be seated at the right-hand of the Father.
  3. In essence, these verses reveal the next phase of God’s plan for the ages; The Greatest Commission ever given to mankind.

Transition – Why is this “The Greatest Commission” ever?

I.  There is No Greater Savior (18) 

  • During the Last Supper, Jesus promised His disciples that they would see Him again in Galilee after He was raised from the dead.

Matthew 26:32, But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.

  • Then, on the first Sunday morning after Jesus died, angels announced His resurrection and also reminded the disciples of Jesus’ words; to go to Galilee and meet Him.

Matthew 28:7, Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.

  • So that’s what the eleven apostles along with some other disciples did; they travelled north to Galilee, “to the mountain which Jesus had designated.” (16)
  • Here, Matthew recorded the eighth post-resurrection appearance of Jesus.
  • Some scholars believe that this passage corresponds to the post-resurrection appearance mentioned by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15; when Jesus appeared to over 500 disciples at one time.

1 Corinthians 15:6, After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep

  • This would explain why most “worshiped” Jesus when they saw Him coming towards them and “some were doubtful.” (17)
  • Jesus had appeared to His apostles and to some of His other disciples in Jerusalem.
  • But others had only heard about the resurrection from the eyewitnesses and had not seen Jesus with their own eyes; this was their first time.
  • So, they “were doubtful” at first.
  • But it is important to note that Matthew did not record that those disciples “remained doubtful”.

APPL – As Jesus spoke with them, I am convinced that their doubt turned to joy, and their joy turned to worship because they were convinced that Jesus is alive!

  • Suddenly, it all made sense; Jesus’ death and resurrection.
  • God had a plan and His plan revealed His heart for us.      

A.  There is no greater love – Jesus died for us

  1. The last several weeks we’ve been looking at the big picture of God’s plan.
  2. We went all the way back to Adam and saw that we were part of what happened when he rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden.
  3. You might say, “We were in Adam when he sinned; in his loins.”
  4. As a result, Adam’s sin became our problem because we are all born with a sin nature.
  5. But Adam’s sin isn’t our only problem because we have plenty of our own sins as well.
  6. All of this sin created greatest problem for mankind.

        a.  Our sin has separated us from God.

        b.  Our sin has left us with broken and empty lives.

        c.  Our sin has brought condemnation without any hope for eternity.

Ephesians 2:1-3, And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

  1. But before the foundation of the world God’s determined plan was to send His own Son to reveal His love for us.

     a.  To set us free from condemnation.

     b.  To heal our broken and empty lives.

     c.  To give us eternal hope.

     8.  What did God’s Son, Jesus Christ do to reveal God’s love? Jesus died for us.

     a.  Jesus paid the penalty for our sin.

     b.  Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath that should have been ours to drink.

     9.  But Jesus did not remain in the grave. He rose again on the third day; defeating sin and death; that it might not be master over us any longer.

APPL – Why did God do this? Because God loves us and wants to fill what is empty and heal what is broken in our lives because of sin.  

Ephesians 2:4-6, But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus

APPL – So, for all who place their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior, asking Him to forgive their sins and give them the gift of eternal life, will be saved from condemnation, and will be adopted into God’s family as His sons and daughters, so that they might have an eternal relationship with Him.

Ephesians 2:8-9, For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

APPL – You will never find a greater love than the love that God has for you.

  • God’s love is sacrificial.
  • God’s love is unconditional.
  • God’s love is eternal. 

ILLUS – A phone call about God’s love

Romans 5:8, But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

B.  There is no greater authority – Jesus has it all

  1. Jesus’ words in verse 18 are simple yet profound, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”
  2. Throughout this Gospel, Matthew recorded how people were struck by the authority of Jesus’ words and works.

     a.  He taught with authority. (Matthew 7:29)

     b.  He has authority to cleanse lepers and heal all sickness and disease. (Matthew 8:1-13)

     c.  He has authority to forgive sins. (Matthew 9:6)

     d.  He has authority over Satan and his demons. (Matthew 10:1)

APPL – We must stop and, as best we can, consider what this means. I submit that this is one of the greatest statements Jesus’ ever made concerning His sovereignty.

  • Jesus’ authority is universal.
  • Jesus’ authority is unrestricted.
  • Jesus’ authority is inexhaustible. 

APPL – As born-again Christians we must understand, as much as our finite minds can comprehend, who Jesus is.

  • In one important sense, Jesus has all authority because He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things.

Colossians 1:16-17, For by Him all things were created, 

both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

  • But after His death and resurrection, the Father gave all authority over heaven and earth to Jesus.

Philippians 2:8-11, Being found in appearance as a man, 

He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God 

highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

APPL – We struggle with “authority figures” because, in our fallen world, those who have authority sometimes abuse those under their authority. Not so with Jesus. He uses His authority for our good.

John 10:10, The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (NIV)

  • Since Jesus has all authority, we can obey Him without fear.
  • We can trust Him wherever He leads us.
  • We can have courage no matter what circumstances we face.
  • Jesus is in control.
  • By Jesus death and resurrection, He has defeated all enemies and received all authority.

II.  There is No Greater News (19-20)

ILLUS – We all like to receive good news.

  • God has a message for the world, and He has entrusted that message to us.
  • In verses 19-20, Matthew recorded how Jesus wants us to share His Good News.

A.  There is no greater mission – Make disciples

  1. At first glance, it appears that Jesus’ first command is to “Go” but “Go” is not the command, “Make disciples” is what He commanded us to do.
  2. In fact, Jesus’ words are more accurately translated this way, “While you are going, make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.”
  3. From this we discover how to “make disciples.” There are three steps:

     a.  First, we must “Go” into the world.

     b.  Second, we must “Baptize” those who confess faith in Jesus Christ.

     c.  Third, we must “Teach” disciples to observe all that Jesus commanded.

     4.  First, we must “Go”. The meaning of the word in Greek is not complicated. It means, “Go!”

     5.  It is necessary to go. We don’t say to people, “Come to church.” We must go to them with the Gospel.

APPL – Imagine what the world would be like, what people’s lives would be like, if no one took the Good News to the world.

APPL – But friends tell their friends the Good News!

  • It’s interesting that if you look at who Jesus reached out to with God’s love; it’s very revealing about God’s heart.
  • He invited a tax collector to come follow Him.
  • He delivered a harlot from seven demons.
  • He spoke to a woman who had been married five times and was living with a man.
  • He delivered a naked, demon-possessed man who was living in a cemetery.
  • If Jesus reached out to them with God’s love, how much more does He want us to reach out to those we know and love with the Greatest News of all?
  • This may surprise you, but I suggest that the world expects us to tell them about Jesus. 

ILLUS – An atheist’s thoughts about those who do not share their faith in Jesus Christ.

Romans 10:14-15, How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!”                   

APPL – Now, there are reasons Christians don’t share the Good News with others.

  • They might feel like they don’t have all the answers and they’re afraid they will be asked something they can’t answer.
  • But as we grow in our faith, we will be ready to give an answer; and God will help us!

1 Peter 3:15, Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (NIV)

  • When you don’t know an answer to a question, be honest and tell them. Then find the answer and go back and tell them.
  • There are many great resources to help you grow, such a book written by one of my professors, Norman Geisler. He co-authored a book with Frank Turek called, “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.”
  • The best way to tell people about the Good News is to begin by loving them and serving them; building a relationship of mutual respect with them.
  • Yet, don’t be ashamed to tell them about Jesus and what He has done for you. 
  1. Second, we must “Baptize” those who profess saving faith in Jesus Christ.
  2. Today, there are those who do not think baptism is important because we are not “saved” when we are baptized.
  3. But Jesus said it is important. Baptism is a public declaration of one’s faith in Jesus Christ; a testimony of their relationship to Him in His death, burial, and resurrection.
  4. One scholar noted that the Greek word for baptism means “to become the property of.”
  5. It is a recognition of our identification with Jesus.
  6. It is a declaration that we are part of Him and His company of disciples, the Church.
  7. Third, we must “Teach” them about Jesus and His commands so that they may observe them.
  8. To teach means “to instruct.”
  9. Jesus’ words are power, life, and truth.
  10. Jesus’ words bring light to the darkness and hope where there is hopelessness.


APPL – I am so grateful that we are committed to making disciples at Calvary.

  • We teach through the Bible chapter by chapter, verse by verse so that people may know Jesus’ words and apply them to their lives.
  • We baptize those who profess faith in Jesus.
  • We provide opportunities through Children’s Ministry, Youth Ministry, Young Adults Ministry, Growth Groups and Multiply Groups for people of all ages to grow in their relationship with Jesus.
  • Why? Because as Pastor Chuck Smith once said, “Healthy sheep beget healthy sheep!”

B.  There is no greater comfort – Jesus is with us

  1. Before we look at Jesus’ third statement recorded by Matthew, we must remember the context.
  2. Jesus had been with His disciples almost daily for three years; doing life together.

     a.  When the disciples woke up each morning, all they needed to do was follow Jesus.

     b.  When they went to bed at night, no worries about the next day because all they needed to do was follow Jesus.

     3.  But now, Jesus was about to leave. Not only that, He just commissioned them to the greatest work in human history, to be His ambassadors and spread His Good News.

     a.  And remember who His disciples were.

     b.  They were not what you would call “first-round draft picks.”

     c.  They were regular guys, fishermen and a tax collector. Some had anger issues. All were very competitive. One frequently said the wrong thing at the wrong time.

     d.  Who, from this group, would be sufficient for the Greatest of all Commissions? No one from this group.

     4.  Then Jesus said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

APPL – Oh, what great words of comfort and assurance.

  • If Jesus is with us, we can do anything He asks.
  • If Jesus is with us, it doesn’t matter what we go through for He has all authority.
  • He loves me. His grace is more than enough for me.
  • He will guide me, strengthen me, and never, ever leave me.

ILLUS – “I love you, Dad!?!”


ILLUS – Dr. G. Campbell Morgan once shared about a time early in his ministry when the last verse of Matthew impacted him deeply.

APPL – What a fitting end to the Gospel of Matthew.

  • It began with an angelic proclamation of Jesus’ birth to Mary’s fiancé, Joseph, “Behold, the virgin shall be withchild and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)
  • And it ends with, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”



Matthew 28:16-20   NASB

16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 [a]Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you [b]always, even to the end of the age.”

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