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May 19, 2012 by William H. Scarle, Jr.

The ninth appearance of Jesus to his followers after his resurrection is located in the Galilee.  The geography of the event is important because all the recorded appearances take place between the two spring pilgrimage festivals of Israel.  Passover, the season of Messiah’s death and resurrection, lasts for eight days.  Therefore the first seven meetings were in and around Jerusalem.  After Pesach the Apostles returned home to Galilee.  The eighth and ninth appearances were in the north where the Disciples had their homes.  The tenth appearance is about ten days before Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks, when the apostolic band would have returned to Jerusalem for the festival.

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church he mentions that Jesus “appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time.”  The most likely account we have of this appearance is in Matthew, chapter twenty-eight.  It seems evident Jesus did some significant teaching on this occasion of which we have only the barest outline in Matthew 28:16-20.

Matthew gives us five assertions of Jesus which seem to form the topics he discusses with the future leaders of the Church.  The first and last of the five involve Jesus’ authority and his presence with the future Church.  He affirms the Father has granted him all authority in heaven and in earth.  He further promises he will be with his followers until the end of time.  These truths set the framework for the work of the Church.  The authority of Messiah fills all space, and his presence fills all time.

The three central assertions set forth the work of the Church, namely the making of disciples.  The Apostles, and the others gathered at this time, are not sent out merely to preach, although that is certainly involved.  The Church is to be the School of the Master.  There are three discernible steps in the mission.  They are to enlist, or make disciples; they are to enroll, or baptize; and they are to educate, or teach.  The Christian mission is to call a group of people who will be involved in a lifelong, life encompassing, relationship with God and with each other.  They are to study the teaching of the Master and obey it.  Jesus is not calling out of the nations those with lazy wills, lazy hearts, or lazy minds.  He is calling out a people who will submit every aspect of life to the authority of the King.

The command to baptize prepares the way for the first exercise of the command to go into the entire world at Jerusalem, on the Temple Mount during the feast of Shavuot.  Baptism, as it is now understood by the followers of Jesus, represents his death, burial and resurrection.  It is the initiation rite into the band of believers, all of whom in the beginning were Jews.

Since Shavuot begins this year on Saturday evening, May 26, we will focus next week’s article on that event recorded in the second chapter of Acts. Probably most of the Galilean followers of Jesus who were present at this teaching session would be present at Jerusalem for the feast.  We might say that this time of instruction was preparation for Pentecost.

(Bill Scarle may be contacted at