The Mission of Jesus – Part III

JESUS AND THE “GREAT COMMISSION” OF MATTHEW 28:16-20

“Then 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.”

Something is truly amiss with the risen Jesus’ highlighted proclamation in the above. First, we have Jesus proclaiming—in this very gospel—”I was sent ONLY unto the lost sheep of the House of Israel.”[1] Yet, He’s now commanding His remaining eleven Apostles to “make disciples of not just the Jewish nation, but of all nations. Now, what could have possibly caused such an about-face?

The God Jesus claims that He had been given “all authority in Heaven and on earth.” Jesus is, therefore, declaring that another God,” God the Father, had bestowed upon Him more power and responsibility than even God the Father now possessed.[2]

If Jesus’ Apostles were truly commanded to follow Jesus’ instructions in the above, why did they not immediately start preaching to the Gentiles as “the Lord” had commanded them to?

Trinitarian Christians insist that Jesus of Nazareth wasn’t just A God, but God Himself incarnate. So “God” simply changed His mind. So what. A God is perfectly entitled to do that, is He not?

Nope. Examine Numbers 23:19:

God is not human, that he should lie,
    not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
    Does he promise and not fulfill

So you now have one God (the God Jesus) opposing the given command of another God (God the Father), or else you have God changing His unchanging mind.” Do you not?

So the God Jesus does an about-face. He has decided that a mission to the Gentiles is in order.  And seeing that there was so little time left before the arrival of God’s Kingdom on earth (see below), they were to make disciples of all the Gentile nations. And rather quickly, don’t you think?

The reasons to disbelieve that Jesus truly spoke the words in Matthew 28:16-20 are many. Although His words are found in the oldest manuscript texts of Matthew and quoted verbatim by several early Church fathers,[3] the very behavior of the Apostles Jesus is addressing after being given their marching orders preclude the recorded words to be genuine.

The very Apostles Jesus commanded on that unnamed mountain in Galilee strenuously rejected admitting Gentiles into the Christian fold—unless they became “Jewish” in observance and deed.[4] Even a cursory examination of Paul’s resistance to the Judaising of Gentiles in Galatians, Acts, and I Corinthians demonstrates this to be true.

Note further that the God Jesus is commanding that His Apostles to “baptize” [everyone] “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is a Trinitarian doctrine that is wholly alien to what we know of Jesus’ and Judaic “theology.” Moreover, He’s essentially advocating that Jewish Christians no longer adhere to Jewish customs and practice. He’s tacitly proclaiming that Jewish observance of the Law is no longer in effect.

Or is He?

Here’s what Jesus had to say in regards to the Law earlier in Matthew’s Gospel:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5: 17-20)

Add to this, Jesus is commanding the Eleven Apostles to carry out a feat physically impossible for them to achieve.  They hadn’t even made any real dent in the number of Jews they had been commanded by Jesus to preach to ONLY. An “omniscient” God would have known this problem would arise even before issuing the command of Matthew 15: 24. Would He not? And yet, we have Jesus ordering the apostles to now include an unimaginable number of  Gentiles into the fold. That is just too preposterous to take seriously.

Jesus had already proclaimed the Kingdom of God was at hand and that it would take place before the death of some of those very Apostles hearing His words.[5] So how could Jesus possibly expect eleven Apostles to “baptize” and make disciples of all nations? Remember, both Jesus and Paul preached an imminent coming of God’s Kingdom on earth.[6]

The God Jesus is recorded to have said: “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom(Mark 9:1; Matthew 16:28; Luke 9:27).

Christian apologists contend that Jesus was referring to the Transfiguration[7] (Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9: 2-8; Luke 9:24-36). But it is clear that Paul certainly didn’t believe that. Otherwise, he would not continue preaching an imminent coming of the Kingdom so emphatically throughout his ministry. And did not Paul claim that He was an Apostle “sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead”?[8] And wasn’t it the risen Jesus who had instructed him as to what to preach?

But perhaps the most devastating proof that the God Jesus never uttered the words found in Matthew 28:16-20 is the fact that the “apostle” Paul never cited them in his rants against Jesus’ Apostles nor the acknowledged head of the Jerusalem church at the time, Jesus’ brother, James. There is no doubt Paul would have thrown them in the face of James, Peter, and the rest of the Lord’s Apostles if he had been aware of them. Crucially,  Paul’s “authentic” letters were written during the ’50s, whereas Matthew was written around 80 CE; long after the death of the Apostles and the rise of Gentile Christianity. There really was no one left to refute him. Neither Luke nor John record the incident. In fact, neither wrote anything even remotely close to resembling Matthew 28:16-20. And remember, Jesus was addressing only eleven Apostles at the time.

It remains an indisputable fact that the very Apostles Jesus is addressing in the “Great Commission” bitterly resented and opposed Saul of Tarsus’ (i.e., the “apostle” Paul’s) preaching of God’s “Good News” to the Gentiles. Paul’s insistence that Gentiles not undergo any sort of ” Jewification” was especially offensive to Jerusalem’s church leaders. But Paul shrewdly brought them undisclosed sums of money, ostensibly for the “poor,” as tribute money.[9]  So Paul was subsequently allowed to administer to the Gentiles. That is a matter of record[10]. But he was not authorized to forgo the Gentile Judaising process by the Jerusalem church. At least not based on what we can glean from Paul’s “authentic” letters and the Book of Acts.

If one is to be truly honest with the texts of the Bible, one must face the fact that the words found in Matthew are likely an interpolation inserted into Matthew by some very early Christian authoritarian or a lying “Matthew” himself. And long after the death of Jesus original Apostles (and Matthias). Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:16-20  fly in the face of everything we know of Jesus’ attitude towards the Gentiles while alive. Moreover, the Gospels reveal that the Apostles resolutely opposed admitting Gentiles into the Christian fold—unless they became “Jewish” in thought and action in their observance of the faith.

Did the God Jesus have a mission to the Gentiles all along? If He did, why wasn’t this conveyed to His apostles before His supposed “death”? (See HERE) Why was not a word about the future selection of “Saul of Tarsus” to be His “Apostle to the Gentiles” conveyed to any of the Eleven Apostles before the crucifixion? Why wasn’t the “Great Commission” vigorously insisted upon by the risen Jesus during what Luke reports was a 40-day stay on earth after the resurrection as recorded in Acts 1:3?

The most obvious reason is that Jesus never uttered the words recorded in Matthew 28:16-20. It’s that evident.

Next Time: Paul’s “Great Commission” and the Conclusion.

Part I: Here       Part II: Here


[1] Matthew 15:24

[2] Which further helps disprove the Christian God is just “One God.”

[3] I.e., Origin, Tertullian, Ignatius, etc.

[4] This would include circumcision and refraining from eating certain foods. And note, Gentiles had been free to become Judaized Jews in name all along. Gentiles were not barred from becoming “Jewish” in faith.

[5] Matthew 16:28; Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27.

[6] I Thessalonians 4:13-15;

[7] Cf. HERE and HERE.

[8] Galatians 1:1.

[9] Cf. I Corinthians 16:1-4; II Corinthians 8:1-9; Romans 15:30-31; and Acts 24:17-18.

[10] Cf. Galatians 2:8-9

 


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