The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)
“After I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee” (Matthew 26:32). An angel reminds the disciples, through the women who came to the tomb, what Jesus had announced to them on the eve of his death: “Go quickly and tell his disciples: He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him” (Matthew 28:7).
They were from Galilee; that is where Jesus called them. Risen from the dead, he waited for them again in Galilee, the place where they were at home. The end of the Gospel returns to its beginning. The encounter with the Risen Lord will be a return to the beginnings.
It will also be an anticipation of the end. The expression “you will see him” reminds us of what Jesus said about the coming of his kingdom. In the promise “there you will see him” the disciples could not but hear: “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:28). They were expecting Jesus as “the Son of man sitting at the right hand of God” (Matthew 26:64), the one whose kingdom would have no end.
That is why they hesitate when they see Jesus on the hill of Galilee. Just as the wise men from the East bowed down before the newborn king in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:11), they bow down and worship. But they “doubted”; they hesitate. Are they really in the presence of the Son of man of whom the prophet affirmed: “He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him” (Daniel 7:14)?
Jesus is completely clear: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” In the beginning, on another mountain in the wilderness, he had refused to receive “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor” (Matthew 4:8) that the devil offered him if he would only despise God. Now, through his passion and resurrection, God his Father gives him “all authority in heaven and on earth.” He is the king of all countries, of all nations.
The words of the risen Jesus form a poem in which each line, except the one in the middle on baptism, contain the word “all”: “all authority,” “all nations,” “everything I have commanded you,” “always.” All authority was given to Jesus as an equal with God, but it is a disconcerting authority. Jesus imposes nothing. To exercise his kingship, he sends his disciples out to teach and to prepare other disciples. His kingdom does not grow through conquests but by the humble and persistent teaching of what he commanded.
“So go towards people of every nation!” His disciples can never settle down anywhere. Jesus sends them out on the road like God sent Abraham: “Go…. Through you, I will bless all the nations on earth” (Genesis 12:1-3). And he tells them: “I will be with you always.” He always comes. Each day, he is “the one who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 21:9). Each day, he is “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). His disciples will be on the road until the end of time. But wherever they are, Jesus assures them of his daily coming and his presence.
What is my Galilee? Where is Christ waiting for me? How do I welcome his daily coming?
Towards whom are we sent to invite them to set out in the steps of Jesus?
What commands of Jesus, notably in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7) are particularly meaningful to me to put into practice and propose to others to practice?