With the words 'Go throughout the whole world and preach the gospel to all mankind.' (Mk 16, 15) Christ sends the apostles into the world shortly before his ascension. Grief over the parting, joyful expectation and silent sincerity in the face of the imminent task: Cranach masterfully represents a wide spectrum of emotions in this close-up depiction of the apostles. The close-up representation of the figures is juxtaposed with the expansive landscape in the background, which alludes to their future mission. Two of the apostles have already left the group and give each other a parting embrace in the middle ground. At the right edge Cranach includes the Reformer Philipp Melanchthon as one of the apostles and as such positions him at the biblical foundation of the gospel proclamation. Research has not paid enough attention to this panel that underlines the legitimacy of the message of the Reformation by associating it with Christ's disciples. Lucas Cranach the Younger develops this aspect further in the Epitaph for Fürst Joachim von Anhalt (1564, Marienkirche Dessau) where he replaced not only one but all of the apostles with protagonists of the Reformation.
[Görres, Exhib. Cat. Düsseldorf 2017, 209, No. 115]