Bible Study 4.16.12, 4.19.12, 4.22.12 For Worship 4.29.12

Bible Study 4.16.12, 4.19.12, 4.22.12 For Worship 4.29.12

Matthew 28:9-10, 16-20 

Matthew 28:9And behold, Jesus met them (the women) and said, “Hail!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.

10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.

17 And when they saw him they worshiped him; but some doubted.

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”

COMMENTARY

Matthew 28:9 is different from the resurrection account in John 20. In John the resurrected Jesus tells Mary Magdalene not to cling to him, because he has not yet ascended to his Father (whatever that means). Here in Matthew the women take hold of his feet and worship him. In verse 10 we can note two important aspects of Jesus’ message to the women. First he says, “do not be afraid.” There were many things to be afraid of: the Romans, the Temple Authorities, a ghost. We might imagine both confusion and fear on the part of the women. What were they seeing — a vision, a resuscitated corpse, a zombie, a hallucination? What were they seeing? In Matthew the women are told to tell the followers to go to Galilee and there they will see Jesus. In John Jesus shows up that night in the Upper Room, and reveals himself to the disciples, but Thomas isn’t there and doesn’t believe the others, when they tell him they had seen Jesus. So Jesus shows up a week later and tells Thomas to place his finger in the nail holes. After loitering around Jerusalem for a couple of weeks, John then presents his resurrection appearance story in Galilee in Chapter 21.

Many scholars believe that the author of Matthew was either located in Antioch, or the Lower Galilee after the Fall of Jerusalem. This would explain his adherence to the tradition of appearances in the Galilee.

So in Matthew the Disciples went back to Galilee. But that was kind of a no brainer, since they lived in Galilee. What’s the percentage in hanging around Jerusalem, especially with the Temple authorities and the Romans looking for them? They go to an unnamed designated mountain – could have been either Mt. Tabor or Mt. Hermon – probably the site of the transfiguration. There are good arguments for either Mt. Tabor or Mt. Hermon. This event may be the appearance mentioned in Paul’s first Letter to the Corinthians: “For I handed on to you what I had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised from the dead on the third day, and that he appeared to Peter, then to the Twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time.” Appearing to 500 followers at one time would have required an outdoor venue, and a mountain top would have been a good place not to attract the attention of the authorities. Also mountain tops tend to affect our spiritual perspective. There is something about getting above it all, that can inspire visions.

 

The resurrected Christ appeared to the gathered followers, “and they worshipped him, but some doubted.” Hey wait a minute, what’s this some doubted? Didn’t everyone see him? Couldn’t they see with their own eyes? Why the doubt? Maybe like many of us Jesus’ followers lived somewhere between belief and doubt. Seeing is not always believing. They wanted to believe, oh how they wanted to believe, but there was that little niggle of doubt in the back of their minds. It’s O.K.! We don’t have to have perfect faith to be disciples of Jesus, we just have to have enough faith to trust, to go ahead and live the way of Jesus even when we are plagued by doubts. Remember the Father of the epileptic child, “I believe, but help my unbelief.” Faith the size of a mustard seed is just enough to see us through, if we are desperate enough and hopeful enough to bring our needs to Jesus. But actually following Jesus, changing our behavior and caring for the poor, being honest with ourselves, sharing with others, blessing others, that is hard.

We should note that by the time Matthew was writing the early church had developed a fairly set baptismal formula: “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This would have been different from any baptismal formula used by John the Baptist. We have only a faint memory in the gospel of any formula John may have used: “I baptize you with water for repentance of your sins.”

Maybe the problem on the mountain wasn’t believing that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead, maybe the challenge was trusting Jesus when he said, “Go and make disciples, teaching them to do all that I have done.” Feed the poor. Heal the sick. Embrace the outcaste. Challenge the Roman Empire. Speak the truth. Love others. And trust that Jesus will be with us strengthening us, encouraging us, when we meet the inevitable opposition that will try to intimidate us and oppress us. Lord give us the courage to follow in your radical, loving way.

LET’S ASK SOME QUESTIONS OF THE TEXT

1. How many women meet the Risen Christ outside of the tomb?

2. What message does the Risen Christ give to the women?

3. Where are the disciples directed to go to meet Jesus?

4. How many disciples were in attendance?

5. Upon seeing Jesus, what was the response of the disciples?

6. What did the Risen Christ look like?

7. What claim did the Risen Christ make on the mountain top?

8. What charge did the Risen Christ give to the disciples on the mountain top?

9. What promise did the Risen Christ make to the disciples on the mountain top?

LET’S ALLOW THE TEXT TO ASK QUESTIONS OF US

1. Why do you think the Risen Christ appeared first to the women?

2. When you hear Jesus say, “do not be afraid,” what do you think he means?

3. Why do you think the Risen Christ might have chosen a mountain for an appearance?

4. How many people do you think might have been in attendance on the mountain?

5. When you read “but some doubted,” what do you think it means?

6. What your doubts about religious faith?

7. What do you think the text means when it says, “go make disciples?”

8. For you what is the meaning of baptism?

9. What do you think are the most important things Jesus wants us to teach others?

10. What do you think Jesus meant when he said, “I will be with you until the close of the age?”

11. What do you think should be the mission of United Church?

 

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