APRIL 6 – RESURRECTION POWER

Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

Matthew 28:18

 

Let us be confident, Christian brethren, that our power does not lie in the manger at Bethlehem nor in the relics of the cross. True spiritual power resides in the victory of the mighty, resurrected Lord of glory, who could pronounce after spoiling death: “All power is given me in heaven and in earth.”

The power of the Christian believer lies in the Savior’s triumph of eternal glory!

Christ’s resurrection brought about a startling change of direction for the believers. Sadness and fear and mourning marked the direction of their religion before they knew that Jesus was raised from the dead—their direction was towards the grave. When they heard the angelic witness, “He is risen, as He said,” the direction immediately shifted away from the tomb—“He is risen, indeed!” If this is not the meaning of Easter, the Christian church is involved only in a shallow one-day festival each year.

Thankfully, the resurrection morning was only the beginning of a great, vast outreach that has never ended—and will not end until our Lord Jesus Christ comes back again!

 

Dear Heavenly Father, speed the triumphant resurrection message into areas not yet reached by the gospel. Strengthen, encourage and equip Your servants for this awesome task.[1]


Worship

And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, (28:17–18a)

The second element implied here for effective fulfillment of the church’s mission is the attitude of genuine worship. When God is not truly worshiped, He cannot be truly served, no matter how talented, gifted, or well-intentioned His servants may be.

The moment Jesus appeared and the disciples saw Him, they worshiped Him, prostrating themselves in humble adoration before their divine Lord and Savior. When they saw the risen Jesus on the hillside, their confusion disappeared and their shattered dreams were restored. Their sorrow turned into unbelievable joy and their disillusionment into unwavering hope.

The believers gathered there were not giving homage to a human dignitary or mere earthly ruler but were worshiping God’s own Son, the Lord of heaven and earth. Though no spoken words are recorded, in their hearts they must have been saying with Thomas after his last doubts were assuaged, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

On but one previous occasion does Scripture say that the eleven disciples actually worshiped Jesus. After He walked to them on the water, they “worshiped Him, saying, ‘You are certainly God’s Son!’ ” (Matt. 14:33). Now their awe and their certainty of His divinity were immeasurably greater, because He was risen from the dead. It is probable that the worship of Christ on that day in Galilee has been equaled few other times in all of human history.

Yet, amazingly, some were still doubtful. That simple phrase inserted by Matthew is but one of countless small and indirect testimonies to the integrity of Scripture. In transparent honesty, the gospel writer sets forth the incident as it actually happened, with no attempt to make it more dramatic or convincing than it was. As he portrayed Jesus in His divine perfection, he also portrayed Jesus’ followers, including himself, in their human imperfection.

Those who attempt to write history to their own liking are inclined to magnify that which is favorable and omit that which is not. Had Matthew and the other gospel writers contrived Jesus’ resurrection, they would have had made every effort to exclude any fact or incident that would have tarnished their case. Nor would they have hesitated to falsify evidence and distort the truth. A person who lies about something of major importance has no scruples about telling lesser lies to support his primary deceit. Matthew’s simple honesty testifies both to his own honesty and to the integrity of God’s Word.

The identity of the doubters is not given. Because the eleven disciples are the only ones specifically mentioned in this passage, some interpreters insist that those who were doubtful were of that group. But as already noted, it is probable that hundreds of other believers were also present.

Exactly what was doubted is also not specified. If the fact of Jesus’ resurrection was in question, then the doubters could not have included any of the eleven, because all of them had already witnessed the risen Christ, some on several occasions. It seems most likely that the doubt concerned whether or not the person who appeared to them was actually the physically risen Christ or some form of imposter. Out of that large group, only the eleven disciples and some of the women who had come to the tomb had seen the risen Christ. Perhaps some of those in the back of the crowd could not see Jesus clearly and, like Thomas, were reluctant to believe such an amazing truth without firm evidence.

As if to alleviate that doubt, Jesus graciously came up and spoke to them. Whatever the doubt was and whoever the doubters were, as the Lord came nearer and as His familiar voice sounded in their ears once again, all uncertainty was erased. Now those who had doubted fell down and joined the others in worship.

Nothing else now mattered. It made no difference where they lived, what their heritage was, what their economic or social position was, or what their nationality was. They were now in the presence of the living God.

The complete focus was on Christ. That is the essence of true worship-single-minded, unhindered, and unqualified concentration on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Not simply to the Corinthians, but to every person to whom he spoke and in every place he ministered, Paul “determined to know nothing among [them] except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). In his own life the apostle was determined to “know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Phil. 3:10). Paul’s life was so totally Christ-centered that he could say with perfect sincerity, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

Submission

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. (28:18b)

The third element for effective fulfillment of the church’s mission is another attitude, the implied attitude of submission. The focus of Jesus’ declaration here is on His sovereign lordship, but in context it also clearly relates to the believers response to His rule.

Before the Lord states the Great Commission, He establishes His divine authority to command it. It is because of His sovereign power that His followers are to have the attitude of complete, humble submission to His will.

Exousia (authority) refers to the freedom and right to speak and act as one pleases. In relation to God, that freedom and right are absolute and unlimited. The all is both reinforced and delineated by the phrase in heaven and earth. The sovereign authority given to Jesus by His heavenly Father (see Matt. 11:27; John 3:35) is absolute and universal.

During His earthly ministry, Jesus demonstrated His authority over disease and sickness (Matt. 4:23; 9:35), over demons (4:24; 8:32; 12:22), over sin (9:6), and over death (Mark 5:41–42; John 11:43–44). Except for the forgiveness of sins, Jesus even exhibited the authority to delegate such powers to certain of His followers (Matt. 10:1; Luke 10:9, 17). He has authority to bring all men before the tribunal of God and to condemn them to eternal death or bring them to eternal life (John 5:27–29; 17:2). He had the authority to lay down His own life and to take it up again (John 10:18). He has the sovereign authority to rule both heaven and earth and to subjugate Satan and his demons to eternal torment in the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20; 20:10). Satan’s tempting Jesus by offering Him rulership over the world (Matt. 4:8–9) not only was wicked but foolish, because lordship of both heaven and earth was already Christ’s inheritance by divine fiat.

Even the prophet Daniel foresaw sovereign authority being given to Christ. In his night vision he beheld “One like a Son of Man … coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed” (Dan. 7:13–14; cf. Isa. 9:6–7).

Jesus Himself described His coming dominion. “The sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky,” He said, “and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:30; cf. 26:64).

Jesus’ sovereign authority was given to Him by His Father, who “has given all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22), “made Him both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36), and has “highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:9–11). Then, finally, in an act of adoring love and submission, “when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).

Before giving the commission, Jesus first established His absolute, pervasive authority, because otherwise the command would have seemed hopelessly impossible for the disciples to fulfill, and they might have ignored it. Were it not for knowing they had the Lord’s sovereign demand as well as His resources to guide and empower them, those five hundred nondescript, powerless disciples would have been totally overwhelmed by the inconceivable task of making disciples for their Lord from among every nation on earth.

Submission to the absolute sovereignty of Jesus Christ is not a believer’s option but is his supreme obligation. It is not negotiable or adjustable to one’s own particular inclinations and plans. It is rather the attitude that says with absolute sincerity, “Whatever the Lord commands, I will do.”[2]


18 “All” dominates vv. 18–20 and ties these verses together: all authority, all nations, all things (NIV, “everything”), all the days (NIV, “always”). The authority of Jesus Messiah has already been heavily stressed in this gospel (e.g., 7:29; 10:1, 7–8; 11:27; 22:43–44; 24:35; cf. Jn 17:2). Therefore, it is incautious, if not altogether wrong, to claim that the resurrection conferred on Jesus an authority incomparably greater than what he enjoyed before his crucifixion. The truth is more subtle. It is not that anything he teaches or does during the days of his flesh is less authoritative than what he now says and does. Even during his ministry, his words, like God’s, cannot pass away (24:35); and he, like God, forgives sin (9:6). It is not Jesus’ authority per se that becomes more absolute. Rather, the spheres in which he now exercises absolute authority are enlarged to include all heaven and earth, i.e., the universe. This authority has been “given” him by the Father; and so, of course, the Father is exempt from the Son’s authority (cf. 1 Co 15:27–28). The Son becomes the one through whom all God’s authority is mediated. He is, as it were, the mediatorial King. This well-defined exercise of authority is given Jesus as the climactic vindication of his humiliation (cf. Php 2:5–11), and it marks a turning point in redemptive history, for Messiah’s “kingdom” (i.e., his “king-dominion,” the exercise of his divine and saving authority; see comments at 3:2; 13:37–39) has dawned in new power. Certainly such claims challenge the sweep of the authority and mission of the Roman Empire (so Carter, Matthew and the Margins, 549–50), but the vision is primarily theological and cosmic, not merely political. This is still clearer if we accept the view that there is a conscious allusion here to Daniel 7:13–14 (cf. France, Jesus and the Old Testament, 142–43): the Son of Man, once humiliated and suffering, is given universal authority (same word in the LXX).

Contrary to France, it does not follow from this that Matthew 26:64 and Mark 14:62 refer to this exaltation and not the Parousia. In the first place, the chief priests in no way witnessed this coming of the Son of Man; in the second place, we have repeatedly observed how the coming of the Son of Man to kingly authority cannot be reduced to a single moment in redemptive history.[3]


28:18 Then the Lord explained that all authority had been given to Him in heaven and on earth. In one sense, of course, He always had all authority. But here He was speaking of authority as Head of the new creation. Since His death and resurrection, He had authority to give eternal life to all whom God had given to Him (John 17:2). He had always had power as the firstborn of all creation. But now that He had completed the work of redemption, He had authority as the first-born from the dead—“that in all things He may have the preeminence” (Col. 1:15, 18).[4]


[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Mt 28:16–18). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, p. 665). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1312). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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