Father Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Matthew 28:16-20

Mat 28:16  And the eleven disciples went into Galilee, unto the mountain where Jesus had appointed them.

And the eleven disciples went into Galilee. Matthew omits the rest of Christ’s appearances, and mentions only that one which took place in Galilee, because it had been promised both by the angel and by Christ, and because it took place publicly before five hundred brethren, as Paul says (1Co_15:6). For all the disciples, of whom He had very many in Galilee, were assembled there, according to the command of Christ, because they were safer there than in Judæa from the persecution of the Jews

Unto the mountain. It is certain that this mountain was not the Mount of Olives, from which, in the presence of His disciples Christ ascended into Heaven. For the Mount of Olives is in Judæa, and not in Galilee. Dionysius, S. Bonaventura, and others think it very probable that this mountain was Tabor, where Christ in His transfiguration had shown His glory to Peter, James, and John.

Mystically: S. Jerome says, “Galilee was the abode of all vices, where before were error and deceit, and it behoved that it should be illuminated by the presence and glory of Christ.” Again, Bede says, “The Lord now had passed from death unto life, from corruption to incorruption; for Galilee is the same as transmigration.”

Allegorically: S. Augustine (de Cons. Evan., lib. 3) says, “Galilee is the same as transmigration, from the Heb. galal, because the grace of Christ was about to pass over from the people of Israel to the Gentiles; whence He says, ‘I will go before you into Galilee,’ because they would not believe when the Apostles should preach the Gospel to them, unless the Lord Himself should first make ready their way in the hearts of men. ‘There shall ye see Him;’ that is, there shall ye find His members.”

Anagogically: S. Augustine, in the same place, says, “Galilee in Hebrew also signifies ‘revelation,’ whence it represents Heaven and the beatific vision. That revelation will be the true Galilee: we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him there as He is. That will be the more blessed passing from this world to that eternity, if we so embrace His commandments that we merit to be set on His right hand.”

Mat 28:17  And seeing him they adored: but some doubted.

And seeing him they adored: but some doubted. Not of the eleven Apostles, but of the other disciples. For all the Apostles had now been confirmed by so many visions and proofs, that they did not doubt that Christ had risen. Or if any one prefers to refer this expression to the Apostles, it must be understood as meaning, They had before doubted, but were not now in doubt. So Theophylact says, “You ought to understand it as meaning that when they were come into Galilee they worshipped Him; but they who worshipped Him in Galilee had first doubted in Jerusalem.”  The first interpretation offered is problematic since only the eleven are spoken of (vs. 16), not other disciples. The second is grammatically possible since “doubted” is here an aorist indicative active. If such is the meaning it is rather obscure.  Since the focus of the pericope overall is the power of Jesus (vs. 18) which is the force behind the apostolic ministry (“Going therefore“, vs. 19), I see the message of the text as indicating that the mission will be successful in spite of human failings. Recall that the Gospel opened with an overview of the Abrahamic/Messianic lineage which included many sinners and failings (e.g., Judah, see Matt 1:3 and Gen; Manasseh, see Matt 1:10 and 2 Kings 21:2-16; the Babylonian Exile, see Matt 1:11 and 2 Chron 36:15-21).  The divine promises will have their fulfillment.

Moreover, Christ appeared in the same form as He had when He was alive, so that He was recognised by the Apostles as the same and not another. Whereupon He veiled His brightness, for the weak eyes of mortal men would not have been able to bear it. S. Augustine (de Civ. Dei, 22, c. 19) says, “We must believe that the brightness which Christ’s body had when He rose was veiled from the eyes of the disciples.”

Mat 28:18  And Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.

And Jesus coming, spoke to them, &c. Maldonatus and others are of opinion that these things were not done and said by Christ now when He appeared in Galilee, but at the last appearance which took place on the Mount of Olives (see Acts 1:6-12). For Christ seems there to have said His last farewell to His Apostles, and to have given them His last commands; and to have sent them forth as His ambassadors to evangelise the world, which He did at His ascension.

Is given to Me. That is, to Me alone; and that both because I am the Son of God and God, for from eternity has been given to Me by the Father, with the divine essence, all power and majesty; and also because I am man (as S. Cyril, Athanasius, and others say). It was given to Me inchoately in My incarnation on account of the dignity of the hypostatic union with the WORD; and it was given to Me in its fulness by God on account of the merits of My Passion, when having overcome death, sin, hell, and the devil, as the Redeemer of men, I obtained full right and dominion over them at the price of My blood.

Mat 28:19  Going therefore, teach ye all nations: baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.

Go therefore, and teach ye all nations, &c. Hence, according to the tradition of the Church, it is well known that this is the form of baptism, “I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost;” in which we profess our faith in the Holy Trinity and in the Divine Unity, saying, in the Name, not in the Names. Hence S. Isidore (lib. 7, Etymol. c. 4) says, “It is called a Trinity, because One Whole is constituted of Three, as it were a Tri-unity, resembling memory, intelligence, and will, in which the mind has in itself a certain image of the Divine Trinity; for since They are Three, They are One.” Whence, in opposition to the Arians, Macedonians, Nestorians, and other heretics, it is clear that the Son is true God, and of one substance (όμοούσιον) with the Father and the Holy Spirit, as S. Athanasius, Augustine, Hilary, and others teach. Christ, therefore, here most clearly expresses the mystery of the Holy Trinity, which Moses obscurely shadowed forth in the Old Testament, lest the ignorant Jews should believe that the Three Persons were Three Gods, and so after their custom worship a plurality of Gods.

Morally: Learn here that it is a divine work to teach and convert all nations, even rude and barbarous ones. Whence S. Gregory (Hom. 12, in Ezek.), “There is no sacrifice so acceptable to Almighty God as a zeal for souls.” That saying also of Dionysius the Areopagite is well known, “Of all divine works, the most divine is to co-operate with God in the conversion of the wanderers, and in the bringing back of sinners to Himself.”

Mat 28:20  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.

Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. That is, all the commandments which I have enjoined in the Gospel; for faith alone does not suffice for salvation, but the keeping of the commandments is required, and the constant practice of virtues. For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified (Rom 2:13).

And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world. Although I ascend into Heaven, I will not forsake you, whom I am sending abroad over the whole world. I am with you, both as God and as man, by present help, grace, consolation, guidance, deliverance, which I will always bestow upon you and your successors; by means of which I will make all difficult things easy to you, says S. Chrysostom, so that out of all nations ye may gather together for Me a Church, that is, a company of faithful and holy men. And I am with you unto the end of the world. This world shall come to an end sooner than My presence in the Church shall fail. “He who promises,” says S. Jerome, “that He will be with His disciples to the end of the world, shows both that they shall live for ever (in their successors), and that He will never depart from them that believe.

“Do not fear,” says Prosper (lib. 2, de Vocat. Gent. c. 1), “because of your own weakness, but have confidence in My power, for I will not leave you in the performance of this work. Not that ye shall be without suffering, but, which is a much greater thing, I will take care that ye be not overcome by any cruelty of them that rage against you.

This is what Christ promised to His Apostles before His death (John 16:16),And I will ask the Father: and he shall give you another Paraclete, that he may abide with you for ever. For the gifts of the Holy Spirit and of Christ are the same, since the Deity of each and the operation of each is the same. For the external works of the Holy Trinity are undivided; and that which One Person works, the other Two also work. To the Holy Spirit, however, who proceeds forth as love, are fitly attributed the works of grace and holiness. So Christ was visibly present with Paul (Acts 22:17), and S. Stephen in his martyrdom (Acts 7:53-60.).

For this reason, likewise, Christ has willed to abide continually in the Church in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. For as the humanity and deity of Christ are present in glory in Heaven, and are adored visibly by the angels and saints, so are the same likewise present in the Eucharist, but hidden under the forms of bread and wine, and therefore invisible, and are there adored, and even partaken of by the faithful. Wherefore it is Christ who, by the ministry of every priest, performs daily that miracle of miracles, namely, the wonderful conversion of the bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord, which theologians call transubstantiation; for neither man, nor angel, nor created power could effect this. He Himself, therefore, in it offers Himself as an unbloody victim to the Father.

Tropologically: Christ is in and with the faithful soul even to the end of life, granting to it that great gift of perseverance, by which the elect are brought to Heaven. For He does not desert the just man, unless He first be deserted by him. Wherefore Christ is in a holy soul, first, politically, as it were a king in his kingdom, inasmuch as He directs and rules it aright according to the laws of justice.

Secondly, He is in the soul economically, as a father in a house and family, which he rules wisely; He is what a charioteer is in a chariot, so that we ought ever to be crying out to Him, as Elisha did to Elijah when he was being carried up into Heaven, My Father, the chariot of Israel and the charioteer (Vulg.) thereof.

Thirdly, Christ is in the soul ethically, in the manner of reason and prudence, which prudently directs all its actions, according to the rule of divine reason and eternal law which is in the mind of God.

Fourthly, He is in the soul physically that which the soul is in the body; for He is, as it were, the soul of the soul, Himself the life-giving life of grace, in order that the soul may live not an animal and carnal life, but a spiritual and divine one.

Lastly, He is, as it were, a divine fire, kindling the soul with the flame of charity. He is in the soul what the sun is in the world, making it fruitful in good works, according to that saying, For it is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish (Phil 2:13.). And, He who worketh all things according to the counsel of his will  (Eph 1:11). It is He who inspires our words with power, in order that they may be effectual to the conversion of the hearers from sin to holiness, according to that saying of Paul, I have planted, Apollo watered: but God gave the increase (1 Cor 3:6). Therefore, 0 wise and holy soul, go forth to meet thy God with love and desire. Thy Jesus desires to be with thee; do thou in thy turn desire to be with nought but Jesus. His delights are with thee, let thy delights be with Him. Suffer thyself, therefore, to be ruled and guided by Him, as a kingdom suffers itself to be ruled by its king, an army by its leader, a chariot by its charioteer, the will by the reason, the body by the soul, the world by the sun. “Thou art sufficient for God,” says S. Augustine; “let thy God be sufficient for thee.”

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One Response to Father Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Matthew 28:16-20

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord | stjoeofoblog

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