David Guzik's Commentary on the Bible
MATTHEW 28 - A RISEN LORD JESUS AND HIS COMMISSION
A. The risen Jesus.
1. (Matthew 28:1-8) Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany find an empty tomb.
Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you. So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.
a. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb: They did not expect to find what they did; they came to finish the preparation of Jesus’ body, which was cut short by the Sabbath (Luke 24:1-3).
b. An angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it: When the women came to the tomb, they saw the stone rolled away and an angel sitting on the stone. The door to the tomb was wide open.
c. He is not here: These are some of the most beautiful - and important - words ever spoken by an angel to men. One may look all over Jerusalem and see countless thousands of tombs, but one will never find the tomb of Jesus - because He is not here!
i. In Israel, we saw many graves and tombs - there is an ocean of tombs on the Mount of Olives, and vast sea of graves outside the eastern wall of the temple mount. You can see the tomb of Rebekka, the tomb of David, the tomb of Absalom - but you won’t find the tomb of Jesus anywhere. He is not here!
d. Come, see the place where the Lord lay: The stone was not rolled away to let Jesus out. John 20:19 tells us that Jesus, in His resurrection body, could pass through material barriers. It was rolled away so that others could see in and be persuaded that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.
i. The fact of the resurrection is clear enough. We must also grapple with the meaning of the resurrection. Simply, Jesus’ resurrection proved that His death was an actual propitiation for sin and that the Father had accepted it as such. The cross was the payment, the resurrection the receipt, proving that the payment was fully accepted.
e. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead: The angel commanded them to be the first messengers of the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. Since these women were the some of the few people courageous enough to publicly identify themselves with Jesus, it was an appropriate honor.
2. (Matthew 28:9-10) Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany meet a risen Jesus.
And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”
a. As they went to tell His disciples: The women met Jesus as they obeyed the command to tell the news of the resurrection.
b. Jesus met them, saying “Rejoice!” What else could Jesus say to these women? What else could they do other than rejoice?
c. So they came and held Him by the feet and worshipped Him: When the women met Jesus, they were compelled to worship Him. An hour before, they thought everything was lost because they thought Jesus was dead. Now they know everything is gained because Jesus is alive.
i. And not only alive, but resurrected. Before the resurrection of Jesus, there are several instances in the Bible of dead people brought back to life. But those were corpses resuscitated back to life, and they would die again. Jesus was resurrected, raised again to a new order of life. He would never die again, and His resurrection body was not the same as His previous body
ii. Notably, Jesus received the worship of these ladies. If Jesus were not God, it would have been terribly sinful for Him to receive this worship. But being God, it was good and appropriate for Him to receive it.
4. (Matthew 28:11-15) The cover-up of the resurrection begins with the bribery of the guards.
Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, saying, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.” So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.
a. Tell them, “His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept”: This cover-up attempt shows the depravity of the priests. They knew the truth of the resurrection, yet they rejected that truth.
b. While we slept: The cover-up also shows their foolishness. If the guards were asleep, how would they know that it was His disciples that stole the body of Jesus?
c. This saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day: Through the years, there have been many objections suggested to the resurrection of Jesus. Some say He didn’t die at all, but just “swooned” on the cross and revived in the tomb. Others say He really died, but His body was stolen. Still others suggest He really died, but His desperate followers hallucinated His resurrection. A plain, simple understanding of these evidences of the resurrection of Jesus destroys all of these theories, and shows they take far more faith to believe than the Biblical account.
i. “I suppose, brethren, that we may have persons arise, who will doubt whether there was ever such a man as Julius Caesar, or Napoleon Bonaparte; and when they do, - when all reliable history is flung to the winds, - then, but not till then, may they begin to question whether Jesus Christ rose from the dead, for this historical fact is attested by more witnesses than almost any other fact that stands on record in history, whether sacred or profane.” (Spurgeon)
ii. We sometimes sing: “You ask me how I know He lives; He lives, He lives inside my heart.” But that is not the best way to prove Jesus lives. He lives because the historical evidence demands we believe in the resurrection of Jesus. If we can believe anything in history, we can believe the reliable, confirmed testimony of these eyewitnesses. Jesus rose from the dead.
B. The great commission.
1. (Matthew 28:16-17) The disciples meet Jesus at Galilee.
Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.
a. To the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them: Just as the women who met the resurrected Jesus, the disciples met the risen Jesus as they did what He told them to do.
b. When they saw Him, they worshipped Him: This was not their first meeting with the risen Jesus; but it was an important one. At this meeting, they received their apostolic commission.
c. They worshipped Him: The natural reaction to encountering the risen Jesus is worship, even if some do doubt.
2. (Matthew 28:18-20) Jesus instructs His disciples regarding their duty after His departure.
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
a. All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth: This commission is given in light of the authority of Jesus. This indicates that this is an authoritative command, not a suggestion. It is the same idea as if an officer reminded a private of his rank before he gave the order.
b. Go therefore: Because Jesus has this authority, we are therefore commanded to go. It is His authority that sends us, His authority that guides us, and His authority that empowers us.
c. Make disciples of all the nations: The command is to make disciples, not merely converts or supporters of a cause. The idea behind the word disciple is of a scholar, a learner, or a student.
i. The kind of commitment expected from a disciple is expressed in the command to baptize. A person is totally immersed in water, and total commitment is the goal for a disciple.
d. Of all the nations: In His previous ministry, Jesus deliberately restricted His work to the Jewish people (Matthew 15:24) and previously sent His disciples with the same restriction (Matthew 10:6). Only on rare exceptions did Jesus minister among the Gentiles (Matthew 15:21-28). Now all of that is in the past, and the disciples are commissioned to take the gospel to all the nations. There is no place on earth where the gospel of Jesus should not be preached, and were disciples should not be made.
e. Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you: Disciples are made through teaching. This teaching is not with words only, but with the power of the always-present Jesus. He will be present with His people until the job of making disciples is done - until the end of the age.
i. The content of the teaching must be all things that I have commanded you. The followers of Jesus are responsible to present the whole counsel of God to those who made disciples.
f. Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age: Jesus sent His disciples with a mission to fulfill, but He did not send them alone. The promise of His constant presence was more than enough to strengthen and guide the disciples as they obeyed Jesus in making disciples of all the nations.
i. His presence means privilege, because we work with a Great King. Paul understood this principle well in 1 Corinthians 3:9, where he wrote: For we are God’s fellow workers. Since Jesus promised “I am with you always,” then we work together with Him in all our service. We certainly work for Jesus, but more than that we work with Jesus.
ii. His presence means protection, because we are never out of His sight or supervision.
iii. His presence means power, because as we fulfill this great command, we work in His name.
iv. His presence means peace, because it always reminds us that the church belongs to Jesus. It is His church, and His work. How then can we worry?
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