Matthew 28 Bible Commentary

B. W. Johnson’s Bible Commentary

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(Read all of Matthew 28)
The Resurrection.

SUMMARY.--The Women at the Sepulcher. The Message of the Angel. The Risen Lord. The Report of the Guard. The Charge of the Priests. Christ Appears to the Eleven. The Meeting in Galilee. The Great Commission.

      1. In the end of the sabbath. After the Sabbath in which Jesus had lain in the tomb. As it began to dawn. All the gospels mark the precious moment when the great news first became known. Mark (16:2) says they arrived at sunrise Compare Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-11; John 20:1-21; 1 Cor. 15:1-20. The first day of the week. The Lord's day, or Sunday. Came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. Mary, the mother of James and Joses. Also Salome (Mark 16:1). Late on Friday evening they had watched the sepulcher (Matt. 27:56). Now, after the Sabbath, they came with spices (Mark 16:1) in the hope that they could anoint the body. These disciples would not break the Sabbath, even to preserve the body of their beloved Lord. The Sabbath ended at sunset, so that Jesus had been dead and buried Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday morning, beginning at the previous sunset, three days according to Jewish reckoning. See 1 Sam. 30:12, 13; 2 Chron. 10:5, 12.

      2. Behold, there was a great earthquake. The word rendered "earthquake" is rendered tempest in Matt. 8:24. It means a "commotion." It is not needful to decide that there was more than a local disturbance. For the angel of the Lord descended. An angel. There is no article. All the gospels speak of the angelic appearance at the tomb, though some give details omitted by others. Rolled back the stone. The commotion, or earthquake, accompanied the rolling back of the stone. "It was not for him to whom (John 20:19, 20) the stone was no hindrance, but for the women and disciples that it was rolled away."--Alford.

      3. His countenance was like lightning. Was bright like lightning. Compare Exod. 34:29; Matt. 17:2; Rev. 1:14. And his raiment white as snow. White is the emblem of purity. So was the Savior's raiment at the Transfiguration, and the robes of the saints as described in Revelation.

      4. The keepers. The Roman soldiers placed to guard the tomb with Pilate's consent.

      5. Ye seek Jesus which was crucified. The angel does not forget that Jesus is the crucified one, nor do the redeemed in heaven (Rev. 5:6; 7:9).

      6. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. The women had not seen him rise and had to be informed. They therefore came to the sepulcher after the resurrection. Christ had risen "as he said." For the prophecies of a resurrection see Matt. 16:21; 17:23; also read Luke 24:6. See the place where the Lord lay. The angel does not say "your," but the Lord--the Lord of the angels as well as men.

      7. Tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead. To woman it was first announced that the birth of the child whose name should be Jesus, "because he should save his people from their sins," was near; women were the last of his disciples to linger at the cross or to watch at the sepulcher; they were the first to see the empty tomb, to hear the glad news, or to be sent to tell the story of their risen Lord. He goeth before you into Galilee. They are cited to Galilee to meet the Lord, not that his only appearance would be there, for that was the seventh, but because, in that country, where the largest number of his disciples lived, he proposed to reveal himself to the whole body of saints. There he was seen "by about five hundred brethren at once."

      9. Jesus met them, saying, All hail! This was the second appearance of the Risen Savior. The appearances were: 1. To Mary Magdalene alone (Mark 16:9; John 20:11-18), near Jerusalem--Sunday, April 9. 2. To the women returning from the sepulcher (Matt. 28:9, 10). 3. To Simon Peter alone (Luke 24:34). 4. To the two disciples going to Emmaus (Luke 24:13), etc. 5. To the apostles at Jerusalem, excepting Thomas, who was absent (John 20:19). These are all the same day. 6. To the apostles at Jerusalem a second time, when Thomas was present (John 20:26, 29)--Sunday, one week later. 7. At the Sea of Tiberias, when seven disciples were fishing (John 21:1). 8. To the eleven disciples on a mountain in Galilee (Matt. 28:16). 9. To above five hundred brethren at once (1 Cor. 15:6), in Galilee, near the time of the last. It is possible these two are identical. 10. To James only (1 Cor. 15:7). 11. To all the apostles on Mt. Olivet at his ascension (Luke 24:51)--Thursday, May 18. 12. We may add to these that he was seen by Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:3) and by John on Patmos (Rev. 1:13).

      10. Be not afraid. They had met the Lord while hastening to tell the story of his resurrection. It is when we are in the path of duty that we will enjoy his presence and his blessing. Go tell my brethren. This is the first time he had called the disciples his brethren.

      11. Behold, some of the watch came into the city. The time when these men went into the city is noted. It was while the women were on their way to tell the disciples. It is also stated that "some of the watch" only went to the priests. How numerous the watch was we are not informed. As the watch had been set by the priests themselves (Matt. 27:65, 66), it made its report to them instead of to Pilate.

      12. When they were assembled with the elders. The chief priests and the elders, probably a secret meeting of the leading members of the Sanhedrim. They had gone too far into crime to stop.

      13. His disciples came by night, etc. The improbability of this story is easily seen: 1. The soldiers would not dare to go to sleep on guard. It was death. 2. If they had gone to sleep they could testify nothing of what was done while asleep. Their testimony of what occurred then would be worthless. 3. The disciples did not expect a resurrection and would hardly believe it when it occurred. 4. They had shown themselves cowards and would not have dared to take his body away. 5. Had they dared, had the Roman soldiers slept, they could not have removed the stone and carried off the body without detection. It was a night lighted with the full moon and all the environs of Jerusalem were crowded with people attending the passover.

      14. If this come to the governor's ears, etc. As he had taken so little interest in the matter as to leave the watch to them it was not likely it would come to his ears at all, as we know that he was wont to spend only a few days at Jerusalem and then return to Cæsarea.

      15. This saying is commonly reported . . . until this day. It was still current among the Jews when Justin Martyr wrote in the second century, at least a hundred years after Matthew penned these words.

      16. The eleven disciples went away into Galilee. The time when they went to Galilee is not stated, though we learn from John 20:26 that they remained in Judea for over a week after the resurrection. Of the appearances in Galilee we have three accounts: the brief one here, which describes the official meeting of the Lord with the entire body of disciples: the one by the sea, described in John 21, and the reference by Paul in 1 Cor. 15:6. The eleven went into Galilee because the Lord had commanded them to do so. Into a mountain where Jesus had appointed. The Revision says, "the mountain," which is correct. The Lord had named the mountain where he should meet them, and had probably also appointed the time. The object of the appointment was probably to secure a general meeting of his disciples.

      17. When they saw him they worshipped him. It is also stated of the women (verse 9) that they worshiped him, or kneeled at his feet. Some doubted. This does not, as I suppose, refer to the eleven. The doubts of all, including the skeptical Thomas, had been silenced before this. But the story that he had risen seemed so incredible, that there were those assembled on this occasion who had been doubters. These, "when they saw him," remained doubters no longer, but "worshiped him."

      18. Spake unto them. To the whole assembly of five hundred brethren (1 Cor. 15:6). A commission had been given long before to the twelve apostles (Matt. 10:1-15), and also to the seventy, but it differed widely from the one now given. It confined the preaching to the Jews, and announced the kingdom of heaven as yet in the future. Now the preachers of Christ are sent, by the authority of the King, to make disciples of all nations. The old dispensation had ended with the cross. The new one had begun with the resurrection. All authority. Henceforth he was the King and Judge of the nations. The word "is given" denotes the source from whence he obtained his power, and implies that it was not inherent in the Son. Phil. 2:9 indicates that it was given to him after, and in consequence of, his voluntary humiliation; and 1 Cor. 15:27, shows that it held in subjection to the Father. It was because the authority to rule the world had been placed in his hands that he issued his commands that it should be conquered.

      19. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all nations. There are several things to be noticed: 1. Go, implies an aggressive warfare. The Gospel army must move upon the nations. The Lord seeks universal empire, and sends forth his armies to conquer the world. Every church and every disciple must understand that they have marching orders. 2. Not only is every saint commanded to go, or to take steps to make the gospel go, but the object is stated. They are to make disciples, or pupils, and scholars of Christ; not great philosophers, but "babes in Christ Jesus," who have entered the school of Christ and are to be taught afterwards. 3. Who are to be made disciples is next indicated. Not the Jews only, but all nations. Christ came to be the Savior of the world. His is a universal religion. In the Great Commission he looks beyond Judea, and commands that the Gospel shall be offered to all nations. The test of eighteen centuries shows that Christianity is not local or national, but is adapted to the needs of all mankind. 4. It is next stated how disciples shall be made. Baptizing them. The rite by which those who believe upon him should be formally enlisted and enrolled in the school of Christ is baptism. It is not a baptism of the Spirit that he means, because it is one that those whom he addresses are commanded to administer. He alone baptized with the Spirit; his apostles and disciples baptized in water, and it is to this rite that he refers. Hence, when we turn to the preaching of the apostles under this commission, we find that all converts were at once baptized (Acts 2:38-41; 8:12-18). 5. The end or result of baptism is also given. Converts were to be baptized into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. It is a positive affirmation of the Old Testament that where the name of the Lord is recorded there will he meet his disciples, or there will be his presence. See Exod. 20:24. The Lord declares that the three names, that of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, are recorded in baptism. In this rite, then, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit meet the believer; the Father to receive him as a child, the Son to welcome him as a brother, and to cover him with the mantle of his own purity; the Holy Spirit to endow him with that Spirit by which he can say, "Abba, Father." "Into the name of" is equivalent to "into the presence of," or "into the Father, and into the Son, and into the Holy Spirit."

      20. Teaching them. The second part of the commission is next given. The first part commands the making of disciples, and tells how they must be made. The second part provides for the instruction of the disciples in righteousness. This is to be done by "teaching them." To observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. What must be taught by the faithful Christian teacher is prescribed. It will at once be seen that this cuts off much that is often taught. We are not to teach "untaught questions," "oppositions of science, so called," dogmatic speculations, isms or human creeds. Christ has never commanded these. On the other hand, we are to teach all things he has commanded. Some of these things we have recorded in the Gospels; others we have in the Acts and in the Epistles. They embrace the various duties of Christian life. I am with you alway. It was an arduous work he had commanded his disciples to undertake; a few uninfluential and unlettered laboring men to undertake the moral and religious conquest of a world that had just crucified their Master. There was, however, an assurance that they should be equal to the task, for, (1) All power, or authority, in heaven and earth was in the hands of their crucified Lord. (2) He now declares, I am with you always. He who has all power will be present with them, a help in time of need. He is a mighty, present and helping Savior. Even unto the end of the world. Until the close of the Christian dispensation, coming of the Lord, and the day of judgment.