The Passover with the Disciples

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

What to do with this educator’s commentary

This commentary invites you as a teacher to engage with and interpret the passage. Allow the text to speak first. The commentary suggests that you ask yourself various questions that will aid your interpretation. They will help you answer for yourself the question in the last words of the text: ‘what does this mean?’

This educator’s commentary is not a ‘finished package’. It is for your engagement with the text. You then go on to plan how you enable your students to work with the text.

Both you and your students are the agents of interpretation. The ‘Worlds of the Text’ offer a structure, a conversation between the worlds of the author and the setting of the text; the world of the text; and the world of reader. In your personal reflection and in your teaching all three worlds should be integrated as they rely on each other.

In your teaching you are encouraged to ask your students to engage with the text in a dialogical way, to explore and interpret it, to share their own interpretation and to listen to that of others before they engage with the way the text might relate to a topic or unit of work being studied.

Structure of the commentary:

The world behind the text

The world of the Matthew’s community

Questions for the teacher

The world of the text

Text & textual features

Characters & setting

Ideas / phrases / concepts

Questions for the teacher

The world in front of the text

Questions for the teacher

Meaning for today / challenges

Church interpretations & usage

The World Behind the Text

For more information on the Gospel of Matthew read here.

Questions for the teacher

How do How does the information assist you in understanding the text? What else do you need to know?
What do the students already know about the world behind the text? What else might the students need to know? What could be some questions the students might ask?

The World of the Text

Text and Textual features

This text is often called “The Great commissioning”. It appears only in Matthew’s Gospel. The passages that precede this one tell of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The only people to have seen Jesus post resurrection at this point are Martha and Mary. Some of the eleven disciples are present at this commissioning, their doubt overshadows their desire to believe John McKinnon says of doubt, it:

“is the very context from which faith arises, and to
which it is the answer. Those who have never wondered
may never have truly appreciated the magnitude of what
they claim to believe.”

In many ways this is one of the highpoints of the Gospel. The oft given title of ‘The Great Commissioning’ is because the Church takes from this event its mission – to go and make disciples of all nations and baptise them.  We are reminded too, that Jesus will always be with us on this journey.

Characters & Setting

Eleven disciples 
Originally there were 12 disciples. This story is set after the betrayal of Jesus and thus reminds us that there were originally 12.

For Jesus, so many significant stories happen on a mountain. In the Bible, mountains are a traditional place of encounter with God: Moses on Mt Sinai, the mountain of the Transfiguration, the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew continues the tradition of important events taking place on mountains. 


“In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” 
This text gives the Trinitarian formula that the Church has followed. Given the dating of Matthew’s writing its use here would suggest it was already in use in the community. 

This text shows Jesus’ commitment to Baptism as a key element of discipleship and makes it the norm for Christians. Again, this probably represents the reality of the emerging community. 

The Disciples are commanded to carry on this major work that Jesus began. 

All nations 
This is a theme throughout Matthew’s gospel. Some translations refer more specifically to Gentiles. This is a big commandment, perhaps not fully understood at the time. However it is consistent with Jewish belief that the salvation of the Jews would in some way, enable the salvation of all people. 

Questions for the teacher:

What is the text saying? What am I wondering about the text?
How can you enable your students to engage with the actual text? What might they wonder about?
What of this information is important to share with the students?

The world in front of the text

Questions for the teacher:

Please reflect on these questions before reading this section and then use the material below to enrich your responsiveness to the text.

How do you respond to the text?
What does the text tell us about the world that God desires? What might the Holy Spirit be asking you and asking us to do?
In what ways do you hope your students will respond to the text? What do you want them to know, believe and do?

Meaning for today/challenges

The image of the mountain is one that has relevance for us today. Going ‘up to the mountain’ takes us away from the everyday, it makes us create space and encourages us to re-discover God. For those who climb mountains – it takes effort that is rewarded with a better view of everything. If you carry too much in your pack, it can slow you down, and so the seasoned hiker only takes what is necessary. We think of the stories of those walking the Camino and emptying their packs to the essentials.  

This passage calls us to mission. As Pope Francis says:

“Mission begins on the mountain: there, we discover what really counts.”

In living out a missionary call choices need to be made, some of the elements of a consumerist society must be left behind.

The question for us is then, what really matters in my life? With God, what challenges (mountains), do I want to take on? Where do I see my mission?

Church interpretation & usage

This text is often used as a commissioning reflection or challenge. It is often used on mission Sunday.

Most significantly, it is often used in the liturgy for Baptism. For today it has a wide sense. It is the call to join the community but also specifically to Baptise people. Sometimes baptism will not occur but in Catholic education we are gifted with the opportunity to invite many to come to know the love of God.