We now come to the closing scene of our redemption. For the lively assurance of our reconciliation with God arises from Christ having come from hell as the conqueror of death, in order to show that he had the power of a new life at his disposal. Justly, therefore, does Paul say that there will be no gospel, and that the hope of salvation will be vain and fruitless, unless we believe that Christ is risen from the dead, (1Co_15:14.) For then did Christ obtain righteousness for us, and open up our entrance into heaven; and, in short, then was our adoption ratified, when Christ, by rising from the dead, exerted the power of his Spirit, and proved himself to be the Son of God. No though he manifested his resurrection in a different manner from what the sense of our flesh would have desired, still the method of which he approved ought to be regarded by us also as the best. he went out of the grave without a witness, that the emptiness of the place might be the earliest indication; next, he chose to have it announced to the women by the angels that he was alive; and shortly afterwards he appeared to the women, and, finally, to the apostles, and on various occasions.
Thus he gradually brought his followers, according to their capacity, to a larger measure of knowledge. He began with the women, and not only presented himself to be seen by them, but even gave them a commission to announce the gospel to the apostles, so as to become their instructors. This was intended, first, to chastise the indifference of the apostles, who were like persons half-dead with fear, while the women ran with alacrity to the sepulcher, and likewise obtained no ordinary reward. For though their design to anoint Christ, as if Ire were still dead, was not free from blame, still he forgave their weakness, and bestowed on them distinguished honor, by taking away from men the apostolic office, and committing it to them for a short time. In this manner also he exhibited an instance of what Paul tells us, that he chooses those things which are foolish and weak in the world to abase the loftiness of the flesh. And never shall we be duly prepared to learn this article of our faith in any other manner than by laying aside all pride, and submitting to receive the testimony of the women. Not that our faith ought to be confined within such narrow limits, but because the Lord, in order to make trial of our faith, determines that we shall become fools, before he admits us to a more ample knowledge of his mysteries.
So far as regards the narrative, Matthew says only that the two Marys came to see the sepulcher; Mark adds a third, Salome, and says that they bought spices to anoint the body; and from Luke we infer, that not two or three only, but many women came. But we know that it is customary with the sacred writers, when speaking of a great number, to name but a few of them. It may also be conjectured with probability, that Mary Magdalene, with another companion—whether she was sent before, or ran forward of her own accord arrived at the grave before the rest of the women. And this appears to be conveyed by the words of Matthew, that those two women came for the purpose of seeing; for without seeing Christ:, they had no means of anointing him. He says nothing, in the meantime, about the purpose which they had formed of doing honor to him; for the principal object which he had in view was, to testify of the resurrection.
But it may be asked, how could this zeal of the women, which was mixed with superstition, be acceptable to God? I have no doubt, that the custom of anointing the dead, which they had borrowed from the Fathers, was applied by them to its proper object, which was, to draw consolation, amidst the mourning of death, from the hope of the life to come. I readily acknowledge that they sinned in not immediately raising their minds to that prediction which they had heard from the lips of their Master, when he foretold that he would rise again on the third day. But as they retain the general principle of the final resurrection, that defect is forgiven, which would justly have vitiated, as the phrase is, the whole of the action. Thus God frequently accepts, with fatherly kindness, the works of the saints, which, without pardon, not only would not have pleased him, but would even have been justly rejected with shame and punishment. It is, therefore, an astonishing display of the goodness of Christ, that he kindly and generously presents himself alive to the women, who did him wrong in seeking him among the dead. Now if he did not permit them to come in vain to his grave, we may conclude with certainty, that those who now aspire to him by faith will not be disappointed; for the distance of places does not prevent believers from enjoying him who fills heaven and earth by the power of his Spirit.
In the end of the sabbath; ὀψετων: late on the sabbath; Vulgate, vespere sabbati. The expression is obscure. In the parallel passage of St. Mark we read, “When the sabbath was past.” We must take it that St. Matthew is thinking of the sabbath as extending, not from evening to evening, but till the following morning. “So that it is not the accurate Jewish division of time, according to which the sabbath ended at six on Saturday evening, but the ordinary civil idea of a day, which extended from sunrise to sunrise (or at least adds the night to the preceding day)” (Lange). We have, then, now arrived at the commencement of the first Christian Easter Day. As it began to dawn toward the first day of the week; εἰς μιìαν σαββαìτων: in prima sabbati (Vulgate); literally, unto one day of sabbath; i.e. one day after the sabbath, the Jews reckoning their days in sequence from the sabbath, and Christians at first carrying on the same practice, as we see in Act_20:7; 1Co_16:2. Later Christians named the days of the week in sequence from the Sunday, which was the first day, Monday being the second day, feria secunda, and so on. Came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (see on Mat_27:61) to see the sepulchre. Love cannot abandon its object, living or dead. There were probably other women with these two, or perhaps there were two separate bands of women who in this early morning visited the sepulchre. Among these Mary Magdalene stands prominently forward, first in love and first in care. She and the rest evidently knew nothing of the sealing of the stone or the posting of the guards. St. Matthew’s expression, “to see (θεωρῆσαι,
“to gaze upon,” “contemplate”) the sepulchre,” conveys only a partial notice of the object of their visit. They came not only to take a view of the tomb, but also to embalm the Lord’s body, for which necessary preparations had been made, the approach of the sabbath on the evening of the Crucifixion having cut short the arrangements. We know from St. Mark that they were perplexed about the difficulty of removing the stone, and St. Matthew may be referring to a preliminary inspection made in regard of this impediment. Our Gospel omits mention of the intention of embalming the corpse, as the Resurrection rendered it impracticable; and, indeed, the Lord’s body had already been anointed for his burial by Mary of Bethany.
In the end of the sabbath – The word “end” here means the same as “after” the Sabbath – that is, after the Sabbath was fully completed or finished, and may be expressed in this manner: “In the night following the Sabbath, for the Sabbath closed at sunset, as it began to dawn,” etc.
As it began to dawn toward the first day of the week – The word “dawn” is not of necessity in the original. The word there properly means as the first day “approached,” or drew on, without specifying the precise time. Mark says Mar_16:1-2 that it was after “the sabbath was past, and very early in the morning, at the rising of the sun” – that is, not that the sun “was risen,” but that it was about to rise, or at the early break of day. Luke says Luk_24:1 that it was “very early in the morning;” in the Greek text, “deep twilight,” or when there was scarcely any light. John Joh_20:1 says it was “very early, while it was yet dark” – that is, it was not yet full daylight, or the sun had not yet risen. The time when they came, therefore, was at the break of day, when the sun was about to rise, but while it was yet so dark as to render objects obscure, or not distinctly visible.
The first day of the week – The day which is observed by Christians as the Sabbath. The Jews observed the seventh day of the week, or our Saturday. During that day our Saviour was in the grave. As he rose on the morning of the first day, that day has always been observed in commemoration of so glorious an event.
Came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary – From Mary Magdalene Christ had cast out seven devils. Grateful for his great mercy, she was one of his firmest and most faithful followers, and was first at the sepulchre, and was first permitted to see her risen Lord. The “other Mary” was not the mother of Jesus, but the mother of James and Joses (Mark). Mark says that “Salome” attended them. Salome was the wife of Zebedee, and the mother of James and John. From Luke Luk_24:10 it appears that Joanna, wife of Chusa, Herod’s steward (see Luk_8:3), was with them. These four women, Mark says Mar_16:1, having bought sweet spices, came to anoint him. They had prepared a part of them on the evening before the Sabbath, Luk_23:56. They now, according to Mark, completed the preparation and bought more; or the meaning in Mark may be merely that, “having bought” sweet spices, without specifying the time when, they came now to embalm him. John mentions only Mary Magdalene. He does this, probably, because his object was to give a particular account of her interview with the risen Saviour. There is no contradiction among the evangelists; for while one mentions only the names of a part of those who were there, he does not deny that “others” were present also. It is an old maxim, that “he who mentions a few does not deny that there are more.”
To see the sepulchre – To see whether was as it had been left on the evening when he was laid there. To see if the stone was still there, by which they would know that he had not been removed. Mark and Luke say that the design of their coming was to anoint him with the sweet spices which they had prepared. Matthew does not mention that, but he does not “deny” that that was the ultimate design of their coming. It is not improbable that they might have known the manner in which he was buried, with a large quantity of myrrh and aloes; but that was done in haste – it was done by depositing the myrrh and aloes, without mixture or preparation, in the grave-clothes. They came that they might embalm his body more deliberately, or at least that they might “anoint the bandages” and complete the work of embalming.
Mat_28:2.And, lo, a great earthquake. By many signs the Lord showed the presence of his glory, that he might more fully prepare the hearts of the holy women to reverence the mystery. For since it was not a matter of little consequence to know that the Son of God had obtained a victory over death, (on which the principal point of our salvation is founded,) it was necessary to remove all doubts, that the divine majesty might be openly and manifestly presented to the eyes of the women. Matthew says, therefore, that there was an earthquake, by which the divine power which I have mentioned might be perceived. And by this prodigy, it was proper that the women should be allowed to expect nothing human or earthly, but to raise their minds to a work of God which was new, and surpassed the expectations of men.
The raiment and the countenance of the angel, too, might be said to be rays by which the splendor of Godhead was diffused, so as to enable them to perceive that it was not a mortal man that stood near them, having the face of a man. For though dazzling light, or the whiteness of snow, is nothing in comparison of the boundless glory of God, but rather, if we wish to know him aright, we ought not to imagine to ourselves any color; yet when he makes known by outward signs that he is present, he invites us to him, as far as our weakness can endure. Still we ought to know that the visible signs of his presence are exhibited to us, that our minds may conceive of him as invisible; and that, under bodily forms, we obtain a taste of his spiritual essence, that we may seek him spiritually. Yet it cannot be doubted that, together with outward signs, there was an inward power, which engraved on the hearts of the women an impression of Deity. For though at first they were struck with amazement, yet it will appear, from what follows, that they gathered courage, and were gradually instructed in such a manner, that they perceived the hand of God to be present.
Our three Evangelists, from a desire of brevity, leave out what is more fully related by John, (Joh_20:1) which, we know, is not unusual with them. There is also this difference, that Matthew and Mark mention but one angel, while John and Luke speak of two. But this apparent contradiction also is easily removed; for we know how frequently in Scripture instances occur of that figure of speech by which a part is taken for the whole. There were two angels, therefore, who appeared first to Mary, and afterwards to her other companions; but as the attention of the women was chiefly directed to the angel who spoke, Matthew and Mark have satisfied themselves with relating his message. Besides, when Matthew says that the angel sat on a stone, there is in his words (ὕστερον πρότερον), an inversion of the order of events; or, at least, that order was disregarded by him; for the angel did not immediately appear, but while the women were held in suspense and anxiety by an event so strange and astonishing.
And, behold. A wonderful sight met their eyes. The following event took place before their arrival; they saw only the result. No mortal eye beheld, and no pen has recorded, the actual issuing of the Lord from the closed tomb. There was a great earthquake. St. Matthew does not attempt to give the exact sequence of events. Probably the shock, caused by the sudden advent and action of the angel, befell as the women were approaching the cemetery. Christ had risen before this occurrence, nothing being a barrier to his spiritual body. For the angel of the Lord … from the door. The narrator accounts for the phenomenon just mentioned. The words, “from the door,” are omitted by the best manuscripts, the Vulgate, and modern editors, and seem to be a marginal interpolation. The angel rolled away the stone which Joseph had rolled up (Mat_27:60), not in order to afford passage to the body of the Lord, who had already raised himself, but to give the women and others entrance to the empty tomb, and to strike terror into the heart of the soldiers. In the case of Lazarus the stone had to be removed to give exit to the resuscitated body—a natural body (Joh_11:39, Joh_11:41); in the case of Jesus such removal was not necessary, as his was a spiritual body, possessed of supernatural powers and qualities (Joh_20:19). And sat upon it. In triumph, and to show that it was not to be replaced; death had done its work, and now was vanquished. Angels’ appearances had always accompanied the great events in the history of the chosen people; angels had shown themselves at Christ’s birth, at his temptation, at his agony; now they guard his tomb, proving that he was well pleasing unto the Lord, and was raised from the grave by him. The narration of this awful incident was probably given by the soldiers, who alone witnessed it.
There was a great earthquake – Rather there “had been.” It does not mean that this was while they were there, or while they were going, but that there “had been” so violent a commotion as to remove the stone. The word rendered here as “earthquake” does not of necessity mean that the convulsion extended to the earth, but only that there had been such a concussion as to remove the stone.
And sat upon it – Sat upon it when the keepers saw him, Mat_28:4. It is not said that he was sitting when he appeared to the women. From Luke it would rather appear that he was standing.
His countenance (ἰδεìα, appearance) was like lightning. The angel’s aspect was as bright and startling as the flash of lightning (comp. Eze_1:14; Dan_10:6). His raiment white as snow. Pure and glistening, like the effect of the Transfiguration on the Lord (Mat_18:2; comp. Act_1:10; Rev_10:1).
4.Through fear the guards trembled. The Lord struck the guards with terror, as if he had engraved their consciences with a hot iron, so as to constrain them reluctantly to feel his divine power. The terror had, at least, the effect of hindering them from treating with careless mockery the report of the resurrection which was to be spread abroad shortly afterwards. For though they were not ashamed of prostituting their tongues for him, still they were compelled, whether they would or not, to acknowledge inwardly what they wickedly denied before men. Nor can it be doubted that, when they were at liberty to talk freely among their acquaintances, they frankly admitted what they dare not openly avow, in consequence of having been gained over by money.
We must attend to the distinction between the two kinds of terror, between which Matthew draws a comparison. The soldiers, who were accustomed to tumults, were terrified, and were so completely overwhelmed by alarm, that they fell down like men who were almost dead; but no power was exerted to raise them from that condition. A similar terror seized the women; but their minds, which had nearly given way, were restored by the consolation which immediately followed, so as to begin, at least, to entertain some better hope. And, certainly, it is proper that the majesty of God should strike both terror and fear indiscriminately into the godly, as well as the reprobate, that all flesh may be silent before his face. But when the Lord has humbled and subdued his elect, he immediately mitigates their dread, that they may not sink under its oppressive influence; and not only so, but by the sweetness of his grace heals the wound which he had inflicted. The reprobate, on the other hand, he either overwhelms by sudden dread, or suffers to languish in slow torments. As to the soldiers themselves, they were, no doubt, like dead men, but without any serious impression. Like men in a state of insensibility, they tremble, indeed, for a moment, but presently forget that they were afraid; not that the remembrance of their terror was wholly obliterated, but because that lively and powerful apprehension of the power of God, to which they were compelled to yield, soon passed away from them. But we ought chiefly to attend to this point, that though they, as well as the women, were afraid, no medicine was applied to soothe their terror; for to the women only did the angel say, Fear not. He held out to them a ground of joy and assurance in the resurrection of Christ. Luke adds a reproof, Why do you seek the living among the dead? as if the angel pulled their ear, that they might no longer remain in sluggishness and despair.
And for fear of him; but from the fear of him. From the fear inspired by this awful angel. It would seem, from this expression, that the soldiers were sensible, not only of the earthquake and the movement of the stone, but also of the presence of the heavenly messenger, in this respect differing from the companions of Daniel and St. Paul, who were only partially conscious of the visions beheld by the two saints (see Dan_10:7; Act_22:9). Did shake. The verb is cognate with the noun “earthquake;” they were shaken, convulsed with terror. If these were some of the company that had watched the Crucifixion, they were already possessed of some feeling respecting the unearthly nature of the Occupant of the tomb which they were guarding, and had a vague expectation of something that might happen. At any rate, they must have heard the late events discussed by their comrades, and were not without apprehension of a catastrophe. Became as dead men. They fell to the ground in deathlike faintness, and, when they recovered from the trance, fled in terror from the tomb into the city (verse 11).
Unto the women (tais gunaixin). According to John, Mary Magdalene had left to go and tell Peter and John of the supposed grave robbery (Joh_20:1.). But the other women remained and had the interview with the angel (or men, Luke) about the empty tomb and the Risen Christ.
Jesus the Crucified (Iēsoun ton estaurōmenon). Perfect passive participle, state of completion. This he will always be. So Paul will preach as essential to his gospel “and this one crucified” (kai touton estaurōmenon, 1Co_2:2).
And the angel answered and said … – This was not on the outside of the tomb, for Matthew does not say that the angel appeared to the “women” there, but only to the keepers. Mark says, “entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment” Mar_16:5. Luke says Luk_24:3, “they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus; and as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments.” Seeing the stone rolled away and the sepulchre open, they of course anxiously entered into it, to see if the body was there. They did not find it, and there they saw the vision of the angels, who gave them information respecting his resurrection. Infidels have objected that there are three inconsistencies in the accounts by Mark and Luke:
1. That Mark says the angel was sitting, and Luke says they were standing. Answer: The word in Luke does not of necessity mean that they “stood,” but only that they were “present.” Or it may be that the one that Mark mentions was sitting when they entered, and then arose.
2. It is objected that Luke mentions two, but Mark and Matthew one. Answer: Mark mentions the one who spoke; for it cannot be supposed they both spake the same thing. He does not deny that another was present with him. Luke affirms that there was. This way of speaking is not unfrequent. Thus, Mark and Luke mention only one demoniac who was cured at Gadara. Matthew mentions two. In like manner Mark and Luke speak of only one blind man who was cured at Jericho, while from Matthew it is certain that two were. The fact that but one is mentioned, where it is not denied that there were others, does not prove that there could not be others.
3. Matthew calls this an “angel.” Mark and Luke say “a man.” Answer: Angels, in the Scriptures, from “appearing” in the form of human beings, are often called as they “appear,” and are mentioned as men. See Gen_18:2, Gen_18:16, Gen_18:22; Gen_19:1, Gen_19:5. “Fear not ye.” That is, “Be not agitated, or troubled, that you do not find the body of the Saviour. I know that ye seek him, and are troubled that he is removed; but you need not fear that he has been stolen. You will see him again in Galilee.”
He is not here. He is not in this tomb; his bodily presence is removed from this his whilom resting place. St. Matthew’s account is greatly condensed, and omits many details which harmonists try to fit into our text. The attempt is not to be commended, for it really involves greater confusion, and, after all, is forced and only conjectural. For he is risen, as he said. If they had believed Christ’s often-repeated announcement, they would not have come seeking the living among the dead. (For Christ’s predictions concerning his resurrection, see Mat_12:40; Mat_16:21; Mat_17:23; Mat_20:19.) On this simple, but pregnant sentence, “He is risen,” depends the phenomenon of Christianity, in its origin, existence, continuance, extension, and moral power. “Death began with woman; and to women the first announcement is made of resurrection” (Hilary, quoted by Wordsworth, in loc.). Come, see the place where the Lord lay. The angel invites them to satisfy themselves that Christ’s body was no longer in its resting place. That Jesus was designated as “the Lord,” ὁ Κυìριος, by the disciples is obvious (see Joh_20:18; Joh_21:7, etc.), but it is doubtful whether the words are genuine here, though they are found in many good manuscripts and in the Vulgate. They are omitted by א, B, 33, etc., and by Tischendorf and Westcott and Hort in their editions. Regarding them as genuine, Bengel calls them “gloriosa appellatio,” which indeed it is, for it is equivalent to “Jehovah.” Harmonists suppose that the angel was at first not seen by the women; that Mary Magdalene, observing the stone removed, at once hurried to the city to tell Peter and John; that, the rest of the women remaining, the angel made himself visible to them and bade them enter the sepulchre; and that, doing so, they beheld another angel sitting on the right side of the recess. Thus, it is conjectured, the accounts in Mark and John may be harmonized with that in our text. (See also Westcott on Joh_20:1-31., where is given a provisional arrangement of the facts of the first Easter Day.)
He has risen, as he said – Jesus had often predicted that he would rise, but the disciples did not understand it, and consequently did not expect it, Mat_16:21; Mat_20:19.
The place where the Lord lay – The place where a body was deposited in a sepulchre was commonly a niche cut in the wall of the sepulchre. The sepulchre was usually large; that of David was mere than 100 feet in length, cut out of solid rock under ground, and separated into various apartments. All round the sides of those apartments were niches for the dead; or they were ranged around the sides, in places cut in the solid rock just large enough to contain the body. In such a place, probably, our Lord lay.
7.And go quickly, and tell his disciples. Here God, by the angel, confers extraordinary honor on the women, by enjoining them to proclaim to the apostles themselves the chief point of our salvation. In Mark’s account of it, they are expressly enjoined to carry this message to Peter; not because he was at that time higher in rank than the others, but because his crime, which was so disgraceful, needed peculiar consolation to assure him that Christ had not cast him off, though he had basely and wickedly fallen. He had already entered into the sepulcher, and beheld the traces of the resurrection of Christ; but God denied him the honor, which he shortly afterwards conferred on the women, of hearing from the lips of the angel that Christ was risen. And, indeed, the great insensibility under which he still labored is evident from the fact that he again fled trembling to conceal himself, as if he had seen nothing, while Mary sat down to weep at the grave. It cannot be doubted, therefore, that she and her companions, in beholding the angel, obtained the reward of their patience.
And, lo, He goeth before you into Galilee. When the angel sent the disciples into Galilee, he did so, I think, in order that Christ might make himself known to a great number of persons; for we know that he had lived a long time in Galilee. He intended also to give his followers greater liberty, that by the very circumstance of their retirement they might gradually acquire courage. Besides, by being accustomed to the places, they were aided in recognizing their Master with greater certainty; for it was proper to adopt every method of confirming them, that nothing might be wanting to complete the certainty of their faith.
Lo, I have told you. By this manner of speaking the angel earnestly assures them that what is said is true. He states this, not as from himself, as if he had been the first to suggest it, but gives his signature to the promise of Christ; and, therefore, in Mark’s account of it, he merely recalls to their remembrance the very words of Christ. Luke carries out the address still farther, by saying that the disciples were informed by Christ that he must be crucified, and rise again on the third day. But the meaning is the same; for along with his resurrection he had foretold his death. He then adds, —
Go quickly, and tell his disciples. St. Mark significantly adds, “and Peter.” The disciples were to believe without seeing. They had deserted Christ in his hour of need, had not stood by the cross, nor aided in his burial; so they were not to be honoured with the vision of angels or the first sight of the risen Lord. This was reserved for the faithful women, who thus received their mission to carry a message to the messengers—a foretaste of the ministry which they should perform in the Church of Christ. He goeth before you (προαìγει ὑμᾶς) into Galilee. The verb is noticeable. It is that used by our Lord himself on his way to the garden of Gethsemane (Mat_26:32), and it implies the act of a shepherd at the head of his flock, leading them to new pastures (comp. Joh_10:4). The good Shepherd had been smitten, and the sheep scattered; now under his guidance they were to be reunited. The apostolic band had been temporarily dissolved and disintegrated; the college was again to be reformed, and was to receive its renewed commission in seclusion and peace, that it might return to Jerusalem with unimpaired strength to commence its arduous labours. The place of meeting is in Galilee, where most of his mighty works were done, and where it was safer for the disciples to assemble than at Jerusalem. The majority of them came from this region, and thither they returned some ten days (Joh_20:26; Joh_21:1-4) after the Resurrection, to resume their ordinary occupations (verse 16). Thus they would realize that it was the same Jesus who met them there with whom, these three past years, they had held familiar intercourse. It was ordained, for some reason not expressly stated, that from Galilee should proceed Christ’s spiritual kingdom which he came to establish—that “word which,” as Peter said (Act_10:37), “was published throughout all Judaea, beginning from Galilee.” We read of only two appearances of Christ in Galilee—once at the lake, mentioned in the last chapter of St. John, and again in verse 17 of this chapter of St. Matthew. It is, however, possible that the appearance named by St. Paul (1Co_15:6), when he was seen by more than five hundred brethren at one time, may have occurred in Galilee. If this is the ease, it would be remarkable as the only public revelation of Christ after his resurrection, and the comparative seclusion of the northern district may have been one reason for its selection as the scene for this great demonstration. There was doubtless some moral fitness in the humble and despised Galilee being made the starting point of his Church who was despised and rejected of men whom it was contemptuously said, “Doth the Christ come out of Galilee?” (Joh_7:41). “As in all things God sets at naught the pride of mankind, and chooses persons, instruments, and places mean in the eves of the world, teaching us that in humbler and more retired abodes, secret from the world, we are to seek for the strength of God, who hideth himself” (I. Williams). Lo, I have told you. The angel thus solemnly confirms what he had just said. The Authorized Vulgate gives, Ecce, praedixi vobis, which is warranted by no existing Greek manuscripts, the uniform reading of the original being εἶπον or εἶμα
Mat_28:8.And they departed quickly. The three Evangelists pass by what John relates about Mary Magdalene, (Joh_20:2,) that she returned into the city before she had seen the angels, and complained with tears that the body of Christ had been taken away. Here they mention only the second return to the city, when she, and other women who accompanied her, told the disciples that Christ was risen; which they had learned both from the words and testimony of the angel, and from seeing Christ himself. Now before Christ showed himself, they already ran to the disciples, as they had been commanded by the angel. On the road they received a second confirmation, that they might with greater certainty assert the resurrection of the Lord.
With fear and great joy. By these words Matthew means that they were indeed gladdened by what the angel told them, but, at the same the were struck with fear, so that they were held in suspense between joy and perplexity. For there are sometimes opposite feelings in the hearts of the godly, which move them alternately in opposite directions, until at length the peace of the Spirit brings them into a settled condition. For if their faith had been strong, it would have given them entire composure by subduing fear; but now fear, mingled with joy, shows that they had not yet fully relied on the testimony of the angel. And here Christ exhibited a remarkable instance of compassion, in meeting them while they thus doubted and trembled, so as to remove all remaining doubt.
Yet there is some diversity in the words of Mark, that they fled, seized with trembling and amazement, so that through fear they were dismayed. But the solution is not very difficult; for though they were resolved to obey the angel, still they had not power to do so, if the Lord himself had not loosed their tongues. But in what follows there is greater appearance of contradiction; for Mark does not say that Christ met them, but only that he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, while Luke says nothing whatever of this appearance. But this omission ought not to appear strange to us, since it is far from being unusual with the Evangelists.
As to the difference between the words of Matthew and of Mark, it is possible that Magdalene may have been a partaker of so great a favor before the other women, or even that Matthew, by synecdoche, may have extended to all what was peculiar to one of their number. It is more probable, however, that Mark names her alone, because she first obtained a sight of Christ, and in a peculiar manner, in preference to the others, and yet that her companions also saw Christ in their order, and that on this account Matthew attributes it to all them in common. This was an astonishing instance of goodness, that Christ manifested his heavenly glory to a wretched woman, who had been possessed by seven devils, (Luk_8:2,) and, intending to display the light of a new and eternal life, began where there was nothing in the eyes of man but what was base and contemptible. But by this example Christ showed how generously he is wont to continue the progress of his grace, when he has once displayed it towards us; and, at the same time, he threw down the pride of the flesh.
And they departed quickly – Joyful at the “news,” and wishing to impart it to all, they fled to find the disciples, and to tell them that the Lord was risen.
With fear and great joy – Fear because of:
1. The wonderful scenes which they had witnessed the stone rolled away, and the presence of an angel;
2. A confused state of mind, apprehensive, perhaps, that it might not, after all, be true.
The news was too good to be credited at once, yet they had sufficient faith in it to fill them with great and unexpected joy. Perhaps no language could better express the state of their minds – the mingled awe and rejoicing – than that which is used here.
And did run … – They ran to announce what they had seen to the disciples. The city, where the disciples were, was half a mile or more from the place.
As they went to tell his disciples. This clause is omitted by the best manuscripts, and the Vulgate and other versions, and is rejected by modern editors. It is not quite in St. Matthew’s style, and seems to be rightly regarded as a gloss There is. one advantage in its omission, in that the actual moment of this appearance of our Lord is left undecided, and we are at liberty to harmonize it, if so minded, with other details. Now the women, according to our history, receive the reward of their faith and love. Behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail! Χαιìρετε: literally, Rejoice ye! This is not the usual Eastern salutation, “Peace be unto you!” but one that came with peculiar significance on their lately sorrow-stricken hearts. So he had said to his apostles, “Your sorrow shall be turned into joy” (Joh_16:20), and now he made good his word. This is the only one of Christ’s appearances in Jerusalem or its neighbourhood. that St. Matthew relates. They came and held him by the feet (took hold of his feet). As soon as they saw him, they went to him with glad surprise, and yet with such awe, that they could only fall down before him and tenderly clasp his feet. He had appeared before this to Mary Magdalene (Mar_16:9), but had not permitted her to touch him because he had not yet ascended to the Father (Joh_20:17), implying thereby either that she would have other opportunities of holding converse with him, as he was not going to leave the earth immediately, and she must not detain him now; or, more probably, that the spiritual body demanded, not the touch of earthly affection, but the attitude of awe and reverence, and that all future contact would be supernatural and spiritual, realizing his presence after a heavenly and supersensuous manner by faith. But these women clung to Christ with something higher than natural, earthly affection, acknowledging his superhumanity, and he allowed them, like Thomas, to assure themselves of his corporeity by touch as well as sight. Worshipped him. They remained at his feet in profound adoration.
And as they went … Jesus met them – This was when they left the sepulchre the “second” time. Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene when alone, Joh_20:14. “Afterward” he appeared to the other women, as related by Matthew. See the accounts of the resurrection harmonized at the end of this chapter.
All hail – This is a term of salutation. The word all has been supplied by the translators. It is not in the original. The meaning of the word “hail,” here, is rejoice;” a term of salutation connected with the idea of joy at his resurrection, and at meeting them again.
Held him by the feet – Or threw themselves prostrate before him. This was the usual posture of supplication. See 2Ki_4:37. It does not mean that they took hold of his feet, but only that they cast themselves down before him.
And worshipped him – See the notes at Mat_8:2. In this place the word “worship” seems to denote the homage due to the Messiah risen from the dead; regarded by them now in a proper light, and entitled to the honor which was due to God, agreeably to Joh_5:23.
10.Then Jesus saith to them. We conclude, that it was an improper fear, from which Christ again delivers them; for though it arose out of admiration, still it was opposed to the tranquillity of faith. That they may raise themselves to Christ, the Conqueror of death, they are commanded to be cheerful. But by those words we are taught that we never know aright our Lord’s resurrection, until, through the firm assurance which we have conceived in our hearts, we venture to rejoice that we have been made partakers of the same life. Our faith ought, at least, to proceed so far that fear shall not predominate.
Go, tell my brethren. When Christ ordered them to tell this to the disciples, by this message he again collected and raised up the Church, which was scattered and fallen down. For as it is chiefly by the faith of the resurrection that we are now quickened, so at that time it was proper that the disciples should have that life restored to them from which they had fallen. Here, to it is proper to remark the astonishing kindness of Christ, in deigning to bestow the name of brethren on deserters who had basely forsaken him. Nor can it be doubted that he intentionally employed so kind an appellation, for the purpose of soothing the grief by which he knew that they were grievously tormented. But as the Apostles were not the only persons who were acknowledged by him as brethren, let us know that this message was conveyed by the recommend of Christ, in order that it might afterwards come to us. And, therefore, we ought not to listen with indifference to the narrative of the resurrection, when Christ, with his own mouth, kindly invites us to receive the fruit of it on the ground of our being related to him as brethren. As to the interpretation which some have given to the word brethren, as denoting the cousins and other relatives of Christ, their mistake is abundantly refuted by the context; for John expressly says that Mary came and told the disciples, (Joh_20:18;) and Luke immediately adds, that the women told these things to the apostles. Mark also agrees with them; for he says that Mary came and told it to the apostles, while they were mourning and weeping.
Be not afraid. So he spake on other occasions when his acts had caused terror and amazement (comp. Mat_14:27; Mat_17:7). With all their joy and love, the women could not help feeling fear at his sudden appearance and at the nearness of this unearthly yet familiar form. Go, tell my brethren. He here for the first time calls his disciples his brethren, intending thereby to assure them of his love and good will in spite of their cowardly desertion, and to signify that he was in very truth the Man Christ Jesus, their Lord and their Master, whom they had known so long and so well. He had called them friends before his Passion (Joh_15:14, Joh_15:15); now he gives them a tenderer title; he is not ashamed to call them brethren (Heb_2:11). That they go into Galilee. The message is the same as that given by the angel (Mat_28:7). It was meant to comfort them in the absence of daily intercourse with him. But they were not to set out immediately; some other incidents were first to befall them. And there shall they see me. Galilee was to be the scene of the most important revelation, though the Lord vouchsafed to individuals many proofs of his risen life before the promised great announcement. Why St. Matthew mentions none of these we may form conjectures, but we cannot determine (see on verse 16).
Be not afraid – The ancients, when in the presence of a heavenly being – an angel, or one who was supposed to be possessed of divine power were commonly struck with great “fear,” as well as a great sense of their unworthiness. See Luk_5:8; Jdg_6:22-23; Jdg_13:21-22. These women were in like manner alarmed when they saw Jesus, believing him now especially to be a Divine Being; seeing him returning from the regions of the dead, and doubtless impressed with a new consciousness that they were unworthy of being in his presence. Jesus comforted them. He was the “same Jesus” with whom they had been before his death, and they had no reason now to fear him.
Go tell my brethren – There is something exceedingly tender in the appellation used here – “my brethren.” Though he was risen from the dead, though about to be exalted to heaven, yet he did not disdain to call his disciples his brethren. This was calculated still further to silence the fears of the women and to inspire them with confidence.
Into Galilee – Galilee was the northern part of the land. There the Saviour commenced his ministry; and there, away from the noise and confusion of the city, he purposed again to meet them, in retirement and quietness, to satisfy them of his resurrection, and to commission them to go forth and preach the everlasting gospel.
And the eleven disciples went into Galilee. Matthew, passing by those occurrences which we have taken out of the other three Evangelists, mentions only in what place the eleven disciples were appointed to the apostolic office. For—as we have already had frequent opportunities of perceiving—it was not the intention of the Evangelists to embrace every part of the history; because the Holy Spirit, who guided their pen, has thought fit to compose such a summary as we see out of their united testimonies. Matthew has therefore selected what was of the greatest importance to us, namely, that when Christ appeared to the disciples, he likewise commissioned them to be apostles, to convey into every part of the world the message of eternal life.
To the mountain where Jesus had appointed them. Though the mountain is not mentioned any where else, yet we con-elude that this spot in Galilee was known to Mary.
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown
Jesus meets with the disciples on a mountain in Galilee and gives forth the great commission.
Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee — but certainly not before the second week after the resurrection, and probably somewhat later.
into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them — It should have been rendered “the mountain,” meaning some certain mountain which He had named to them – probably the night before He suffered, when He said, “After I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee” (Mat_26:32; Mar_14:28). What it was can only be conjectured; but of the two between which opinions are divided – the Mount of the Beatitudes or Mount Tabor – the former is much the more probable, from its nearness to the Sea of Tiberias, where last before this the Narrative tells us that He met and dined with seven of them. (Joh_21:1, etc.). That the interview here recorded was the same as that referred to in one place only – 1Co_15:6 – when “He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remained unto that day, though some were fallen asleep,” is now the opinion of the ablest students of the evangelical history. Nothing can account for such a number as five hundred assembling at one spot but the expectation of some promised manifestation of their risen Lord: and the promise before His resurrection, twice repeated after it, best explains this immense gathering.
Then the eleven disciples. There is no note of time in the original, which gives merely, But the eleven, etc. The meeting here narrated took place on some day after the first Easter week. The number “eleven” shows the loss of one of the sacred college, whose complement was not filled up till just before Pentecost (Act_1:15-26). Went away into Galilee. St. Matthew takes pains to show the exact fulfilment of Christ’s very special injunction and promise concerning Galilee (see verses 7, 10, and notes there, and Mat_26:32). The evangelist’s object being to set forth Christ in his character as King and Lawgiver, he puts aside all other incidents in order to give prominence to this appearance, where Jesus announces his supreme authority (verse 18), gives the commission to his apostles, and promises his perpetual presence (verses 19, 20). Into a mountain ( the mountain), where (οὗ instead of οἷ) Jesus had appointed them. We do not know the locality intended, though it must have been some spot familiar to the disciples, and was probably plainly designated at the time when Christ appointed the meeting. Some have fixed on Tabor as the scene of this revelation, others on the Mount of Beatitudes; but where nothing is stated it is best to lay aside conjecture and accept the designed indefiniteness. Many commentators have determined that this appearance on the Galilaean mountain was that mentioned by St. Paul (1Co_15:6), as manifested to five hundred brethren at once. This is a mere conjecture, probable, but not certain. If it was the case, we must consider that St. Matthew singles out the eleven apostles as the most eminent among the company, and those to whom the Lord specially addressed the commission which he mentions. Of the five hundred brethren, St. Paul, writing some twenty years or more after this time, testifies that the greater number were still alive, only some having “fallen asleep.” There never was, indeed, any historical fact the authenticity of which was more remarkably and irrefragably certified than the resurrection of Christ.
17.But some doubted. It is wonderful that, after they had twice seen Christ, still some doubted. If any one choose to view this as referring to the first appearance, there will be no absurdity in that opinion; for the Evangelists are sometimes in the habit of blending a variety of transactions. But neither would it have the appearance of absurdity to suppose that in some of them the remains of their former terror led them again into hesitation; for we know that, when Christ appeared, they were struck with fear and amazement, till they had recovered their minds and had become accustomed to his presence. The meaning, therefor appears to me to be, that some at first hesitated, until Christ made a nearer and more familiar approach to them; but that when they certainly and absolutely recognized him, then they worshipped, because the splendor of his divine glory was manifest. And perhaps it was the same reason that suddenly caused them to doubt, and afterwards led them to worship him; namely, that he had laid aside the form of a servant, and had nothing in his appearance but what was heavenly.
Matthew 28:17. worshipped him] See note ch. 20:20. It is characteristic of St Matthew’s Gospel that this word, which indicates the homage and prostration before a king, should occur twelve times, whereas it is found twice only in each of the other Synoptics.
some] Probably not some of the Apostles, but some of the five hundred who had not previously seen the Lord.
doubted] The same word is used of St Peter’s doubt, ch. 14:31, and in these passages only in N. T.; there too the doubt is followed by adoration, v. 33.
They worshipped him – Paid him honour as the Messiah.
But some doubted – As, for example, Thomas, Joh_20:25. The disciples had not expected his resurrection; they were therefore slow to believe. The mention of their doubting shows that they were honest men that they were not easily imposed on that they had not previously agreed to affirm that he had risen – that they were convinced only by the strength of the evidence. Their caution in examining the evidence; their slowness to believe; their firm conviction after all their doubts; and their willingness to show their conviction even by their “death,” is most conclusive proof that they were “not” deceived in regard to the fact of his resurrection.
18.And Jesus approached and spoke to them. His approach unquestionably removed all hesitation. Before relating that the office of teaching was committed to the disciples, Matthew says that Christ began by speaking of his power; and not without reason. For no ordinary authority would here have been enough, but sovereign and truly divine government ought to be possessed by him who commands them to promise eternal life in his ham to reduce the whole world under his sway, and to publish a doctrine which subdues all pride, and lays prostrate the whole of the human race. And by this preface Christ not only encouraged the Apostles to full confidence in the discharge of their office, but confirmed the faith of his gospel in all ages. Never, certainly, would the Apostles have had sufficient confidence to undertake so arduous an office, if they had not known that their Protector sitteth in heaven, and that the highest authority is given to him; for without such a support it would have been impossible for them to make any progress. But when they learn that he to whom they owe their services is the Governor of heaven and earth, this alone was abundantly sufficient for preparing them to rise superior to all opposition. As regards the hearers, if the contemptible appearance of those who preach the gospel weakens or retards their faith, let them learn to raise their eyes to the Master himself, by whose power the majesty of the Gospel ought to be estimated, and then they will not venture to despise him when speaking by his ministers.
He expressly calls himself the Lord and King of heaven and earth, because, by constraining men to obey him in the preaching of the gospel, he establishes his throne on the earth; and, by regenerating his people to a new life, and inviting them to the hope of salvation, he opens heaven to admit to a blessed immortality with angels those who formerly had not only crawled on the world, but had been plunged in the abyss of death. Yet let us remember that what Christ possessed in his own right was given to him by the Father in our flesh, or—to express it more clearly—in the person of the Mediator; for he does not lay claim to the eternal power with which he was endued before the creation of the world, but to that which he has now received, by being appointed to be Judge of the world. Nay, more, it ought to be remarked, that this authority was not fully known until he rose from the dead; for then only did he come forth adorned with the emblems of supreme King. To this also relate those words of Paul: he emptied himself, (ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσε,) therefore God hath exalted him, and given to him a name which is above every other name, (Phi_2:7.)
And though, in other passage the sitting at the right hand of God is placed after the ascension to heaven, as later in the order of time; yet as the resurrection and the ascension to heaven are closely connected with each other, with good reason does Christ now speak of his power in such magnificent terms.
Jesus came. Some medieval exegetes have deemed that this verse refers to the time of the ascension; but there is no valid reason for dissociating this portion from the rest of the account. If we do this, we lose the great reason for the oft-enjoined meeting on the Galilaean mountain, which seems to have been expressly and with much care arranged to notify at large the fact of Christ’s Resurrection and of his supreme authority, and to convey the Lord’s commission to the apostles in the presence of many witnesses. We may suppose that Jesus, who had been standing apart, now drew near to the company, so that all, especially the doubting, might see him closely and hear his familiar voice. Spake unto them (ἐλαλησεν αὐτοῖς, talked unto them). Doubtless he said much more than is here recorded, resolving doubts, confirming faith, infusing comfort. “Thus it is even now; we worship him, and then he draws near, and, by his nearer approaches and secret manifestation of himself to our hearts, we are confirmed in the faith, and see in him God and man” (I. Williams). All power (ἐξιυσια) is given (ἐδοθη, was given) unto me in heaven and in earth. Jesus here asserts that he, as Son of man, has received from the Father supreme authority in heaven and earth, over the whole kingdom of God in its fullest extent. This is net given to him as Son o! God; for, as God, naught can be added to him or taken from him; it is a power which he has merited by his incarnation, death, and Passion (Php_2:8-10), which was foretold in the Old Testament, by psalmist (Psa_2:8; Psa_8:5-8) and prophet (Dan_7:13, Dan_7:14), and with which he was indued on the day that he rose victorious from the grave. So the verb “was given” is in the past tense, because it refers to the dotation arranged in God’s eternal purpose, and to the actual investiture at the Resurrection. The power is exercised in his mediatorial kingdom, and will continue to be exercised till he hath put all enemies under his feet, and destroyed death itself (1Co_15:24-27); but his absolute kingdom is everlasting; as God and Man he reigns forever and ever. This mediatorial authority extends not only over men, so that he governs and protects the Church, disposes bureau events, controls hearts and opinions; but the forces of heaven also are at his command, the Holy Spirit is bestowed by him, the angels are in his employ as ministering to the members of his body.
All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth – The “Son of God,” as “Creator,” had an original right to all things, to control them and dispose of them. See Joh_1:3; Col_1:16-17; Heb_1:8. But the universe is put under him more particularly as Mediator, that he might redeem his people; that he might gather a church; that he might defend his chosen; that he might subdue all their enemies, and bring them off conquerors and more than conquerors, Eph_1:20-23; 1Co_15:25-27; Joh_5:22-23; Phi_2:6-11. It is in reference to this, doubtless, that he speaks here power or authority committed to him over all things, that he might redeem, defend, and save the church purchased with his own blood. His mediatorial government extends, therefore, over the material world, over angels, over devils, over wicked men, and over his own people.
19.Go out, therefore, and teach all nations. Though Mark, after having related that Christ appeared to the eleven disciples, immediately subjoins the command to preach the gospel, he does not speak of these as an unbroken series of events, for we learn from the enumeration of them which is given by Matthew, that the latter event did not take place before they had gone into Galilee. The meaning amounts to this, that by proclaiming the gospel everywhere, they should bring all nations to the obedience of the faith, and next, that they should seal and ratify their doctrine by the sign of the gospel. In Matthew, they are first taught simply to teach; but Mark expresses the kind of doctrine, that they should preach the gospel; and shortly afterwards Matthew himself adds this limitation, to teach them to observe all things whatsoever the Lord hath commanded.
Let us learn from this passage, that the apostleship is not an empty title, but a laborious office; and that, consequently, nothing is more absurd or intolerable than that this honor should be claimed by hypocrites, who live like kings at their ease, and disdainfully throw away from themselves the office of teaching. The Pope of Rome and his band proudly boast of their succession, as if they held this rank in common with Peter and his companions; and yet they pay no more regard to doctrine than was paid by the Luperci, or the priests of Bacchus and Venus. And with what face, pray, do they claim to be the successors of those who, they are told, were appointed to be preachers of the gospel? But though they are not ashamed to display their impudence, still with every reader of sound judgment this single word is sufficient to lay prostrate their silly hierarchy—that no man can be a successor of the apostles who does not devote his services to Christ in the preaching of the gospel. In short, whoever does not fulfill the duties of a teacher acts wickedly and falsely by assuming the name of an apostle; and what is more—the priesthood of the New Testament consists in slaying men, as a sacrifice to God, by the spiritual sword of the word. Hence it follows, that all are but pretended and spurious priests who are not devoted to the office of teaching.
Teach all nations. Here Christ, by removing the distinction, makes the Gentiles equal to the Jews, and admits both, indiscriminately to a participation in the covenant. Such is also the import of the term: go out; for the prophets under the law had limits assigned to them, but now, the wall of partition having been broken down,
(Eph_2:14,) the Lord commands the ministers of the gospel to go to a distance, in order to spread the doctrine of salvation in every part of the world. For though, as we have lately suggested, the right of the first-born at the very commencement of the gospel, remained among the Jews, still the inheritance of life was common to the Gentiles. Thus was fulfilled that prediction of Isaiah, (Isa_49:6,) and others of a similar nature, that Christ was
given for a light of the Gentiles, that he might be the salvation of God to the end of the earth.
Mark means the same thing by every creature; for when peace has been proclaimed to those that are within the Church, the same message reaches those who are at a distance, and were strangers, (Eph_2:17.) How necessary it was that the apostles should be distinctly informed of the calling of the Gentiles, is evident from this consideration, that even after having received the command, they felt the greatest horror at approaching them, as if by doing so they polluted themselves and their doctrine.
Baptizing them. Christ enjoins that those who have submitted to the gospel, and professed to be his disciples, shall be baptized; partly that their baptism may be a pledge of eternal life before God:, and partly that it may be an outward sign of faith before men. For we know that God testifies to us the grace of adoption by this sign, because he engrafts us into the body of his Son, so as to reckon us among his flock; and, therefore, not only our spiritual washing, by which he reconciles us to himself, but likewise our new righteousness, are represented by it. But as God, by this seal confirms to us his grace, so all who present themselves for baptism do, as it were, by their own signature, ratify their faith. Now since this charge is expressly given to the apostles along with the preaching of the word, it follows that none can lawfully administer baptism but those who are also the ministers of doctrine. When private persons, and even women, are permitted to baptize, nothing can be more at variance with the ordinance of Christ, nor is it any thing else than a mere profanation. Besides, as doctrine is placed first in order, this points out to us the true distinction between this mystery and the bastard rites of the Gentiles, by which they are initiated into their sacred mysteries; for the earthly element does not become a sacrament until God quickens it by his word. As superstition improperly counterfeits all the works of God, foolish men forge various sacraments at their pleasure; but as the word, which is the soul, is not in them, they are idle and unmeaning shadows. Let us therefore hold that the power of the doctrine causes the signs to assume a new nature; as the outward working of the flesh begins to be the spiritual pledge of regeneration, when it is preceded by the doctrine of the gospel; and this is the true consecration instead of which, Popery has introduced to us the enchantments of sorcery.
Accordingly, it is said in Mark, He that shall believe and be baptized shall be saved. By these words Christ not only excludes from the hope of salvation hypocrites who, though destitute of faith, are puffed up only by the outward sign; but by a sacred bond he connects baptism with doctrine, so that the latter is nothing more than an appendage of the former. But as Christ enjoins them to teach before baptizing, and desires that none but believers shah be admitted to baptism, it would appear that baptism is not properly administered unless when it is preceded by faith. On this pretense, the Anabaptists have stormed greatly against infant baptism. But the reply is not difficult, if we attend to the reason of the command. Christ orders them to convey to all nations the message of eternal salvation, and confirms it by adding the seal of baptism. Now it was proper that faith in the word should be placed before baptism, since the Gentiles were altogether alienated from God, and had nothing in common with the chosen people; for otherwise it would have been a false figure, which offered forgiveness and the gift of the Spirit to unbelievers, who were not yet members of Christ. But we know that by faith those who were formerly despised are united to the people of God.
It is now asked, on what condition does God adopt as children those who formerly were aliens? It cannot, indeed, be denied that, when he has once received them into his favor, he continues to bestow it on their children and their children’s children. By the coming of Christ God manifested himself as a Father equally to the Gentiles and to the Jews; and, therefore, that promise, which was formerly given to the Jews, must now be in force towards the Gentiles, I will be thy God, and the God of thy seed after thee, (Gen_17:7.)
Thus we see that they who entered by faith into the Church of God are reckoned, along with their posterity, among the members of Christ, and, at the same time, called to the inheritance of salvation. And yet this does not involve the separation of baptism from faith and doctrine; because, though infants are not yet of such an age as to be capable of receiving the grace of God by faith, still God, when addressing their parents, includes them also. I maintain, therefore, that it is not rash to administer baptism to infants, to which God invites them, when he promises that he will be their God.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. This passage shows that the full and clear knowledge of God, which had been but darkly shadowed out under the Law and the Prophets, is at length fully discovered under the reign of Christ. True, indeed, the ancients would never have ventured to call God their Father, if they had not derived this assurance from Christ their Head; and the Eternal Wisdom of God, who is the fountain of light and life, was not wholly unknown to them. It was even one of their acknowledged principles, that God displays his power by the Holy Spirit. But at the commencement of the gospel God was far more clearly revealed in Three Persons; for then the Father manifested himself in the Son, his lively and distinct image, while Christ, irradiating the world by the full splendor of his Spirit, held out to the knowledge of men both himself and the Spirit.
There are good reasons why the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, are expressly mentioned; for there is no other way in which the efficacy of baptism can be experienced than when we begin with the unmerited mercy of the Father, who reconciles us to himself by the only begotten Son; next, Christ comes forward with the sacrifice of his death; and at length, the Holy Spirit is likewise added, by whom he washes and regenerates us, (Titus 3:5,) and, in short, makes us partakers of his benefits. Thus we perceive that God cannot be truly known, unless our faith distinctly conceive of Three Persons in one essence; and that the fruit and efficacy of baptism proceed from God the Father adopting us through his Son, and, after having cleansed us from the pollutions of the flesh through the Spirit: creating us anew to righteousness.
Matthew 28:19. therefore] i. e. because Christ hath all power in heaven and earth. The word however is omitted in the leading MSS.
teach] Properly, make disciples of. The same mistranslation occurs Act_14:21, “having taught,” see ch. 13:52, 27:57, where the same word is used. Teaching, v. 20, = “instructing.” “Make disciples of all nations by baptism and by instruction.”
in the name] Rather, into the name. Jewish proselytes were baptized into the name of the Father; Jesus adds the names of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. In the instances of baptism recorded in the Act_2:38; Act_8:16; Act_10:48; Act_19:5, the name of Jesus Christ (or the Lord Jesus) alone occurs in the baptismal formula, but the promise of the Holy Ghost is given (2:38), or the gift of the Holy Ghost follows the rite (8:17, 19:6), or precedes it (10:44, 47).
Matthew 28:19. Go therefore, make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.]—μαθητεύειν] See on 13:52.—πάντα τὰ ἔθνη] is due to Mt.’s source (Mark?); cf. Mar_13:10. βαπτίζειν in the New Testament describes a ceremonial process of the application of water (whether by immersion or affusion?) to persons. The rite thus termed presupposes a good deal that is not always expressed.
(a) The person baptized has repented of his sins, and baptism implies the consequent forgiveness of them; Act_2:38.
(b) Baptism also implies belief in Christ. The person baptized expressed this belief, and was regarded after baptism as a disciple of Christ.
(c) In connection with baptism we find two expressions, “in the name of Christ”—Act_2:38, Act_10:48—and “into the name of Christ”—Act_19:5. These are not identical in meaning.
“In the name of Christ” probably implies the fact that the person baptized had expressed his belief in Christ, and his wish to be Christ’s disciple, and that the name of Christ was uttered over him, symbolising the fact that as a result of the ceremony he had become a disciple of Christ. The phrase thus describes a part of the procedure of the baptismal ceremony.
“Into the name of Christ,” on the other hand, lays stress on the result of the ceremony. The person baptized became “into the name of Christ,” i.e. became His disciple, i.e. entered into a state of allegiance to Him and of fellowship with Him.
“Baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” means, therefore, “causing them to submit to a rite which results in their becoming disciples of, and confers upon them fellowship with, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
The remarkable fact that here only in the New Testament do we get the Triune Name used in connection with baptism, can be easily misunderstood. Elsewhere we have only the name of Christ. It is urged that a series of passages in the New Testament are most reasonably explained, if the writers were acquainted with the tradition that Christ Himself had sanctioned the use of the Threefold Name in connection with baptism. But, on the other hand, it is equally difficult to believe that if the tradition as recorded here by Mt. had been widely known in the time of S. Paul, and had been interpreted as a direction of Christ as to the exact form of words to be used in baptism, we should find several references to baptism in or into the name of Christ, and none in or into the Threefold Name. Nevertheless, the conclusion that the formula as here recorded marks a developed and late stage of doctrinal belief and ecclesiastical practice, is unjustified. The phrase may already have stood in the lost ending of Mk.; but even if we suppose that Mk.’s ending contained a reference to baptism in or into Christ’s name, or no clause about baptism at all, and if the connection of baptism with the Threefold Name is due to the editor, yet the conception Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is clearly as ancient as the Christian Society itself. For S. Paul, cf. 1Co_12:4-6, 2Co_13:14; for S. Peter, 1 P 1:2; for S. John, 1Jn_3:23, 1Jn_3:24 and the Gospel, passim. In the earliest Gospel, Mar_13:32, we already have the antithesis “the Father, the Son,” which, combined with the Jewish and Christian conception of the Holy Spirit, presupposes the possibility of the formula “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Mt. has borrowed this phrase from Mk., and in 11:27 he has a parallel saying showing that the combination “the Son, the Father,” was also familiar to the source from which he was drawing (the Matthæan Logia?). This antithesis “the Father—the Son” is above all characteristic of the Fourth Gospel, and is no doubt due to the Palestinian background of that very Hebraic book. Thus, even if the editor of the first Gospel was the first to connect baptism with the Threefold Name, he was probably only bringing that rite into connection with a circle of Christological ideas and phrases which were current in the early Palestinian Church, and which from Palestine had penetrated Christian teaching everywhere. The objection that the Gospel containing this phrase cannot be early, because it conflicts with the custom of the early Palestinian Church, which baptized in or into the name of Christ, rests upon the false assumption that the editor intended to represent Christ as prescribing the formula which should be used at baptism. The words rather mean baptizing them into the fellowship of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and describe, not the formula to be used at baptism, but the end and aim which would be secured in and through baptism. The editor may well have written these words at a period when it was customary to baptize in or into the name of Christ, without at all wishing to represent Christ as having prescribed a fuller formula, but simply with the intention of summing up in a phrase the end and aim of the Christian life into which the convert entered at baptism. The best commentary on the words would be 1Jn_1:3 combined with 1Jn_3:23, 1Jn_3:24. See Briggs, Messiah of the Gospels, p. 229.
Go ye therefore (οὖν). The illative particle is perhaps spurious, but it is implied by what has preceded. It is because Jesus has plenary authority, and can delegate power to whom he will, that he confers the following commission. He is addressing the eleven apostles, of whom alone St. Matthew makes mention (verse 16); but as they personally could not execute the grand commission in all its extent and duration, he lays his commands upon their representatives and successors in all ages. They were to go forth, and carry the gospel throughout the world. Doubtless herein is implied the duty of all Christians to be in some sense missionaries, to use their utmost efforts to spread abroad the knowledge of Christ, and to make men obedient to his Law. The propagation of the gospel is a work for all in their several spheres. Teach; docete (Vulgate). These are unfortunate renderings of the verb μαθητευìσατε, which means, “make disciples.” Teaching is expressed in verse 20, as one of the elements or components of full discipleship. The imperative aorist μαθητευìσατε is, as it were, decomposed by the two following present participles, “baptizing” and “teaching.” In the case of infants the process is exactly what is here represented; they are admitted into the Christian society by baptism, and then instructed in faith and duty. Adults have to be instructed before baptism; but they form a small minority in most Christian
communities, where, generally, infant baptism is the rule, and would be regarded rather as exceptions. Teaching alone is not stated by the Lord to be the only thing necessary to convert an unbeliever into a Christian; this is effected by the grace of God applied as Christ proceeds to explain. All nations (παìντα ταÌ ἐìθνη all the nations). The apostles were no longer to go only to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mat_10:6); they were to Christianize all the nations of the world, Jew and Gentile alike. The gospel is adapted to all the varying minds and habits of men, barbarous and civilized, near and remote, ignorant or cultivated; and it is the duty and privilege of Christ’s ministers to make it known and acceptable in all quarters of the globe. Baptizing them; i.e. individuals of all the nations. The present participle denotes the mode of initiation into discipleship. Make them disciples by baptizing them. Christ thus explains his mysterious announcement to Nicodemus (Joh_3:5), “Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” To the disciples the notion of baptism was no new thing. As a rite typifying the cleansing of the heart and the purpose of leading a new life, it had been long practised in the case of proselytes to the Jewish faith; they had seen it employed by John the Baptist (Mat_3:6), and had used it themselves (Joh_4:1, Joh_4:2). Christ adopts the old rite, gives it a new solemnity, a most sacred formula of administration, a new meaning, new spiritual effects. The persons to whom and in whose presence he spoke would understand his injunction as applicable to all who were capable of its reception, children and adults, the subjects of the initiatory ceremony of proselytism. There was no need of closer specification. Or, if any such instruction was needed, the rules concerning circumcision would be a sufficient guide. In (εἰς, into) the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Our version follows the Vulgate, in nomine, which does not give the right force to the expression. The phrase does not mean merely invoking the Name, under the sanction of the great Name, but something more than this. It signifies into the power and influence of the Holy Trinity, into faith in the three Persons of God, and the duties and privileges consequent on that faith, into the family of God and obedience unto its Head. The “into” shows the end and aim of the consecration of baptism. The “Name” of God is that by which he is known to us—that which connotes his being and his attributes, that by which there exists a conscious connection between God and ourselves (comp. Mat_18:20). So being baptized into the Name of God implies being placed in subjection to and communion with God himself, admitted into covenant with him. It is to be observed that the term is “name,” not “names,” thus denoting the unity of the Godhead in the trinity of Persons. The Lord’s words have always been taken as the formula of baptism, and have in all ages been used in its administration. The three Divine Persons were revealed at the baptism of Jesus (Mat_3:16, Mat_3:17); they are invoked at every Christian baptism. It is true that we read, in the early Church, of persons being baptized “in the Name of the Lord Jesus,” and “in the Name of the Lord” (Act_8:16; Act_10:48); but this expression by no means assumes that the names of the other Divine Persons were not used; it denotes that the converts were admitted into the religion which Jesus instituted, in fact, were made Christians. The above formula has from primitive times been considered indispensable for the valid administration of this sacrament. “From this sacred form of baptism,” says Bishop Pearson, “did the Church derive the rule of faith, requiring the profession of belief in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, before they could be baptized in their Name” (‘On the Creed,’ art. 1.).
Rev., rightly, make disciples of.
In the name (εἰς τὸ ὄνομα)
Rev., correctly, “into the name.” Baptizing into the name has a twofold meaning. 1. Unto, denoting object or purpose, as εἰς μετάνοιαν, unto repentance (Mat_3:11); εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν, for the remission of sins (Act_2:38). 2. Into, denoting union or communion with, as Rom_6:3, “baptized into Christ Jesus; into his death;” i.e., we are brought by baptism into fellowship with his death. Baptizing into the name of the Holy Trinity implies a spiritual and mystical union with him. Eἰς, into, is the preposition commonly used with baptize. See Act_8:16; Act_19:3, Act_19:5; 1Co_1:13, 1Co_1:15; 1Co_10:2; Gal_3:27. In Act_2:38, however, Peter says, “Be baptized upon (ἐπὶ) the name of Jesus Christ; and in Act_10:48, he commands Cornelius and his friends to be baptized in (ἐν) the name of the Lord. To be baptized upon the name is to be baptized on the confession of that which the name implies: on the ground of the name; so that the name Jesus, as the contents of the faith and confession, is the ground upon which the becoming baptized rests. In the name (ἐν) has reference to the sphere within which alone true baptism is accomplished. The name is not the mere designation, a sense which would give to the baptismal formula merely the force of a charm. The name, as in the Lord’s Prayer (“Hallowed be thy name”), is the expression of the sum total of the divine Being: not his designation as God or Lord, but the formula in which all his attributes and characteristics are summed up. It is equivalent to his person. The finite mind can deal with him only through his name; but his name is of no avail detached from his nature. When one is baptized into the name of the Trinity, he professes to acknowledge and appropriate God in all that he is and in all that he does for man. He recognizes and depends upon God the Father as his Creator and Preserver; receives Jesus Christ as his only Mediator and Redeemer, and his pattern of life; and confesses the Holy Spirit as his Sanctifier and Comforter.
Alway (πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας)
Lit., all the days. Wyc., in all days.
Teaching them to observe all things. By these words, as I have formerly suggested, Christ shows that, in sending the apostles, he does not entirely resign his office, as if he ceased to be the Teacher of his Church; for he sends away the apostles with this reservation, that they shall not bring forward their own inventions, but shall purely and faithfully deliver from hand to hand (as we say) what he has entrusted to them. Would to God that the Pope would subject to this rule the power which he claims for himself; for we would easily permit him to be the successor of Peter or of Paul, provided that he did not usurp a tyrannical dominion over our souls. But as he has set aside the authority of Christ, and infects the Church with his childish fooleries, this shows plainly enough how widely he has departed from the apostolic office. In short, let us hold that by these words teachers are appointed over the Church, not to put forward whatever they may think proper, but that they, as well as others, may depend on the mouth of the Master alone, so as to gain disciples for him, and not for themselves.
And, lo, I am with you always. As Christ gave to the apostles a commission which they were unable to discharge by reliance on merely human power, he encourages them by the assurance of his heavenly protection. For before promising that he would be with them, he began with declaring that he is the, King of heaven and earth, who governs all things by his power and authority.
The pronoun I must be viewed as emphatic; as if he had said that the apostles, if they wished zealously to perform their duty, must not consider what they are able to do, but must rely on the invincible power of those under whose banner they fight. The nature of that presence which the Lord promises to his followers ought to be understood spiritually; for it is not necessary that he should descend from heaven in order to assist us, since he can assist us by the grace of his Spirit, as if he stretched out his hand from heaven. For he who, in respect of his body, is at a great distance from us, not only diffuses the efficacy of his Spirit through the whole world, but even actually dwells in us.
Even to the end of the world. It ought likewise to be remarked, that this was not spoken to the apostles alone; for the Lord promises his assistance not for a single age only, but even to the end of the world. It is as if he had said, that though the ministers of the gospel be weak and suffer the want of all things: he will be their guardian, so that they will rise victorious over all the opposition of the world. In like manner, experience clearly shows in the present day, that the operations of Christ are carried on wonderfully in a secret manner, so that the gospel surmounts innumerable obstacles.
So much the more intolerable is the wickedness of the Popish clergy, when they take this as a pretext for their sacrilege and tyranny. They affirm that the Church cannot err, because it is governed by Christ; as if Christ, like some private soldier, hired himself for wages to other captains, and as if he had not, on the contrary, reserved the entire authority for himself, and declared that he would defend his doctrine, so that his ministers may confidently expect to be victorious over the whole world.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Teaching them — This is teaching in the more usual sense of the term; or instructing the converted and baptized disciples.
to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I — The “I” here is emphatic. It is enough that I
am with you alway — “all the days”; that is, till making converts, baptizing, and building them up by Christian instruction, shall be no more.
even unto the end of the world. Amen — This glorious Commission embraces two primary departments, the Missionary and the Pastoral, with two sublime and comprehensive Encouragements to undertake and go through with them.
First, The Missionary department (Mat_28:18): “Go, make disciples of all nations.” In the corresponding passage of Mark (Mar_16:15) it is, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.” The only difference is, that in this passage the sphere, in its world-wide compass and its universality of objects, is more fully and definitely expressed; while in the former the great aim and certain result is delightfully expressed in the command to “make disciples of all nations.” “Go, conquer the world for Me; carry the glad tidings into all lands and to every ear, and deem not this work at an end till all nations shall have embraced the Gospel and enrolled themselves My disciples.” Now, Was all this meant to be done by the Eleven men nearest to Him of the multitude then crowding around the risen Redeemer? Impossible. Was it to be done even in their lifetime? Surely not. In that little band Jesus virtually addressed Himself to all who, in every age, should take up from them the same work. Before the eyes of the Church’s risen Head were spread out, in those Eleven men, all His servants of every age; and one and all of them received His commission at that moment. Well, what next? Set the seal of visible discipleship upon the converts, by “baptizing them into the name,” that is, into the whole fullness of the grace “of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” as belonging to them who believe. (See on 2Co_13:14). This done, the Missionary department of your work, which in its own nature is temporary, must merge in another, which is permanent. This is
Second, The Pastoral department (Mat_28:20): “Teach them” – teach these baptized members of the Church visible – “to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you,” My apostles, during the three years ye have been with Me.
What must have been the feelings which such a Commission awakened? “WE who have scarce conquered our own misgivings – we, fishermen of Galilee, with no letters, no means, no influence over the humblest creature, conquer the world for Thee, Lord? Nay, Lord, do not mock us.” “I mock you not, nor send you a warfare on your own charges. For” – Here we are brought to
Third, The Encouragements to undertake and go through with this work. These are two; one in the van, the other in the rear of the Commission itself.
First Encouragement: “All power in heaven” – the whole power of Heaven’s love and wisdom and strength, “and all power in earth” – power over all persons, all passions, all principles, all movements – to bend them to this one high object, the evangelization of the world: All this “is given unto Me.” as the risen Lord of all, to be by Me placed at your command – “Go ye therefore.” But there remains a
Second Encouragement: “And lo! I am with you all the days” – not only to perpetuity, but without one day’s interruption, “even to the end of the world,” The “Amen” is of doubtful genuineness in this place. If, however, it belongs to the text, it is the Evangelist’s own closing word.
Teaching (διδαìσκοντες) them (i.e. all the nations) to observe all things, etc. The word for “teaching” is quite different from that used in Mat_28:19, and there wrongly translated. Instruction is the second necessary condition for discipleship. In the case of adults, as was said above, some teaching must precede the initiation; but this has to be supplemented subsequently in order to build up the convert in the faith and make him perfect; while infants must be taught “as soon as they are able to learn, what a solemn vow, promise, and profession they have here made.” All must be taught the Christian faith and duty, and how to obtain God’s help to enable them to please him, and to continue in the way of salvation, so that they may “die from sin, and rise again unto righteousness; continually mortifying all their evil and corrupt affections, and daily proceeding in all virtue and godliness of living” (‘Public Baptism of Infants’). “He gives,” says St. Chrysostom, “the one charge with a view to doctrine [i.e. the form of baptism], the other concerning commandments” (‘Horn.,’ 90.). All that Christ commanded, both in doctrine and morals, all that he had taught and enjoined during the three past years, they were henceforward to take as their textbook, and enforce on all who were admitted into the Church by baptism. As the Greek is, “I commanded,” being aorist and not perfect, it may be rightly opined that Christ here alludes also to various details which he set forth and enjoined during these great forty days, between his resurrection and ascension, when he gave commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen, and spake to them of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God (Act_1:2, Act_1:3). And, lo. “After that, because he had enjoined on them great things, to raise their courage, he says. Lo! “etc. (Chrysostom). I am with you alway (ἐγωÌ μεθ ὑμῶν εἰμι παìσας ταρας). Every word is emphatic. The Ascension was at hand; this implied an absence of his visible presence, to be replaced by a spiritual presence, more perfect, potent, effectual, infinite. It is I myself, I, God and Man,who am (not “will be”) henceforward ever present among you, with you as Companion, Friend, Guide, Saviour, God. I am with you in all your ministrations, prayers public and private, baptisms, communions, exhortations, doctrine, discipline And this, not now and then, not at certain times only, but “all the days” of your pilgrimage, all the dark days of trial and persecution and affliction; all the days when you, my apostles, are gathered to your rest, and have committed your work to other hands; my presence shall never be withdrawn for a single moment. Often had God made an analogous promise to his servants under the old dispensation—to Moses (Exo_3:12), to Joshua (Deu_31:23), to Jeremiah (Jer_1:8); but this spiritual presence of Christ is something unknown to previous history, a nearness unspeakable, in the Church at large and in the Christian’s heart. Even unto the end of the world; the consummation of the age, as Mat_24:3 (where see note). When the new era is ushered in, evangelizing work will cease; God shall be all in all; all shall know him from the least unto the greatest. And they shall ever be with the Lord; “wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1Th_4:18). Amen. The word is here an interpolation, but it expresses what every pious reader must say in his heart, “So be it, O Lord; be with us unto the end; guide and strengthen us in life, and bring us safely through the valley of the shadow of death, to thy blessed presence, where is the fulness of joy forevermore!”