What does Matthew chapter 28 mean?After the darkness and agony of the previous chapter, Matthew 28 is filled with life and worship and dismay. It also sets the stage for the birth of the church and the mission to follow. Jesus had died on the cross and was buried before sundown in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. The chief priests and elders received permission from Pilate to post a guard of Roman soldiers at the tomb to keep the body from being stolen. They did not want Jesus' followers to be able to claim He had been resurrected (Matthew 27:57–66).
Before dawn on Sunday, an amazing scene unfolds at the tomb. Accompanied by an earthquake, a mighty angel of the Lord descends from heaven right before the guards. He looks like lightning dressed in white. He breaks the seal on the tomb, rolls back the large stone, and sits on it. The guards shake in fear and then faint (Matthew 28:1–4).
Two women named Mary, faithful followers of Jesus, arrive on the scene around sunrise to find the angel present and the guards apparently unconscious on the ground. The angel shows them Jesus' empty tomb and tells them Jesus, the one who was crucified, is risen. He gives them a specific message to take back to the disciples: Tell them Jesus is raised from the dead and that He is going before them to Galilee. They will see Jesus there (Matthew 28:1, 5–8).
The women quickly leave to do as the angel has said, but they are stopped along the way by Jesus Himself. They fall on the ground and take hold of His feet. They recognize that He is the Son of God, risen from the dead, and they worship Him. As the angel did, Jesus tells them not to be afraid and to go and tell His brothers to go to Galilee, where they will see Him (Matthew 28:9–10).
Meanwhile, the temple guards who had fainted regain consciousness. Some of them go and report to the chief priests what has happened. The chief priests and elders meet and decide to bribe the guards to tell a different story. They pay these Roman soldiers enough to say that they fell asleep on duty and Jesus' followers came and took His body away. They promise to keep Pilate from executing them from sleeping on the job if he learns of their story. Already, from the moment the truth of Jesus' resurrection began to spread, the lie that He remains dead is being distributed. Both stories continue to be told and believed today. (Matthew 28:11–15).
Matthew skips over appearances made by Jesus as described by the other gospel writers. He jumps straight to Jesus' meeting with the eleven remaining disciples on a mountain in Galilee. Jesus tells them that He is using His authority, given to Him by God the Father, to send them out on their lifelong mission. In this "Great Commission," Jesus commands His disciples to make more disciples of Him. This cooperative, mentoring, personal expansion of His kingdom is the primary mission of His followers. They must baptize these new followers and teach them to obey everything He has told them to do. Matthew ends with Jesus' promise to be with His disciples always, into and through eternity (Matthew 28:16–20).