Bede, Beda in loc.: Otherwise; It may be understood that they began to come in the evening, but that it was the dawn of the first day of the week when they reached the sepulchre; that is, that they prepared the spices for anointing the Lord’s body in the evening, but that they took them to the sepulchre in the morning. This has been so shortly described by Matthew, that it is not quite clear in his account, but the other Evangelists give the order more distinctly. The Lord was buried on the sixth day of the week, and the women returning from the sepulchre prepared spices and ointments as long as it was lawful to work; on the sabbath they rested, according to the commandment, as Luke plainly declares; and when the Sabbath was past and the evening was come, and the season of labour returned, with zealous devotion they proceeded to purchase such spices as they yet lacked, (this is implied in Mark’s words, “when the sabbath was past,” that they might go and anoint Jesus, for which purpose they come early in the morning to the sepulchre.
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.
Mat 28:1 In the end of the sabbath,…. This clause is by some joined to the last verse of the preceding chapter, but stands better here, as appears from Mar_16:1, and intends not what the Jews call the sabbath eve, for that began the sabbath; but what they call מוצאי שבת, “the goings out of the sabbath”; and as Mark says, Mar_16:1, “when the sabbath was past”: that is, when the sun was set, and any stars appeared. The Vulgate Latin, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions, and Munster’s Hebrew Gospel render it, “the evening of the sabbath”; and the Persic version, “the night of the sabbath”; but must mean, not the evening and night, which preceded the sabbath, and was a part of it, but what followed it, and belonged to the first day.
As it began to dawn; not the day, but the night; a way of speaking used by the Jews, who call the night, אור, “light”: thus they say (y), אור לארבעה עשר, “on the light, or night of the fourteenth” (of the month Nisan) “they search for leavened bread”, &c. And so the word is used, in Luk_23:54, of the eve of the sabbath, or the beginning of it, as here of the going out of it;
towards the first day of the week, or “sabbaths”; so the Jews used to call the days of the week, the first day of the sabbath, the second day of the sabbath, &c. take an instance or two (z).
“The stationary men fast four days in the week, from the second day to the fifth day; and they do not fast on the sabbath eve (so they sometimes call the sixth day), because of the glory of the sabbath; nor באחד בשבת, “on the first day of the sabbath”, or week, that they may not go from rest and delight, to labour and fasting, and die.”
On which the Gemara has these words (a);
“the stationary men go into the synagogue, and sit four fastings; בשני בשבת, “on the second of the sabbath”, or “week”: on the third, and on the fourth, and on the fifth.”
Came Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, the wife of Cleophas, and mother of James and Joses, with whom also was Salome, the mother of Zebedee’s children, Mar_16:1. There seems to be some difference between the evangelists about the time of the women’s coming to the sepulchre. Matthew says, it was “at the end of the sabbath, when it began to dawn; towards the first day of the week”. John says, that “Mary Magdalene” came “when it was yet dark”, Joh_20:1, and yet Mark says, that they came “at the rising of the sun”, Mar_16:2. Though they all agree it was early in the morning: all they say is no doubt true, and may be reconciled thus. As soon as the sabbath was ended, the women set out on their journey, and as they went, bought spices and ointment to anoint the body with: they passed through the gates of the city before they were shut, and might stay some time in the suburbs; when Mary Magdalene, eager to be at the sepulchre, set out first, whilst it was dark, and came back and reported to Peter what she had seen, and returned again by such time the other women came, which was at sunrising. From all the accounts it is clear, that he rose, as is expressly said, Mar_16:9, on the first day of the week, and which was the third from his death: on the sixth day, which was Friday, he was crucified, and buried that evening; he lay in the grave all sabbath day, or Saturday; and rose early on the first day of the week, before the women got to the sepulchre; who came thither, as it is here said,
to see the sepulchre: not merely to see it, for they had seen it before, and where, and how the body of Christ was laid in it; but to see whether they could enter into it, and anoint the body with the spices and ointments, which they had prepared and brought with them for that purpose.
(y) Misn. Pesachim, c. 1. sect. 1. Vid. Maimon. & Bartenora in ib. (z) Misn. Taanilh, c. 4. sect. 3. (a) T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 27. 2. Vid. T. Bab. Nidda, fol. 4. 2. & 11. 1. & 67. 2.
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.
Augustine., de Cons. Ev., iii, 24: It may disquiet some, how it is that according to Matthew though the Angel sate upon the stone after it had been rolled back from the sepulchre, whereas Mark says that the women having gone into the sepulchre, saw a young man sitting on the right hand. Either we may suppose that they saw two, and that Matthew has not mentioned him whom they saw within, nor Mark him whom they saw without the sepulchre; but that they heard from each severally what the Angels said concerning Jesus.
Or the words, “entering into the sepulchre,” [Mar_16:5] may mean entering into some enclosed place, which probably there might be in front of the rock out of which the sepulchre was hewn; and thus it might be the same Angel whom they saw sitting on the right hand, whom Matthew describes as sitting on the stone which he had rolled back.
Mat 28:2 And behold there was a great earthquake,…. Or “there had been one”; which, how far it reached, and whether further than the spot of ground in which the sepulchre was, is not certain: it was an emblem of the shaking of the earth by the preaching of the Gospel, the sound of which was now to go after Christ’s resurrection to the ends of the world; and a prelude of the general resurrection, when the earth shall be shaken, and the graves opened, and the dead come forth; and was a symbol and token of the presence and majesty of Christ, at whose rising, as at his death, the earth shook and trembled. Think whether the watch could now be asleep, as they afterwards gave out, Mat_28:13. The Persic version renders it very wrongly; “and there was great consternation and fear”; which was the consequence of the earthquake, and the descent of the angel, and was so great that it was not possible for the keepers to sleep, if ever so much inclined:
for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven; perhaps Gabriel, who brought the news of the conception of Christ to the virgin, and of his incarnation to the shepherds, and might be the same angel that strengthened him in the garden: nor is this any contradiction to the other evangelists, which speak of two angels, Luk_24:4, for Matthew does not say there were no more than one, though he makes mention but of one.
And came and rolled back the stone from the door; of the sepulchre, which by Joseph, or his orders, was put there, and was sealed by the Jews. This might be done, that way might be made for the risen body of Christ to pass out of the sepulchre; for to suppose, as some do, that he penetrated through this stone with his risen body, is not to be credited: it is true, he could have caused the stone to have given way, or removed it himself, and put it in the place again; as he caused the doors of the house in which the disciples were, to open and shut so quick, that they could not discern it when he appeared in the midst of them, Joh_20:19; see Act_12:10, but he might choose to do it by the ministry of an angel, which is no ways derogatory to his power and majesty, but rather agreeable. Moreover, this might be done, that the women might have access to the sepulchre, and enter into it, which was the thing they were concerned about by the way, who should roll away the stone for them. Besides, this the angel did, as a token that Christ was risen, and to let the guard know as much, who, if they thought fit, might come and see what was done; but chiefly the stone was rolled away by the angel, as an emblem of the acquittance and discharge of Christ, as the surety of his people. He had taken upon him their sins; he had bore them in his body on the tree; he had suffered and died for them, and was laid as a prisoner in the grave; and now full satisfaction being made, an angel is sent from heaven to roll away the stone; thereby signifying, that the debt was fully paid, and he was now legally discharged. It is added,
and sat upon it; thereby showing who it was that rolled it away; that it was done by him, not by the earthquake, nor by any human power: he sat there defying the guard of soldiers to come nigh; and waiting for the coming of the women, to tell them the good news, that their Lord was risen; and as the keeper of the sepulchre, that no corpse might be brought and laid in the room of Christ, and it be said that he was not risen. This posture of the angel does not contradict what other evangelists say of this, and the other angel, that they stood by the women, and also were sitting in the sepulchre, Mar_16:5, for each was true: when the women first came, the angel sat upon the stone; after that, with the other, stood by them; when having invited them to the grave, placed themselves, sitting the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Christ had lain.
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.
I know that ye seek Jesus – Speaking after the manner of men, these women deserved to be the first witnesses of the resurrection of Christ: during life they ministered to him, and in death they were not divided. They attended him to the Cross, notwithstanding their attachment to him exposed them to the most imminent danger; and now they come to watch and weep at his Tomb. The common opinion is, that women are more fickle and less courageous than men. The reverse of this I believe to be the truth, in those who are thoroughly converted to God; and who, previously to conversion, whether man or woman, can be trusted in any case?
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.”
Chrysostom.: As much as to say, If ye believe me not, remember His own words. And then follows further proof, when he adds, “Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”
Jerome: That if my words fail to convince you, the empty tomb may.
Mat 28:6 He is not here,…. In the grave, where he was laid, and these women saw him laid: he was dead, but is now alive; he was laid in the grave, but God would not leave him there, nor suffer him to see corruption:
for he is risen, as he said; not stolen away, as the chief priests hired the soldiers to say he was; nor removed to another place, as Mary Magdalene first thought, when she found him gone; but he was risen from the dead, by the power of his Father, and by his own power, as he had before said he should. In one of Beza’s exemplars it is added, “to you”; for the words that Christ said in Galilee, that he should be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and rise again, the third day, were said in the presence and hearing of these women, and to them, as well as to the disciples; see Luke_24:6. This clause is left out in the Persic version: it follows,
come see the place where the Lord lay; the Lord both of angels and men: the Syriac and Persic versions read, “our Lord”. The Arabic and Ethiopic versions leave out the word “Lord”, and only read “he”. Christ, as the Son of God, lay in the bosom of his Father, and in the arms of his love, from all eternity; as mediator, he lay in the womb of God’s purposes and decrees, being his elect, in whom his soul delighted; as man, he lay in the womb of the virgin; and, as an example to his people, he lay, when baptized, in the waters of Jordan; and as the language of the ordinance of the Lord’s supper is, “come see my hands, and my feet”; that of baptism is, “come see the place where the Lord lay”: but here it regards the grave, in which the body of Christ had been laid; and the women are invited by the angel to go along with him, into the sepulchre, to see the place where he had lain; to assure them the more of the truth of his resurrection, that they might, with their own eyes, see that he was gone, who before had beheld where, and how he was laid; as also to affect them with the condescending grace of Christ, in making his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; as well as to strengthen their faith in their discharge from sin and condemnation by Christ, who was risen for their justification; as also to let them see that the grave was perfumed and sanctified by him; and he was risen as the first fruits and pledge of them that slept.
Come, see the place – The tomb in which our Lord was laid was no doubt like the rest of the Jewish burying places, a receptacle for the several dead of a whole family, divided into separate niches, where each had his place. Come and see the place – was tantamount to, Come and see the niche in which he was laid – it is now empty; nor was there any other body in the place, for the tomb was a new one, in which no man had ever been laid, Joh_19:41; so there could be no deception in the case.
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.
Hilary: The women having been comforted by the Angel, are straightway met by the Lord, that when they should proclaim His resurrection to the disciples, they should speak rather from Christ’s own mouth than from an Angel’s.
Jerome: A twofold feeling possessed the minds of the women, fear and joy; fear, at the greatness of the miracle; joy, in their desire of Him that was risen; but both added speed to their women’s steps, as it follows, “And did run to bring his disciples word.” They went to the Apostles, that through them might be spread abroad the seed of the faith. They who thus desired, and who thus ran, merited to have their rising Lord come to meet them; whence it follows, “And, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail.”
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.
Mat 28:9 And as they went to tell his disciples,…. This clause is wanting in the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions, and in Beza’s most ancient copy; but it stands in the Ethiopic version, and in Munster’s Hebrew Gospel,
behold, Jesus met them: that they might be confirmed in what the angel had told them, and their fear might be removed, and their joy increased; and also be capable of reporting to the disciples not only what they had heard from the angel, but what they had seen themselves; they being now eyewitnesses, as well as earwitnesses of his resurrection: so souls in the way of their duty, as these women were, oftentimes meet with Jesus, and he with them, as they may expect, and indeed not otherwise:
saying, all hail; all health of soul and body, all happiness and prosperity, both temporal, spiritual, and eternal, attend you. The Syriac and Persic versions, and Munster’s Hebrew Gospel render it, “peace be to you”; which, it is highly probable, was the phrase used by Christ, since it was the common form of salutation among the Jews, and what Christ made use of at other times; see Joh_20:19,
and they came; near unto him, being encouraged by the above salutation, and knowing who he was by his voice, habit, and gesture:
and held him by the feet; they threw themselves prostrate at his feet, in token of reverence and humility; and they laid hold on his feet, that they might know, and be assured that he was really risen, and that it was not a spirit, or a mere phantom and appearance; and they held him in affection to him, and as desirous of his continuance with them:
and worshipped him: with divine adoration, expressing their love to him; their faith and hope in him, owning him to be their Lord and God; he being, by his resurrection from the dead, declared to be the Son of God, with power; and so the proper object of religious worship.
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 – 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.
Chrysostom., Hom. xc: Of the signs which were shewn around Christ, some were common to the whole world, as the darkness; some peculiar to the watch, as the wonderful apparition of Angels, and the earthquake, which were wrought for the soldiers’ sake, that they might be stunned with amazement, and bear testimony to the truth. For when truth is proclaimed by its adversaries, it adds to its brightness.
which befel now; “Some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the Chief Priests all the things that were done.”
Jerome: Thus the Chief Priests, who ought to have been by this turned to penitence, and to seek Jesus risen, persevere in their wickedness, and convert the money which was given for the use of the Temple to the purchase of a lie, as before they had given thirty pieces of silver to the traitor Judas.
And while they were departing. It is not only credible, but the fact is manifest, that the soldiers, to whom had been entrusted the charge of the sepulcher, were corrupted by a bribe, so that they were prepared to tell a lie at the bidding of the priests. They knew well that there was nothing which the priests dreaded more than that a report should gain credit that Christ rose on the third day after his death; and they knew that they had been sent there, that, by guarding the body, they might suppress that report. Those men, therefore, being addicted to making gain, and seizing on opportunities of making it from every quarter, after having found that their diligence was of no service to them, contrive a new method of cheating their employers out of their money. The words of Matthew — some of them came — leave it uncertain if a few cunning men adopted this resolution without communicating with the rest, or if they were sent, by a general agreement, in the name of all. The latter supposition appears to be more probable; for Matthew afterwards says that money was given, not to one or two, but generally to the soldiers, to induce them to commit perjury. It is at all events certain that, whether they all plotted together, or only a part of them, they sought to make profit of the cruel and implacable hatred which the priests bore towards Christ; and that, looking upon them as convicted of a crime. they abused their evil conscience to extort money from them. For, as usually happens with all wicked men, the priests, conscious of having done wrong, in order to cover their disgrace, were compelled to bribe the soldiers by a large reward. Thus it is evident that the reprobate, after having once given themselves up to a course of sinning, are continually entangled in new crimes; and this arises out of their desire to conceal their shame before men, while they give themselves no concern about the offense committed against God. Those wretched men not only bribe the soldiers by a large sum of money, but expose their own reputation and life to serious danger, should cognizance be taken of the crime. And what constrains them, in addition to the expense which they have laid out, to incur so serious a risk, but because inveterate rage does not permit them to withdraw until they have added sin to sin?
And when they were assembled … – They deemed the matter of so much importance as to justify the calling together of the great council of the nation. Notwithstanding all their caution, it was plain that the body of Jesus was gone. It was further plain that the disciples would affirm that he was restored to life again. It was not improbable that Jesus would himself appear, and convince multitudes that he was the Messiah, and that the guilt of putting him to death would, after all their caution and cunning, be charged on them. They had been at great pains to procure his death. They had convinced Pilate that he was dead. They had placed a guard for the express purpose of preventing his being taken away. It would be in vain, after this, to pretend that he was not dead; that he was in a swoon; that he died in appearance only. They had shut themselves out from this, which would have been the most plausible plea, and, whatever course they might now adopt, they were obliged to proceed on the admission that he had been really dead, and that all proper measures had been taken to prevent his being stolen. They concluded, after consultation, that but one way was left – to bribe the soldiers – to induce them to tell a falsehood – and to attempt to convince the world that Jesus, in spite of themselves, and in the face of all probability, had been really stolen.
Large money – Much money. This was given to bribe them; to induce them to conceal the truth, and to affirm what they knew was false.
Chrysostom.: How should the disciples carry Him away by stealth, men poor, and of no station, and who scarcely dared to shew themselves? They fled when afterwards they saw Christ alive, how, when He was dead, would they not have feared so great a multitude of soldiers? How were they to remove the door of the sepulchre? One might have done it unperceived by the guard. But a large stone was rolled to the mouth requiring many hands. And was not the seal thereon? And why did they not attempt it the first night, when there was none at the sepulchre? For it was on the Sabbath that they begged the body of Jesus.
Moreover, what mean these napkins which Peter sees laid here? Had the disciples stolen the Body, they would never have stripped it, both because it might so receive hurt, and cause unnecessary delay to themselves, and so expose them to be taken by the watch; especially since the Body and clothes were covered with myrrh, a glutinous spice, which would cause them to adhere.
The allegation of the theft then is improbable. So that their endeavours to conceal the Resurrection do but make it more manifest. For when they say, “His disciples stole the body,” they confess that it is not in the sepulchre. And as they thus confess that they had not the Body, and as the watch, the sealing, and the fears of the disciples, make the theft improbable, there is seen evidence of the Resurrection not to be gainsaid.
His disciples came by night – This was as absurd as it was false. On one hand, the terror of the disciples, the smallness of their number (only eleven); and their almost total want of faith; on the other, the great danger of such a bold enterprise, the number of armed men who guarded the tomb, the authority of Pilate and of the Sanhedrin, must render such an imposture as this utterly devoid of credit.
Stole him away while we slept – Here is a whole heap of absurdities.
1st. Is it likely that so many men would all fall asleep, in the open air, at once?
2dly. Is it at all probable that a Roman guard should be found off their watch, much less asleep, when it was instant death, according to the Roman military laws, to be found in this state?
3dly. Could they be so sound asleep as not to awake with all the noise which must be necessarily made by removing the great stone, and taking away the body?
4thly. Is it at all likely that these disciples could have had time sufficient to do all this, and to come and return, without being perceived by any person? And
5thly. If they were asleep, how could they possibly know that it was the disciples that stole him, or indeed that any person or persons stole him? – for, being asleep, they could see no person. From their own testimony, therefore, the resurrection may be as fully proved as the theft.
The governor’s ears – To Pilate. If it is reported to him that Jesus was stolen while you slept.
We will persuade him – We will convince or satisfy him, so that he shall not punish you. This they might promise with safety; for,
1. They knew from the character of Pilate that he could be easily bribed.
2. Pilate, after the feast of the Passover, was accustomed to return to Caesarea.
3. He had not been inclined at all to interfere in anything concerning the Saviour until it was urged upon him by the Jews.
He would not be disposed, “of himself,” to take any further trouble about the matter. He would feel that all that could be demanded of him had been done, and would not be disposed further to interfere, unless the Sanhedrin should demand it. This, of course, they would not do.
Chrysostom: See how all are corrupted; Pilate persuaded; the people stirred up; the soldiers bribed; as it follows, “And they took the money, and did as they were instructed.” If money prevailed with a disciple. so far as to make him become the betrayer of his Master, what wonder that the soldiers are overcome by it.
This saying is commonly reported – This account of the disappearance of the body of Jesus from the sepulchre is commonly given.
Until this day – The time when Matthew wrote this gospel that is, about 30 years after the resurrection.
The resurrection of the Lord Jesus, of which an account is given in this chapter, is one of the most important doctrines of the Christian religion, and is attested by the strongest evidence that can be adduced in favor of any ancient fact. Let it be considered:
1. that he had often foretold his own death and resurrection. See Mat_12:40; Mat_16:21; Mat_20:19.
2. There was no doubt that he was really dead. Of this the Jews. the Romans, and the disciples were all equally well satisfied.
3. Every proper precaution was taken to prevent his removal by stealth. A guard, usually consisting of sixty men, was placed there for the express purpose of keeping him, and the sepulchre was secured by a large stone and by a seal.
4. On the third day the body was missing. In this all were agreed. The high priests did not dare to call that in question. They labored, therefore, to account for it. The disciples affirmed that he was alive. The Jews hired the Roman soldiers to affirm that he was stolen while they slept, and succeeded in making many of the people believe it.
This account of the Jews is attended with the following difficulties and absurdities:
1. The Roman guard was composed usually of 60 men, and they were stationed there for the express purpose of guarding the body of Jesus.
2. The punishment of “sleeping” while on guard in the Roman army was “death,” and it is perfectly incredible that those soldiers should expose themselves in this manner to death.
3. The disciples were few in number, unarmed, weak, and timid. They had just fled before those who took Jesus in the garden, and how can it be believed that in so short a time they would dare to attempt to take away from a Roman guard of armed men what they were expressly set to defend?
4. How could the disciples presume that they would find the Roman soldiers asleep? or, if they should, how was it possible to remove the stone and the body without awaking even “one” of their number?
5. The “regularity and order” of the grave-clothes Joh_20:6-7 show that the body had not been stolen. When men rob graves of the bodies of the dead, they do not wait coolly to fold up the grave-clothes and lay them carefully by themselves.
6. If the soldiers were “asleep,” how did they, or how could they know that the disciples stole the body away? If they were “awake,” why did they suffer it?
The whole account, therefore, was intrinsically absurd. On the other hand, the account given by the disciples is perfectly natural and credible.
1. They account for the reason why the soldiers did not see the Saviour when he rose. Terrified at the vision of an angel, they became as dead men.
2. They affirmed that they saw him. All the apostles affirmed this, and many others.
3. They affirmed it in Jerusalem, in the presence of the Jews, before the high priests and the people. See the Acts of the Apostles. If the Jews really believed the account which they themselves had given, why did they not apprehend the apostles, and prove them guilty of the theft and of falsehood? – things which they never attempted, and which show, therefore, that they did not credit their own report.
4. In regard to the Saviour they could not be deceived. They had been with him three years. They knew him as a friend. They again ate and drank with him; they put their fingers into his hands and side; they conversed with him; they were with him 40 days. There were enough of them to bear witness. Law commonly requires not more than one or two competent witnesses, but here were eleven plain, honest men, who affirmed in all places and at all times that they had seen him. Can it be possible that they could be deceived Then all faith in testimony must be given up.
5. They gave every possible evidence of their sincerity. They were persecuted, ridiculed, scourged, and put to death for affirming this. Yet not one of them ever expressed the least doubt of its truth. They bore everything rather than to deny that they had seen him. They had no motive in doing this but the love of truth. They obtained no wealth by it, no honor, no pleasure. They gave themselves up to great and unparalleled sufferings – going from land to land; crossing almost every sea; enduring the dangers, toils, and privations of almost every clime – for the simple object of affirming everywhere that a Saviour died and rose. If they knew this was an imposition – and if it had been they would have known it – in what way is this remarkable conduct to be accounted for? Do men conduct in this way for nothing? and especially in a plain case, where all that can be required is the testimony of the senses?
6. The world believed them. Three thousand of the Jews themselves believed in the risen Saviour on the day of Pentecost, but 50 days after his resurrection, Act_2:41. Multitudes of other Jews believed during the lives of the apostles. Thousands of Gentiles believed also, and in 300 years the belief that Jesus rose had spread over and changed the whole Roman empire. If the apostles had been deceivers, that was the age in which they could most easily have been detected. Yet that was the age when converts were most rapidly multiplied, and God affixed His seal to their testimony that it was true.
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, and 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.
Mat 28:17 And when, they saw him, they worshipped him,…. With divine adoration, as the eternal Son of God; for so he was now declared to be by his resurrection from the dead, Rom_1:4,
but some doubted; or “some of them”, as the Syriac and Arabic versions render it; that is, some of the eleven disciples: not that they doubted now that Christ was risen from the dead; since he had appeared several times to them before this, and had given them all the proofs of the truth of his resurrection they could desire; but they, who worshipped him now in Galilee, had doubted before in Jerusalem; not only Thomas, but all of them: they looked upon the words of the women as idle tales; nor did the rest believe the two disciples, with whom Christ travelled to Emmaus: wherefore he upbraids them for their unbelief, Luk_24:11, or else the sense is, that some of them, though they believed Christ was risen from the dead, of which they had had the strongest assurance; yet they doubted whether what they then saw on the mountain was he, or whether it was not a spirit, or a mere phantom; and therefore, as in the next verse, he “came” nearer to them, when they knew him: or else this may be understood of some of the seventy disciples, or of the five hundred brethren, who saw him at this time, and at first had some doubts of his resurrection, but were afterwards fully satisfied.
But some doubted (hoi de edistasan). From dis (in two, divided in mind). Cf. Mat_14:31. The reference is not to the eleven who were all now convinced after some doubt, but to the others present. Paul states that over five hundred were present, most of whom were still alive when he wrote (1Co_15:6). It is natural that some should hesitate to believe so great a thing at the first appearance of Jesus to them. Their very doubt makes it easier for us to believe. This was the mountain where Jesus had promised to meet them. This fact explains the large number present. Time and place were arranged beforehand. It was the climax of the various appearances and in Galilee where were so many believers. They worshipped (prosekunēsan) Jesus as the women had done (Mat_28:9). He is now their Risen Lord and Saviour.
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.
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.
Jerome: They first then teach all nations, and when taught dip them in water. For it may not be that the body receive the sacrament of Baptism, unless the soul first receive the truth of the Faith. “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,” that they whose Godhead is one should be conferred at once, to name this Trinity, being to name One God.
Jerome, Didymi Lib. ii, de Spir. Sanct.: And though some one there may be of so averse a spirit as to undertake to baptize in such sort as to omit one of these names, therein contradicting Christ Who ordained this for a law, his baptism will effect nothing; those who are baptized by him will not be at all delivered from their sins. From these words we gather how undivided is the substance of the Trinity, that the Father is verily the Father of the Son, and the Son verily the Son of the Father, and the Holy Spirit the Spirit of both the Father and the Son, and also the Spirit of wisdom and of truth, that is, of the Son of God. This then is the salvation of them that believe, and in this Trinity is wrought the perfect communication of ecclesiastical discipline.
Hilary, de Trin. ii, 1 &c: For what part of the salvation of men is there that is not contained in this Sacrament? All things are full and perfect, as proceeding from Him who is full and perfect. The nature of His relation is expressed in the title Father; but He is nothing but Father; for not after the manner of men does He derive from somewhat else that He is Father, being Himself Unbegotten, Eternal, and having the source of His being in Himself, known to none, save the Son.
The Son is the Offspring of the Unbegotten, One of the One, True of the True, Living of the Living, Perfect of the Perfect, Strength of Strength, Wisdom of Wisdom, Glory of Glory; the Image of the Unseen God, the Form of the Unbegotten Father.
Neither can the Holy Spirit be separated from the confession of the Father and the Son. And this consolation of our longing desires is absent from no place. He is the pledge of our hope in the effects of His gifts, He is the light of our minds, He shines in our souls.
These things as the heretics cannot change, they introduce into them their human explanations. As Sabellius who identifies the Father with the Son, thinking the distinction to be made rather in name than in person, and setting forth one and the same Person as both Father and Son. As Ebion, who deriving the beginning of His existence from Mary, makes Him not Man of God, but God of man. As the Arians, who derive the form, the power, and the wisdom of God out of nothing, and in time. What wonder then that men should have diverse opinions about the Holy Spirit, who thus rashly after their own pleasure create and change the Son, by whom that Spirit is bestowed?
Jerome: Observe the order of these injunctions. He bids the Apostles first to teach all nations, then to wash them with the sacrament of faith, and after faith and baptism then to teach them what things they ought to observe; “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”
Go ye therefore – “Because” all power is mine, go! I can defend you. The world is placed under my control. It is redeemed. It is given me in promise by my Father, as the purchase of my death. Though you are weak, yet I am strong! Though you will encounter many troubles and dangers, yet I can defend you! Though you die, yet I live, and the work shall be accomplished!
Teach all nations – The word rendered “teach,” here, is not the one that is usually so translated in the New Testament. This word properly means “to disciple, or to make disciples of.” This was to be done, however, by teaching, and by administering baptism.
All nations – This gracious commission was the foundation of their authority to go to the Gentiles. The Jews had expected that the offers of life under the Messiah would be confined to their own nation. Jesus broke down the partition wall, and commissioned his disciples to go everywhere, and bring the “world” to the knowledge of himself.
Baptizing them – as an emblem of the purifying influences of the Christian religion through the Holy Spirit, and solemnly devoting them to God.
In the name … – This phrase does not mean, here, “by the authority” of the Father, etc. To be baptized in the name of the Father, etc., is the same as to be baptized “unto” the Father; as to believe on the “name” of Christ is the same as to believe “on Christ,” Joh_1:12; Joh_2:23; Joh_3:18; 1Co_1:13. To be baptized “unto” anyone is publicly to receive and adopt him as a religious teacher or lawgiver; to receive his system of religion. Thus, the Jews were baptized “unto Moses,” 1Co_10:2. That is, they received the system that he taught; they acknowledged him as their lawgiver and teacher. So Paul asks 1Co_1:13, “Were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” – that is, Were you devoted to Paul by this rite? Did you bind yourselves to “him,” and give yourselves away to “him,” or to God? So to be baptized in the name of the Father, or unto the Father, means publicly, by a significant rite, to receive his system of religion; to bind the soul to obey his laws; to be devoted to him; to receive, as the guide and comforter of the life, his instructions, and to trust to his promises. To be baptized unto the Son, in like manner, is to receive him as the Messiah – our Prophet, Priest, and King – to submit to his laws, and to receive him as a Saviour. To be baptized unto the Holy Spirit is to receive him publicly as the Sanctifier, Comforter, and Guide of the soul. The meaning, then, may be thus expressed: Baptizing them unto the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit by a solemn profession of the only true religion, and by a solemn consecration to the service of the sacred Trinity.
The union of these three names in the form of baptism proves that the Son and Holy Spirit are equal with the Father. Nothing would be more absurd or blasphemous than to unite the name of a creature – a man or an angel – with the name of the ever-living God in this solemn rite. If Jesus was a mere man or an angel, as is held by many who deny his divinity, and if the Holy Spirit was a mere “attribute” of God, then it would have been the height of absurdity to use a form like this, or to direct the apostles to baptize people under them. How absurd would be the direction – nay, how blasphemous – to have said, “Baptize them unto God, and unto Paul, and unto the “wisdom or power” of God!” Can we believe that our Saviour would have given a direction so absurd as this? Yet, unless he himself is divine, and the Holy Spirit is divine, Jesus gave a direction substantially the same as this. The form of baptism, therefore, has been always regarded as an unbreakable argument for the doctrine of the Trinity, or that the Son and Holy Spirit are equal with the Father.
Chrysostom.: And because what He had laid upon them was great, therefore to exalt their spirits He adds, “And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” As much as to say, Tell Me not of the difficulty of these things, seeing I am with you, Who can make all things easy. A like promise He often made to the Prophets in the Old Testament, to Jeremiah who pleaded his youth, to Moses, and to Ezekiel, when they would have shunned the office imposed upon them. And not with them only does He say that He will be, but with all who shall believe after them. For the Apostles were not to continue till the end of the world, but He says this to the faithful as to one body.
Mat 28:20 Teaching them to observe all things,…. All ordinances, not only baptism, but the Lord’s supper; all positive institutions, and moral duties; all obligations, both to God and men; all relative duties that respect the world, or one another, those that are without, and those that are within; and these are to be taught them, and therefore to be insisted on in the ministry of the word; and not merely in order that they may know them, and have the theory of them, but that the may put them into practice:
whatsoever I have commanded you; every thing that Christ has commanded, be it what it will, and nothing else; for Christ’s ministers are not to teach for doctrines the commandments of men; or enjoin that on the churches, which is of their own, or other men’s devising, and was never ordered by Christ; and for their encouragement he adds,
and lo! I am with you always, even unto the end of the world: meaning, not merely to the end of their lives, which would be the end of the world to them; nor to the end of the Jewish world, or state, which was not a great way off, though this is sometimes the sense of this phrase; but to the end of the world to come, the Gospel church state, which now took place; or to the end of the present world, the universe: not that the apostles should live to the end of it; but that whereas Christ would have a church and people to the end of the world, and the Gospel and the ordinances of it should be administered so long, and there should be Gospel ministers till that time; Christ’s sense is, that he would grant his presence to them, his immediate disciples, and to all that should succeed them in future generations, to the end of time: and which is to be understood not of his corporeal presence, which they should not have till then, but of his spiritual presence; and that he would be with them, in a spiritual sense, to assist them in their work, to comfort them under all discouragements, to supply them with his grace, and to protect them from all enemies, and preserve from all evils; which is a great encouragement both to administer the word and ordinances, and attend on them.
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 them (didaskontes autous). Christians have been slow to realize the full value of what we now call religious education. The work of teaching belongs to the home, to the church (sermon, Sunday school, young people’s work, prayer-meeting, study classes, mission classes), to the school (not mixing of church and state, but moral instruction if not the reading of the Bible), good books which should be in every home, reading of the Bible itself. Some react too far and actually put education in the place of conversion or regeneration. That is to miss the mark. But teaching is part, a weighty part, of the work of Christians.
I am with you (egō meta humōn). This is the amazing and blessed promise. He is to be with the disciples when he is gone, with all the disciples, with all knowledge, with all power, with them all the days (all sorts of days, weakness, sorrows, joy, power), till the consummation of the age (heōs tēs sunteleias tou aiōnos). That goal is in the future and unknown to the disciples. This blessed hope is not designed as a sedative to an inactive mind and complacent conscience, but an incentive to the fullest endeavor to press on to the farthest limits of the world that all the nations may know Christ and the power of his Risen Life. So Matthew’s Gospel closes in a blaze of glory. Christ is conqueror in prospect and in fact. Christian history from that eventful experience on the Mountain in Galilee has been the fulfilment of that promise in as far as we allow God’s power to work in us for the winning of the world to Christ, the Risen, all powerful Redeemer, who is with his people all the time. Jesus employs the prophetic present here (eimi, I am). He is with us all the days till he comes in glory.