Matthew 28:11-20 Part 3


One of the greatest theologians of our era, Benjamin Warfield (just before he died), said, of the mainline Presbyterian denomination, “It has become rotten wood.”

The unholy alliance of humanism and higher criticism had captured the leadership of Presbyterianism, and the Church had begun its slide into Theological liberalism.  And now in seventy years the absence of the Reformation Theology of our forefathers has left our country to descend into its present condition.

All errors are Theological errors.  All trouble is Theological trouble.  All social/cultural declines are Theologically based, moral declines.  For “what God said” is always replaced with “what man says”… every time.  And the ones in the “pews” of the Churches are subtly turned (a little here, a little there) to accepting less of what God said and a little more of what men say.

And the “paradigm” of Theological acceptability shifts, doesn’t it?  We hear an argument here and one there from our peers; and there’s a criticism of Presbyterianism, or about the “hardness” of Calvinism, and so, somewhat intimidated, we just put a little bit of this human reason in there!  And we allow some of that “practice”.  Or we feel a little more tolerant of that organization.

And (in a matter of a short generation or two) what was once a great Church standing strong on the Words of God and holding firm against the world order, has now “accommodated” itself to its “more modern” surroundings.  What is “acceptable” has shifted down to a lower level.  And it’s not a coincidence that the spiritual decline of this culture coincides with the decline of Reformed preaching… and a Reformed worldview!  As Reformed Christianity goes… so goes the society!

Now, that is not to say that a human attempt at systematizing the Scriptures is error free!  All human ventures are prone to mistakes or misinterpretations.  But that is not an argument that can be used to justify accommodation with the world… or to justify compromise with competing religious thought!

The basic tenet of the Reformed Faith is that God’s view of His Own creation is right!  If He said it, that’s the way we, as creatures, must think.  And that’s the way we have to do it.  And anything else is competition with God!  And competition with God is sin and rebellion.  The original sin, by which we all sinned and died, was a refusal to think God’s thought after Him.

Human reason (when it’s in competition with God’s reason) is idolatry.  It’s putting the thought of man in place of the thought of God.  And God has promised that, when we do that, human ruin (the ruin of individuals, the ruin of families, the ruin of societies and cultures) is not far behind (and eternal judgment and condemnation not far behind that).  For God will not put up with His creatures thinking their own thoughts rather than His!  (It’s the pot questioning the Potter about His reason and motives!)

Now, with that basic tenet of the Faith in mind, our Lord Jesus Christ said that His “little ones” – those “reborn in Him” would judge men and angels!  We are to take the Words of God (which are right) and judge all things by that “standard” (world view).  And if whatever we’re “judging” meets that standard, then it’s good!  If it doesn’t, then it’s in competition with God!

So we’re to take Gods’ thought… God’s reason… God’s view of things, and judge the world by it.  (If men make judgments by their own human reason – not in accord with God’s reason – then they will be judged by their own standard!)  Jesus said that in the Sermon of the Mount!  But in judging by His standard, we’re in accord with His Word and magnifying His Priesthood and Kingship.)

But the state of the Church today (and, so, the condition of the society), is due to Theological “accommodation” with the world order… accommodation with human reason.  Many theologians and “ecclesiastics” and pastors have sought accommodation with competing thought.  They have not “thought God’s thought after Him”, and they have not judged the world by that standard!  And that whole process has made its way into the congregations and families of Presbyterians all over the country.

And in order for that decline to be reversed there must be repentance and turning back in faith to the original tenet of the Reformed Faith:  “If God said it, it’s right.”  No more… no less.  Don’t add anything to it or take anything away from it!  If you do, you’re competing with God… and ruin is close at hand.  (That’s a promise from God.)

So, once again, the idea that, since the Reformed Faith doesn’t interpret the Truth infallibly, therefore we can accommodate other thought that competes with God, is a specious and empty argument!  Our fallibility or infallibility isn’t the issue.  Whether every word and comma and period of the Westminster Confession of Faith is perfect is not the topic!

“Attacking the messenger” is a dubious method of relieving the pressure that’s applied by the Word of God!  When confronted with absolute authority, men “kick at the goads” and attack the messenger, saying, “well, you’re not perfect!”  (It’s a specious method, but, unfortunately, it usually works.)

But the “real” issue is whether the Church conforms its thought to God’s thought.  If it doesn’t, it’s a competitor!  If it accommodates itself to the world, if it delights itself in compromise with human reason, if it conforms itself to look more like the world order, then it’s in competition with God.  And whatever competes with God is idolatry.  Whoever competes with God is an idolater.  Whatever organization competes with God, that organization is idolatrous!

The Reformation Faith, as deposited in the Presbyterian Church in the new world, was compromised.  God’s authority to interpret His Own creation and direct its history was questioned by its own pastors and teachers!  And their own interpretation was supplied instead!  They thought it was better that their own reason and their own thought be used.  And they became competitors with God’s thought and God’s reason.

But Jesus said (right here in the last five verses of Matthew’s Gospel) that His disciples were to “discipline” the nations with all that He had said!  God the Son, The Word made Flesh, had left them with a vast depository of authoritative Truth.  The Word of God (what God the Son said) was the authority to bring the nations under the reign and rule of The King!

He did not say, “Reason through all of this and put your own interpretation on it… then go and teach the nations what you believe”!

No!  He said, “Go and disciple the nations with what I said”!!!

Now, as we heard earlier, it was the shepherds of Israel who did not do that.  They didn’t disciple the people by the Word of God… they led the nation by their own authority (which became perverted in every way).  And the absence of the authoritative Word of God resulted in national destitution, covenantal separation, and eventual destruction!

They questioned God’s authority; and the result was a competing religion….  And the word (logos) that was spread abroad among the people was that His disciples came and stole His body while the soldiers slept!

The original sin in the Garden of Eden was the questioning of God’s authority, wasn’t it?  “Did God say…?”  When one questions the authority of what God said, he puts himself in position of authority.  Because – only one with greater authority can question the authority of another!  When one questions what God said, and then reinterprets it to say what he thinks it ought to say, he assumes the authority to do that for himself!

The shepherds of Israel questioned God’s authority; then they twisted His Word; then they killed His Messiah; then they spread abroad a false religion which the people still believe to this day!

There are two religions in the world.  The first is made up of those who, because of Christ, know who they are and what they are; and they come under His authority; and by His grace they conform themselves to what God said.  It is being epistemologically self-aware.  The other religion consists of those who, by their own authority, compete with what God said!

And in this first few years of the third millennium after Christ’s birth, we are in a full-scale war against an entrenched enemy.  And there’s no “common ground” with him.  There can be no truce; there can be no “agree to disagree”; there can be no “cease-fire”!  And that’s the case because of what Jesus says here in this text, and many other places.


So with all that in mind let’s go to the text now and see exactly what it says.  We of course begin with verse sixteen:


“And the eleven disciples proceeded into Galilee into the mount where Jesus had, Himself, appointed to them.”


It’s not written anywhere, but apparently Jesus had named a specific mountain where the disciples were supposed to meet Him.

There have been attempts to justify this mountain or that one; but there’s no reason given in any of the texts of Scripture to think that a particular mountain had any significance.  Some have said that it’s probably the Mount of Transfiguration.  Others say that it’s certainly the one on which He fed the thousands who were following Him.

That’s pure speculation.  The mountain upon which Jesus was glorified wasn’t even in Galilee; and the place where Jesus fed His followers was on the way to Jerusalem from Galilee.  These are simply “sentimental” choices based on great events that happened in the past.

The point of Matthew’s text is that Jesus had appointed a place.  (Otherwise how would they find Him?)  And the place was on a mountain.  And the fact that it was on a mountain is very significant.  But I’ll come back to that in a minute.

As we said last Lord’s Day, Matthew omits all the other appearances of Jesus (recorded in the other Gospels), and he closes His Gospel record with this most notable one.  That doesn’t mean that he thought that this one alone was legitimate!  But he did think that this one alone was sufficient for his purpose!

You remember that the Word of God through the angel to the two women was then to be delivered to the disciples.  The message was that Jesus would “go before them into Galilee.”  Then Jesus Himself met them on the way, and He told them the same thing.  (“I will go before you into Galilee.”)  And all of this is set off in the text by the word “lo”, which, as we’ve seen many times, indicates an event of primary significance in the prophetic Word.

So, since our hermeneutic is “Reformed”, we are driven back to the texts which make this such a significant event.  And the one place in the Gospel record where Jesus prophecies the Galilee appearance is back in chapter twenty-six of Matthew.  There He tells His disciples that He is going to be crucified in Jerusalem; and He quotes Zechariah thirteen, verse seven to them as the prophecy which is about to be fulfilled!

Zechariah thirteen, seven records the spoken Word of Jahveh as He says that He is going to “smite” the Shepherd and “scatter” the sheep!  Truly Jesus was “smitten of God” (for our iniquities); and then sheep were scattered!  Because of the “smiting” of the Shepherd (because of Jesus’ crucifixion), the second half of the prophecy comes to bear – “I will smite the Shepherd and scatter the sheep”!  The disciples (and all those following Jesus) were “entrapped’ in His crucifixion; and there was, naturally, a major scattering – an exodus, if you will – from Jerusalem!

The very One who they all believed was going to be the next king of Israel had been tried, humiliated, beaten, falsely convicted of heresy and crucified; and all His followers, shocked and depressed, were now afraid of reprisals from both the Sanhedrin and from the Roman governor!  They had followed Him; they had sung with joy upon His triumphal entry into the city and then to the temple; they had stood with Him and made their presence known and felt in all the city!  So now there was fear that they would suffer the same end!

So they would flee the city, and Judah, and many would go back home and back to Galilee, and surrounding areas, to relative safety!  So, truly they were entrapped in Him and scattered… as was prophesied by Zechariah.

After quoting from Zechariah thirteen (Matthew twenty-six, thirty-two), Jesus then says that He would go before them (the scattered sheep) into Galilee where He would appear to them (at an appointed place)!  (Somewhere along the line Jesus had Himself appointed a mountain upon which He would appear to His disciples.  He would go “before them”; and when they got there He would be there.)  So – smite the Shepherd; scatter the sheep; meeting on a mountain!

Now, as I left the subject of the mountain before, I said I would come back to it; because this is extremely significant (especially in its context).

This is the major post-resurrection event; and it was certainly close to the time when Jesus would ascend into the Glory-cloud of angels which was before the Throne-room of God.  And the subject matter of His appearance is the disciples’ commission to the world!

So it shouldn’t be any surprise to us that Jesus would appoint a “mountain” as the location for His appearance; and, too, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the “mountain” location carries with it an entire body of Theology and history!

As Matthew writes, he is certainly aware that the Jewish people (to whom he writes) are familiar with “mountain Theology” (as I like to call it).  Therefore we need to be familiar with it too!

So we will take this last minute or two to revisit “mountain Theology”, for it is obvious from the text that it is Matthew’s intent that we should see this whole event (being the commission to the disciples) in the light of that context.

The Jews knew what “mountain” meant.  Abraham knew what he was looking for when he searched for the mountain where he was to sacrifice his only son.  God had apparently taught him what it looked like.  It had a “dome” which resembled the firmament of the creation – over which God ruled from His Judgment Seat.  That’s where the sacrifice would take place.

God then resided, temporarily, over the top of Mt. Sinai to give Israel the Law.  The “cloud” of angels engulfed it.  And it was a “picture” of God’s Throne-room/Judgment Seat.

King David knew exactly where the temple was to be built, even though he couldn’t build it.  The tabernacle and the temple were replicas of God’s Throne-room; and the man-made replica had to be built on the “dome of the Rock”!  It was God’s appointed place because it was the “figure” of the reality which exists over the firmament of the creation (Ezekiel chapter one).  (There are several other mountain events which we could mention here.)

But Zion became known as “The Mountain of God” from which God’s glory could be seen (in representative figures) by all the nations of the earth!  They could look at the figures and shadows and see that God ruled all the earth over and above His creation.  Zion was His Holy Mountain.

I won’t refer to them now, but the Scriptures refer, many times, to the other mountains as nations and rulers (or figures of nations and rulers) – all of whom were “subject” to that which was represented at Mt. Zion.  The prophetic Scriptures refer to the mountains “bowing” before the King; and the mountains “leaping and skipping” in joy at the coming of the Gospel.

And, lastly, please remember that Mt. Zion was the image of God’s Rulership over all the earth, and is prophesied, in judgmental terms, as finally being dealt with in the wrath of God.  It is “burned and cast into the sea”!

Now, I know this is a very short “revisitation” of the context here.  Maybe I’ll take it up again next Lord’s Day.  But hopefully you can see the importance of the scattered sheep of Israel meeting on a mountaintop with their resurrected Lord and King.

Mount Zion, the mountain of God, had “filled up its sin”.  And it was about to be destroyed.  The temple was now obsolete.  The covenant sanctions were now to be administered to the harlot.  The “old” Mount Zion was to be burned and cast away.

And the new “temple of God” was about to be established upon all the other mountains – representing nations and kings and rulers.  All over the earth peoples and tongues and families would be streaming into the New Zion – the New Mountain of God.

So, you see, God (as prophesied in Zechariah) had entrapped the sheep (by the crucifixion of Christ), and had scattered them – driving them out of Jerusalem and Judea, for Mount Zion was now definitively abandoned!  And Christ would “go before them” into Galilee… into a mountain which He had appointed – indicating that the “mountain of God” had been moved from Jerusalem!

Henceforth men would no longer look to Mount Zion and the temple….  But the New Mountain of God, and the New Temple of God would be over all the “mountains” of the earth!  And so now, when we see the huge mountain ranges and glory in their size and their splendor, we should be reminded that they represent the rulers and kings and nations of the earth; and that the Glory of the New Mountain of God rests over them all and outshines them all in its splendor!

And, as the Scripture says, this “New Mountain of God” will grow until it covers the earth.  It is the Kingdom of Christ.  And the visible representative of that Kingdom is His Church.

The imagery here, created by Matthew, is of utmost importance… not only for Jewish people, but for us as well.  I pray that God will raise our confidence in the work of His Son – that His victory over all His enemies is assured!  No compromise and no accommodation with the world order need ever be made.