Summary: The One to Whom all authority has been given, in Heaven and on earth, says, "Go therefore..."
A closer study of all four of the gospels and the opening chapter of Acts will reveal to even the most casual student, that Jesus was seen by many people in various places, after His resurrection and prior to His ascension to Heaven.
In fact, the ascension itself took place from the top of the Mount of Olives, approximately 1 mile East of Jerusalem, which is in the South of Israel; but the region of Galilee is in the North.
Now Matthew’s final chapter is about the resurrection of Jesus and His meeting of the eleven shortly thereafter, in Galilee.
Since we know that Jesus was seen and heard often for about 40 days between His resurrection and His ascension, then we also know that this meeting recorded for us by Matthew was not actually the last time His disciples saw Him. It wasn’t the first time; but it wasn’t the last time either.
But I chose the title, “Love At Last Sight”, 1., because it’s catchy...(it’s a preacher thing) and 2., because I want our primary focus on this section of scripture today to be the love and compassion He shows to those whose minds are still spinning from the events of the last week of His earthly life; and who He will soon have to leave (in a sense), and no longer have the same kind of fellowship they have all shared for over three years.
Let’s talk first about the state of mind they must have been in on this particular day.
First, they’ve been on an emotional roller coaster. During the recent Passover, the highest of the high Jewish holy days, their Master is viciously treated and crucified.
All of their hopes for Israel’s deliverance; their vision of God’s Messiah ruling from Jerusalem; their best friend,...all died in the death of one man.
In addition, one of their own number has shocked and outraged and saddened them all by proving himself traitor, then going out and committing suicide.
Furthermore, they must now consider that their own lives are now in danger from both the Romans and the Jews, because of their association with their fallen leader.
On top of that, April 15th is coming, and Matthew refuses to do everyone’s taxes! (Don’t quote me on that one...)
Then on Sunday morning news comes to them from various sources; first by Mary and then by several other women who had gone to the tomb, that the tomb is empty!
Mary says she saw Jesus!
The others saw an angel, who said Jesus was alive, not dead, and that the disciples should be told to go and meet Him in Galilee as He had previously instructed them to do... “...and what about that, guys? Did Jesus tell you to meet Him in Galilee? And if so, why are you hiding here in Jerusalem? And why didn’t you already know He’d rise from the dead if He told you that? And if you think I’m gonna fix lunch for this group, go fish!”
And they must have, because later Jesus appears in the room with them and eats fish to prove He really is flesh and bone, not just a ghost; and He appears to two of them on the Emmaus road; and finally, they go to Galilee to meet with Him there.
Now I don’t want to move on without pointing out the kindness of Matthew. A lot happened between verse 15 and 16 that Matthew chose to omit.
He shows us the guards taking a bribe from the Jews to keep silent about the resurrection, then goes straight to the Galilee conference, leaving out all that in between stuff.
We have to learn all that from the other gospel writers.
Of course, I guess it’s easy to be kind when you’re one of the guilty parties, But it is typical of Matthew’s style, as an accountant type, to put things in a neat order and not clutter the narrative with information he didn’t see as necessary to the whole.
So anyway, here is a group of confused and probably exhausted men.
They may have still sensed the shame of running away during His hour of need. Peter denied even knowing Him. Then they forgot His instructions (nothing new about that), and instead of going to Galilee they hid like frightened children in Jerusalem, until He virtually came and took them by the hand to where they were supposed to be.
Oh, what a patient and loving God we have! Doesn’t He often have to do the same with us?
His word is full of encouragement and wisdom and instruction for successfully following Him.
In addition, we have something that at this point they did not yet have; the indwelling Holy Spirit to point us to Christ and make His word alive in us.