Most of the stories of Jesus after the resurrection come from the first day, the morning that announced Jesus had risen. But there were 40 days between that day and the day of Pentecost. In John 20:30-31, the writer says that Jesus performed many other signs that weren’t recorded, but what was written was done so for the purpose that others may believe. He reiterates this at the end of his book in John 21:25 that says, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”
What is fascinating is not what is left out, but what each gospel writer chose to keep in, particularly with the final conversations of Jesus. Final words hold great importance to people, the last words before passing on, both to the speaker and to the ones being left behind. What these writers chose to include shows what message they were trying to convey.
In Matthew, the writer doesn’t share much after resurrection, except for the corruption of the religious leaders. The angels at the tomb instruct the women to tell the eleven disciples to meet Jesus on a mountain in Galilee. At this mountain, Jesus gives a great commission, telling others to make disciples of all nations, promising them that he will be with them to the very end of the age.
Matthew was written for the purpose of showing the Jewish people Jesus’ role of fulfilling scripture. These final words, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” is the main thesis of this book. The entire book is written to support that claim. And the if/then statement follows. If Jesus has all authority, then we are called to go make disciples and teach them as Jesus taught.
Mark does include a similar commission, though some early manuscripts don’t include it. While Matthew’s commission was pointing towards the authority of Jesus, Mark’s commission was more about the authority being passed on to the disciples. Also, after the final words, Jesus’ ascension is recorded as well.
Luke is much more detailed and reliant on extensive witness testimony. The writer differs with Matthew on where Jesus met with his disciples, though really since Matthew does not mention the ascension as well, these could have been two different conversations. But in the book of Luke, it just briefly mentions his ascension outside of Bethany and blessing the disciples.
It’s in Luke’s second book, Acts, that goes into more detail. Jesus is eating with the disciples when he gives them the commission to go into all the world and witness to others about Jesus after receiving the Holy Spirit. It runs the same thread as in the other books that the commission is to reach every person and tell them the gospel.
And even though John doesn’t include the commission or the ascension to the disciples, he does tell more intimate stories of Jesus and his relationships with people like Peter and Thomas. Technically, he does give a commission to Peter to feed his sheep. It’s probably my favorite perspective of the gospels, showcasing his relationship with his friends even after he rose from the dead. He still cared and still wanted them to continue the work he started.
The common thread through the final words recorded of Jesus is that Jesus calls his disciples to witness, to serve, to love, to heal, to teach others the love that Jesus showed to them. I believe he calls us to do the same. To continue the work he started. The work that the disciples continued on that day of Pentecost.