So much has been written, taught and debated concerning these few verses; I have done all of the above myself. For the purposes of this study of Matthew, I think it best to approach this strictly within its context in Matthew’s narrative.
Throughout his narrative, Matthew has been very careful to demonstrate Jesus as proclaiming the Kingdom. He shows Jesus’ proclamation, he shows Jesus teaching what it means to be a citizen of the Kingdom, and then Jesus going out and demonstrating the power of the Kingdom. After that, Matthew shows how Jesus shifts His emphasis to revealing to the disciples just who He was, and what His mission was so that they might come to understand the means by which His Kingdom would be established. All of this was done for the purpose of preparing the disciples to carry on the Kingdom work of Jesus.
At this point in Matthew’s narrative, Jesus has completed His messianic mission precisely according to plan. The redemptive work has been completed so that humans might receive God’s grace and enter this new Kingdom relationship. Thus, the risen Lord is now passing the Kingdom torch to the disciples and from here on, it will be up to them to proclaim the Kingdom and make disciples as Jesus had done with them.
They have graduated from disciple, to makers of disciples.
Luke tells us that after this Jesus told the disciples to return to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them, and of course we know that this took place a short time later at Pentecost, where the Kingdom kicked off with the disciples, now Apostles in the vanguard. We also know that the Holy Spirit comes upon each one of us when we receive Christ and rise from the waters of baptism, and thus, the torch passes down through all generations until Jesus returns.
I think it is fair to say that this is the legacy of love, for God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that none should perish but have eternal life. Jesus accepted this mission willingly, and so He willingly sacrificed Himself in the greatest single act of love ever recorded. After that, He commissioned His followers to share that love by making disciples, and in our time, the greatest act of love that we could possibly undertake, is to join in the sharing of His love by making disciples who, in turn, share that love.
And so, Matthew’s narrative has come to its conclusion, and the rest is in our hands: Will we pass that torch on, or will we take an easier road through this life?