Sea of Galilee
Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.
Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. (Matthew 28:16, 17)
The Lord Jesus Christ told His closest disciples to meet Him in Galilee after His resurrection. He stressed this before His death (Matt 26:32) and reaffirmed it at least twice after His resurrection (Matt 28:7,10; Mark 16:7). This gathering of the Lord with his closest followers was a special arrangement and obviously had high priority.The other post-resurrection meetings described in Mark, Luke and John were unexpected appearances for the revival of the Apostles' deflated faith. The Lord's glorious ascension (Acts 1) marked the beginning of something new: the sending of the Holy Spirit by which His people would be guided and strengthened in the Lord's physical absence.
As evidence that the Lord put special emphasis on the meeting of Matthew 28:16–20, Paul reports that over 500 followers saw the resurrected Lord at one time (1 Cor 15:6). I believe that this was that occasion. Perhaps this is why He repeatedly told His closest associates to meet Him there.
Imagine yourself living at that time and place. Is there any who would not have given his eye teeth to have seen the resurrected Lord Jesus? God does not do things without purpose. For the Lord not only said He would appear, but emphasized to His disciples to be sure to be there. He must have had some special purpose. This meeting is not like when He appeared unannounced.
The Importance of the Scene
While God is not limited to locations to do what He considers important, yet the fact that the meeting was on a mountain at an appointed time would give a sense of urgency to the Jewish mind. Moses had prophesied that the Messiah would be a "prophet like unto me." (Deut 18:15; Acts 3:22). The Lord had commanded Moses to go to Mount Sinai for the giving of the Covenant of the Law. Since Jesus was the prophet like unto Moses, would not these Jewish believers have had a great feeling of expectancy when Jesus directed them to meet Him on a mountain, as Moses had with their forefathers? For Moses gave the Covenant of the Law upon a mountain.
The Lord Jesus told them that He was establishing the New Covenant when He instituted communion. He also expounded the prophecies by Moses and the Prophets before and after His resurrection. The air must have been filled with expectancy. There is no record that the Lord had told them what He was going to do there. But whatever it was, the Lord had made this time and this place special for something important to Him. Their minds could only wonder what great thing might happen (Acts 1:6).
Their longing eyes saw the Lord appear and then heard Him begin with these awe inspiring words: "All power (authority) has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." I don't know about you, but the hair on the back of my neck would have just stood up. I would feel that the air of Heaven was invading Earth. There would be such an super heavenly feeling. The scene caused most of them to involuntarily worship Him. But others just couldn't believe the sight of the crucified, living Lord was real. To them it was "just too good to be true," so they doubted for a while. This implies that more disciples were there than the eleven and their close associates, because the Lord had restored their faith through His unannounced appearances. As we go further into Matthew 28, the priority and urgency to disciple just increases more and more by concepts that call for accountability to Christ.
The question must be asked why did the Holy Spirit only mentioned the eleven disciples as being present? In the first place, He wanted to make it plain that they were restored to leadership after they had despaired after Christ’s arrest and crucifixion. Secondly, in doing so during succeeding generations this indicated that mature leadership bore the responsibility for discipling, on an individual basis and in leading group discipling. This applies whether in the Local Church or in missionary activity.
Related reading: The Significance of Galilee in Matthew's Gospel