Matthew 28 Bible Commentary

McGarvey and Pendleton

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(Read all of Matthew 28)
28:1  Now late on the sabbath day, as it began to dawn toward the first [day] of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. ANGELS ANNOUNCE THE RESURRECTION TO CERTAIN WOMEN. PETER AND JOHN ENTER THE EMPTY TOMB. (Joseph's Garden. Sunday, very early.) Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-8,12; John 20:1-10

28:2  And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled away the stone, and sat upon it.
An angel of the Lord . . . sat upon it. The angel sat upon the stone that the Roman guards might make no attempt to reclose the tomb.

28:4  and for fear of him the watchers1 did quake, and became as dead men.
The watchers. The Roman soldiers on guard.

28:5  And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye1; for I know that ye seek Jesus, who hath been crucified.
Fear not ye. See Luke 1:30.

28:6  He is not here; for he is risen, even as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay1.
Come, see the place where the Lord lay. See Mark 16:6.

28:7  And go quickly, and tell his disciples1, He is risen from the dead; and lo, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.
Go quickly, and tell his disciples, etc. See Mark 16:7.

28:9  And behold, Jesus met them1, saying, All hail2. And they came and took hold of his feet, and worshipped him3. FIRST AND SECOND APPEARANCES OF THE RISEN CHRIST. THE RESURRECTION REPORTED TO THE APOSTLES. (Jerusalem. Sunday morning.) Matthew 28:9,10; Mark 16:9-11; Luke 24:9-11; John 20:11-18
And behold, Jesus met them. The narrative turns to take up the account of the other women.
All hail. This was a customary salutation. But the old formula took on new significance, for the Greek word "chairo" means "rejoice".
And they came and took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. This delay, permitted to them, and denied to Mary (John 20:17), probably explains why she became the first messenger, though the other women were first to leave the tomb.

28:10  Then saith Jesus unto them, Fear not1: go tell my brethren2 that they depart into Galilee, and there shall they see me3.
Fear not. See Luke 1:30.
Go tell my brethren. This is the first time the word "brethren" is applied by our Lord to his disciples.
That they depart into Galilee, and there shall they see me. Thus Jesus reiterates the instruction already given by the angel (Matthew 28:7). The repetition may be due to the reticence of the women remarked by Mark by the key words "and they said nothing to any one" (Mark 16:8). The women may have been hesitating whether they should tell the disciples.

28:11  Now while they were going1, behold, some of the guard2 came into the city, and told unto the chief priests all the things that were come to pass3. SOME OF THE GUARDS REPORT TO THE JEWISH RULERS. Matthew 28:11-15
Now while they were going. While Joanna and the group of women with her were on their way to tell the apostles that they had seen Jesus (Matthew 28:9).
Some of the guard. Not all.
Told unto the chief priests all the things that were come to pass. Esteeming it folly to guard an empty tomb, the soldiers went to their barracks, while their officers returned to those who had placed them on guard to report what had happened. They rightly judged that the plain truth was their best defense. They could not be expected to contend against earthquakes and angels. Their report implies that they saw Jesus leave the tomb, and after the angel opened it.*

*NOTE.--We fail to see any such implication. In our opinion, Jesus had already departed from the tomb when the angel came. The tomb was not opened to let the Lord out, but to let the disciples in, that they might see as soon as possible one of the chief evidences of the resurrection (Matthew 28:6; John 20:19,26). Jesus did not need that one open doors for him (John 20:19), but the disciples had such a need (Mark 16:3). But it seems to us contrary to Scripture precedent that these unbelieving soldiers should see the risen Christ, for he did not appear to the unbelieving so far as the record shows, and the implication is that the same principle which made Jesus refuse the testimony of demons made him also decline to let unbelievers become witnesses to his resurrection (Acts 10:40,41).--Philip Y. Pendleton.

28:12  And when they were assembled with the elders1, and had taken counsel, they gave much money unto the soldiers,
When they were assembled with the elders. This was evidently not a full, but a select, council of the Sanhedrin hastily summoned.
They gave much money to the soldiers. They willfully shut their eyes to the fact that Jesus had risen, and proceed to purchase a lie to subvert the truth.

28:13  saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept1.
Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. Unrepentant, despite the many evidences that they had done wrong, they proceed to further invoke the wrath of God. Their lie is doubly apparent upon its face: (1) It would have been practically impossible for men to have rifled such a tomb without waking a guard set to protect it. (2) It is absolutely impossible for men to have known what had occurred while they were asleep.

28:14  And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and rid you of care1.
If this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and rid you of care. It was a capital offense for a Roman soldier to sleep while on guard; therefore, if Pilate heard that they had done this thing, it would require "persuasion" to make him overlook the offense. Possibly the Jews thought that Pilate was sufficiently involved with them to be ready to aid them to hush the story of the resurrection, especially if they confessed to him that they themselves had invented the lie which the soldiers told.

28:15  So they took the money, and did as they were taught1: and this saying was spread abroad among the Jews, [and continueth] until this day2.
So they took the money, and did as they were taught. The lesson was short and simple; the reward, large and desirable.
This saying was spread abroad among the Jews, [and continueth] until this day. The words seem to indicate that it was published more largely than simply within the walls of Jerusalem. In his dialogue with Trypho, which was written about A.D. 170, Justin Martyr says that the Jews dispersed the story by means of special messengers sent to every country. The fear which they expressed to Pilate (Matthew 27:64), lends credibility to this statement

28:16  But the eleven disciples went into Galilee1, unto the mountain where Jesus had appointed them. Matthew 28:16,17 EIGHTH APPEARANCE OF JESUS. (A mountain in Galilee) Matthew 28:16,17; 1 Corinthians 15:6
But the eleven disciples went into Galilee. Though Matthew speaks of only eleven being present at this appearance, yet as it was the oft-promised meeting by appointment and as the women and disciples generally shared in the promise (Matthew 28:7-10), we have no doubt that it was the meeting mentioned by Paul (1 Corinthians 15:6).

28:17  And when they saw him, they worshipped [him]; but some doubted1.
But some doubted. As to the doubts, we may explain them in three ways: (1) Among so large a number as five hundred (1 Corinthians 15:6), some would likely be skeptical. (2) It would take Jesus some time to draw near enough to all to convince each one of his identity. Some, therefore, would doubt until they were thus convinced by Jesus coming to them and speaking to them, as the first clause of the next section (Matthew 28:18) shows that he did. (3) Matthew records no other appearance to the apostles save this one, and it seems to us reasonable to think that he here notes the doubts of Thomas (John 20:24,25), and connects them with the appearance of Jesus generally. He could not well say "had doubted", for he records no other appearance where they had opportunity to doubt. The history of the eleven sustains this view, for there were doubters among them at Pentecost. According to Paul, many of these brethren were still alive when he wrote his epistle to the Corinthians, which is commonly accepted to have been in the spring of A.D. 57.

28:18  And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth1. Matthew 28:18-20 THE GREAT COMMISSION GIVEN. (Time and place same as last section.) Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-18; Luke 24:46,47
All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Neither the word "power" nor the word "authority" adequately translated Christ's word "exousia". It means all the right of absolute authority, and all the force of absolute power. It is a most transcendent claim which Jesus utters here. All authority in heaven! Paul's qualification of these words in 1 Corinthians 15:27,28, or their counterpart in Psalms 8:6, magnifies instead of detracting from their wonderful import, for he deems its necessary to state that the Father himself is not subject to the Son. Surely in connection with this marvelous celestial power, his dominion over out tiny earth would not need to be mentioned if it were not that we, its inhabitants, are very limited in our conception of things, and require exceedingly plain statements.

28:19  Go ye1 therefore2, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them3 into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit:
Go ye. See Mark 16:15.
Therefore. This word shows that Jesus rests his command on his divine authority (Matthew 28:18).
And make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them. The structure of the sentence in the original Greek shows that it is the disciples and not the nations who are to be baptized; according to the commission, therefore, one must be made a disciple before he can be baptized. See Mark 16:16.

28:20  teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world1.
I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. This is a promise not of bare companionship, but of full sympathy and support. (Exodus 33:15; Joshua 1:5; Isaiah 43:2). The duration of this promise shows that it is intended for all disciples.

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