John Broadus' Commentary on Matthew
Found also in Mark 16:1-11, Luke 24:1-12, John 20:1-18. Compare 1 Corinthians 15:1-8. The five narratives of our Lord's resurrection and appearances differ much as to the details, but only in the way common when there are several independent and brief accounts of the same series of events. If the narratives are found to agree substantially, then the differences of detail show them to be independent, and really strengthen their credibility. The details in this case can all be harmonized by reasonable suppositions. If at some points the only explanations thus far offered seem artificial and strained, we must remember that the total information given on the subject is quite limited and yet embraces a great variety of distinct matters, and it could not be expected that the relations between these would be everywhere made perfectly clear; also that the progress of research is in every generation clearing up some question that was long considered difficult. The sacred writers do not treat their Lord's resurrection as a doubtful point, needing to be established by their statements, but as an unquestionable fact. Each of them gives such information concerning it as bears upon the design of his particular writing. Thus in Matt. the earthquake connects itself with that of Matthew 27:51; the report of the guard bears upon a story current among the Jews; the prominence given to Galilee accords with the large space occupied in this Gospel by the Galilean ministry; and the Great Commission shows the true nature of the Messianic reign, as spiritual, and destined to be universal.
This section of Matt. divides itself into Matthew 28:1-4, Matthew 28:5-7, Matthew 28:8-10, Matthew 28:11-15.
I. Matthew 28:1-4. Certain Devout Women Find The Stone Rolled Away From The Sepulchre
In the end, etc. The Rev. Ver. begins with now, the Greek de, the usual particle of transition. It might here be rendered 'but,' expressing an opposition between the precautions of the rulers and the events which here follow. End of the Sabbath, (Rev. Ver., late on the Sabbath day,) as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week. This opening expression is not easy to interpret. 'Late on the Sabbath day' is the only natural and well supported meaning. But the Jewish Sabbath ended at sunset, while Matthew's account indicates, and the other Gospels distinctly declare, that our Lord's resurrection occurred in the early morning. The other expression, 'as it began to dawn,' might refer to the beginning of the new day after sunset, as it apparently does in Luke 23:54. There are three ways in which Matthew's opening phrase may be understood, so as not to conflict with the other Gospels. (a) It may perhaps mean 'after the Sabbath,' and many insist that this is made necessary by what follows and by the other accounts. It is not clearly made out, but is maintained by such authorities as Fritzsche, Grimm, Godet, and others, that the Greek phrase can have this meaning. (b) 'Late on the Sabbath day' may perhaps reckon the following night as a part of the Sabbath, departing from the Jewish usage. This interpretation is given by Meyer, and vigorously stated by Morison: "The difficulty vanishes if we suppose that the method of adding diurnally the night to the day, rather than the day to the night, had got more or less into common use among the Jews, so that there were two ways of reckoning complete astronomical days; namely, first by night-days, and secondly by day-nights. Here the Evangelist was thinking of day-night (see next clause), and hence 'late in that day-night' would mean about the end of the night that followed the day of the Sabbath." This explanation is possible, but is certainly strained. (c) 'Late in the Sabbath' may be taken in its ordinary sense of before sunset, and we may understand, with McClellan and Westcott on John, that Matt. here mentions a previous visit by the two women, quite distinct from the visit of next morning. This also is possible, but difficult; for 'the women' of Luke 23:5 are almost necessarily understood to be those of Luke 23:1; and after seeing the guard, if not the seal, on the previous visit, how could they expect admission into the tomb? Thus no one of the explanations is easy, and entirely satisfactory; but as each of them is possible, it will not do to say that Matt. is here in irreconcilable conflict with the other Gospels. If compelled to select, we should prefer (b), and understand that Matthew's opening statement refers to the morning dawn. Mark has it, 'very early on the first day of the week.... when the sun was risen,' which may mean only the first rays of morning light, which really come from the sun; Luke says, 'at early dawn'; John 'while it was yet dark.' The Orientals have always been accustomed to early rising. The gates would be closed at sunset, and opened at dawn. The first day of the week is, in Greek, a peculiar expression, answering to a well-known Rabbinical phrase (Lightf.), but there is no doubt as to its meaning. Came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary; the mother of James the Little and of Joses, Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40. Mark adds (Mark 16:1) Salome; Luke (Luke 24:10) adds Joanna, (compare Luke 8:3) and indicates that there were yet others. There may have been two different parties, that of Joanna and others coming later; so Westcott, Edersheim. To see the sepulchre. The verb means to behold, as a spectacle; so in Matthew 27:55, and a kindred term in Matthew 6:1. They designed also, if it should appear practicable and appropriate, to 'anoint him', (Mark 16:1) and brought with them spices (Luke 24:1) which they had provided the evening before, when the Sabbath was past. (Mark.) As they went, (Mark 16:3, Rev. Ver.) they were concerned about the question, "Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the tomb?" for they knew from observation of the interment that "it was exceeding great " (Mark 16:4, Rev. Ver., compare Matthew 27:60), and a man's strength would be necessary.
And behold. Matthew often thus introduces matter of special wonder; and here it was peculiarly appropriate. The account in Matthew 6:2-4 is found in this Gospel only. The great earthquake is here distinctly supernatural, but that does not prove that the same was true in Matthew 27:51.(1) As to angels, see on "Matthew 18:10". The comparison of the angel's appearance to lightning and his raiment to snow, recalls the Transfiguration. The general term rendered "appearance" (R. V.) was unwarrantably restricted by Tyn. and successors to the countenance, perhaps from comparison of Daniel 10:5. The keepers, or watchers, same word as in Matthew 27:54. Shake, quake, same Greek root as in the word rendered 'earthquake.' Matthew's language would allow, but does not require us to believe, that the women saw the angel roll away the stone;(2) Mark shows the contrary, for while discussing, as they approach, the question who shall roll it away, 'looking up,' they see that it is rolled back (perfect tense), they see the result, not the process; and so Luke and John. They "were perplexed" (Luke) by finding the sepulchre open, but it does not occur to them that the Lord has risen. See below Matthew 27:5 f.
The Fourth Gospel, which gives an account of the movements of Mary Magdalene, says that seeing the stone taken away she ran to Peter and John and said, "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we know not where they have laid him." Observe that 'we' accords with the statement of Matt. that she had gone in company. She had evidently no idea that the Lord had come to life. (Compare also John 20:13) Peter was probably at John's place of residence in the city. (Job, Matthew 19:27.) They appear to have been old friends (compare on Matthew 26:17); John had secured Peter's admission to the court of the high priest, where the mournful fall occurred, and now received Peter, penitent and ashamed, to his own abode. So Peter and John set forth, running towards the tomb, (John 20:3 f.) followed by Mary Magdalene.
II. Matthew 28:5-7. An Angel Tells Them That Jesus Is Risen
(Mark 16:5-7, Luke 24:4-8) The angel is here obviously the one that had rolled away the stone. Mark, who has not told how the stone was rolled away, says that "entering into the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, arrayed in a white robe." Rev. Ver. As this young man said what Matt. ascribes to the angel, we understand that he was the angel. Luke says "two men stood by them in dazzling apparel," Rev. Ver., and gave them the same information. Some understand that this was at a later point, and that is possible. But we have had several instances of one person mentioned in a narrative, and two persons in another narrative of the same event. (Compare on Matthew 8:28, Matthew 20:30) We have only to suppose here, as in those cases, that one of the two was more conspicuous and acted as spokesman, and the variety of statement becomes natural. John also tells that Mary Magdalene presently saw "two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain." The images used in the several narratives to describe the appearance of the angel or angels, differ precisely as at the Transfiguration. The different positions and postures mentioned are readily understood as obtaining at different times during the rapid series of events. Such slight points of disagreement only add to the naturalness and verisimilitude of the total report.
Answered (compare on Matthew 11:25), responded to their look of perplexity, amazement, and fear (Mark and Luke). Luke says that in affright they "bowed down their faces to the earth," Rev. Ver. And said unto the women. We know from John that Mary Magdalene had now left, but we have seen that Salome and Joanna, and apparently others, were present with 'the other Mary.' Fear not ye, with emphasis on 'ye,' as it is separately expressed in the Greek; not so in Matthew 28:10. The guard might well he alarmed (Matthew 28:4), but these who came to seek Jesus had no cause for fear. For I know This gives a remedy for fear by telling the great reason they have for joy comp, Matthew 28:8. Jesus, which was crucified, or simply 'Jesus the crucified.' For he is risen, as he said. In Luke (Luke 24:6 f.) they are bidden to remember how when still in Galilee he predicted that he would be crucified and rise again the third day. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 'Where he lay' (margin, Rev. Ver.) is probably correct.(1) John vividly describes (John 20:5 ff.) the appearance of the tomb, as seen (a little later) by himself and Peter; and intimates that the orderly disposition of the linen cloths and the handkerchief, showing that here was no work of robbers, nor removal of a dead body to another tomb, caused him to "believe," viz., that the Master was alive again. This same impressive situation the women beheld. And go quickly, and tell his disciples. "Quickly," so that they may the sooner have opportunity to rise out of their distress and despair. And behold, same word as 'behold' in Matthew 28:2 and Matthew 28:9. He goeth before you into Galilee, as Jesus had promised in Matthew 26:32; and the same verb is used here as there, meaning 'he goes before and leads you,' as a shepherd his flock. (John 10:4) The present tense represents the action as sure and near. There shall ye see him. This does not necessarily exclude the possibility of their seeing him elsewhere, before or after, and we know from Luke and John that they saw him in Jerusalem and vicinity, both before going to Galilee and after returning. But the emphasis here laid on their seeing him in Galilee accords well with the view (compare below on Matthew 28:16), that on a certain mountain in Galilee was to be the great meeting, where many disciples should receive the Great Commission, thus differencing this coming event from the appearances on that same day at Jerusalem to a comparatively small number. Notice Luke's statement (Luke 24:9, R.V.) that the women "told all these things to the eleven, and to all the rest." Did they not then understand a message to 'the disciples' as not merely to the eleven but to all the known disciples then present at Jerusalem? Now most of these had come from Galilee, and when the feast of the Passover was over it would be natural that they should 'depart into Galilee.' (Matthew 28:10.) Remember, too, that already on the evening before the crucifixion Jesus had promised to meet them in Galilee. (Matthew 26:32) There is also force in the suggestion (McClellan) that in Galilee their minds might be more rapidly weaned away from the notion of a temporal kingdom, which partially reasserted itself afterwards when they returned to Jerusalem before the ascension. (Acts 1:6)—Lo, I have told you. Here Mark, who has agreed with Matt. almost word for word through several lines, has 'even as he told you.' Some "Western" documents changed Mark to be like Matthew.
III. Matthew 28:8-10. Jesus Meets Them As They Hasten Away
Mark 16:8. Quickly, as the angel bade them, Mark 16:7; and did run. The word sepulchre, Rev. Ver., tomb, changes from that of Mark 16:1 (compare on Matthew 27:61), though there is no important difference in substantial meaning. With fear and great joy. The fear (Matthew 28:5) has not ceased, but it has become mingled with great joy. Mark (Mark 16:8. R.V.) says strongly, "for trembling and astonishment had come upon them." He adds,"and they said nothing to anyone; for they were afraid," i. e., they spoke to no one they met on the way, being too much occupied with the fear produced by what had occurred. To bring his disciples word. The most of the disciples were not at the same place as Peter and John. It has been suggested that they probably retired to Bethany, as they and the Master had been wont to do every evening. (Luke 21:37) Jesus met them saying, All hail. This is simply the common Greek salutation, rendered 'hail' in Matthew 26:49, Matthew 27:30, and there is no reason for rendering it otherwise here. The 'all' was introduced by Tyndale. The common text prefixes 'as they went to tell his disciples,' but this is a mere explanatory addition brought in from the margin. Held him, literally, seized or 'grasped,' the action showing great humility and veneration. This was not censured, and yet the Saviour said to Mary Magdalene, (John 20:17, Rev. Ver. margin) "Take not hold on me; for I am not yet ascended unto the Father." The most probable explanation of the difference is that Mary supposed this was only the Master's "spirit," as the disciples did the same evening, (Luke 24:37) and was proposing to test the reality of the bodily appearance, which experiment Jesus rebuked. Worshipped. Bengel: "Jesus before his passion was worshipped, by others rather than his disciples." Go tell my brethren. It was special kindness thus to speak of them, (compare Matthew 12:50, Matthew 25:40, John 20:17) when they were likely to feel special humiliation at the thought that they had all forsaken him, and one of them denied him. It was apparently for the same purpose that the angel had expressly added the name of Peter, (Mark 16:7) lest the sadly fallen one should fear to think that a message to the disciples of Jesus could any longer be regarded as a message to him.
Meantime Peter and John arrived at the tomb, saw it empty, and returned home. (John 20:3-10) Mary Magdalene remained behind, standing without, weeping. And presently Jesus appeared to her, in that affecting interview which John describes in John 20:11-18. If the expression 'he appeared first to Mary Magdalene' (Mark 16:9) be regarded as genuine and chronological, then it may be thought that as she departed to tell the disciples, (John 20:18) Jesus also departed, and overtook the other women. As he suddenly appeared that evening in a room with closed doors, (John 20:19) there was already, from the resurrection onward, something supernatural in his bodily condition and movements, and so it may be that he overtook them, though they were running. But if Mark 16:9-20 be considered spurious,(1) or if 'first' be there understood to mean simply the first 'of the three appearances which that passage describes, then we can dispense with the supposition just made as to locomotion, and suppose that Jesus 'met' the other women a few moments after their departure, and then, returning to the tomb, appeared to Mary Magdalene.
The question has been frequently discussed, why these angelic appearances, and first appearances of the Lord himself, were made only to women. The women went early, and being the first believers present, gained the first knowledge of what had occurred. But why did neither the angels nor the Lord appear to Peter and John? If we adopt the simpler view as above, that Jesus appeared first to the women on their way (perhaps to Bethany), and then returning appeared to Mary Magdalene, it might be enough to suppose that he did not reach the tomb till after Peter and John left. As to the angels, it would be a question whether the women received the angelic communication because of their faith, or needed it in order to faith. John believed, merely from observing the order that prevailed in the empty tomb; and Peter was the first person to whom the Lord afterwards appeared in the course of the day. (Luke 24:34)
IV. Matthew 28:11-15. False Report By Some Of The Guard
This is found in Matt. only. It was natural that he, rather than the other Evangelists, should give it, because he wrote especially for Jews, among whom this report had spread. (Matthew 28:15.) When they were going. The events were exciting, and nobody delayed. Some of the watch came into the city; perhaps the rest remained until officially authorized to leave. And shewed unto the chief priests. These had taken them out to the sepulchre, (Matthew 27:65 f.) and very likely stated their fear that the disciples of the buried one would come and steal him away.. At any rate, the chief priests had stationed them, by Pilate's permission, and to the chief priests they reported. According to Roman discipline, they were liable to very severe punishment for losing what they guarded. They thought that an account of the angelic appearance and the stone rolled away would have influence with the Jewish authorities, and so their crime as soldiers might somehow be forgiven. Accordingly, they told the chief priests all the things that were come to pass. The story must have excited great surprise and alarm, but it wrought no repentance. Alas! for these bad men, they were now, like Pilate, so entangled by previous wickedness, that it seemed they must go forward. They had said, "Let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe on him"; (Matthew 27:42; Rev. ver.) behold, he has done something still more wonderful, yet they do not believe, no, nor make further inquiry, but simply bribe the witnesses to report a stupid falsehood. Large money, or 'quite a number of silver (pieces),' which would most naturally mean shekels, Matthew 26:15. His disciples... stole him away while we slept. The statement is absurd on its face, for if asleep they did not know it, and if one of them knew, he could have awaked the others. It also confesses on their part a criminal breach of discipline. If this come to the governor's ears; so Tyn., Cram, and K. James. It much more likely means, with Geneva and margin, Rev. Ver., 'come to be heard before the governor,'(1) be tried before him. (See Buttm., p. 336.) We will persuade him ('we' being emphatic), not simply by argument and personal influence, but by the consideration they had just brought to bear upon the soldiers themselves. Wet. gives several passages of Greek authors in which mention is made of persuading men by means of money. Philo expressly states (see on "Matthew 27:11") that Pilate was a bribetaker, as we know was true of Felix. (Acts 24:26) And secure you, literally, and make you to be without anxiety, the same root as in Matthew 6:25 if. And did as they were taught. The rulers, doubtless, kept quiet until after Pentecost, when the disciples began to declare and to prove that Jesus was risen, and then made the soldiers tell their false story. Until this day, the time when Matt. wrote his Gospel, compare on Matthew 27:8. Justin Martyr says to the Jew Tryphon (ch. 108),"You (the Jews) selected men and sent them rote all the world, proclaiming that a certain atheistic and lawless sect has arisen from one Jesus, a Galilean deceiver, whom we crucified, but his disciples stole him by night from the tomb, and deceive men by saying that he has risen from the dead and ascended into heaven."The absurd and blasphemous medieval Jewish legend called "Toldoth Jeshu" expands this allegation.
Attempts are still made, by men whose theories cannot be otherwise maintained, to set aside the fact of our Lord's resurrection. No intelligent critic now holds that Jesus did not really die, or that he died, but his resurrection was a mere imposture on the part of his disciples. The now common theory of unbelieving critics is that it was a vision, or, in some way, an illusion, on their part. These men are not mere disinterested inquirers after truth, as they sometimes assert; they have to account for Christianity, as having in it, according to them, nothing supernatural, and yet as a great power in the world; as affording the noblest ethical teachings, and presenting the unrivalled character of Christ, and as unquestionably based by its propagators on belief in a risen Saviour. Of course, men so ingenious will make some plausible show of explaining away the evidence, or flinging around the subject some appearance of doubt, as skilful lawyers know how to do with the weakest case. See an examination of their theories in Milligan, Lect. III, and brief and vigorous discussions in Geder, Weiss ("Life"), and Edersh.; see also a curious and powerful refutation of these sceptical theories by Keim, on grounds as rationalistic as their own.—The great fact stands. Westcott ("Gospel of the Res."): "It has been shown that the resurrection is not an isolated event in history, but at once the end and the beginning of vast developments of life and thought; that it is the climax of a long series of divine dispensations which find in it their complement and explanation; that it has formed the starting-point of all progressive modern society, ever presenting itself in new lights, according to the immediate wants of the age."Then after restating the evidence, he adds," Taking all the evidence together, it is not too much to say that there is no single historic incident better or more variously supported than the Resurrection of Christ."And let it be remembered how much this great fact carries with it. The resurrection of Christ establishes the divine origin of his mission and teachings; it gives God's sanction to all his claims, and he claimed to be the Messiah, to speak by divine authority, to be one with God. Romans 1:4. Hanna: "Jesus had publicly periled his reputation as the Christ of God, on the occurrence of this event. When challenged to give some sign in support of his pretensions, it was to his future resurrection from the dead, and to it alone, that he appealed. (John 2:20, Matthew 12:38-41) Often, and that in terms incapable of misconstruction, had our Lord foretold his resurrection. It carried thus along with it a triple proof of the divinity of our Lord's mission. It was the fulfilment of a prophecy, as well as the working of a miracle; that miracle wrought, and that prophecy fulfilled, in answer to a solemn and confident appeal made beforehand by Christ to this event as the crowning testimony to his Messiahship."
Homiletical And Practical
Matthew 28:5. Seeking the Crucified, finding the Risen One.
Matthew 28:7. "Go quickly." (1) Religious excitement should prompt to religious exertion. (2) Where others are sorrowing, we tell twice if we tell quickly, the news that will cheer them.—"Lo, I have told you." Henry: "Those messengers from God that discharge their trust faithfully, may take the comfort of that, whatever the success be. Acts 20:26 f."
Matthew 28:8. Euthym.: "With fear, at the strange things they saw; with great joy, at the good news they heard."
Matthew 28:9. It was while they were hastening to honour the Saviour and rejoice his disciples, that he met them.
Matthew 28:10. The Saviour recognizes the importance of repetition in giving instruction. (Compare Matthew 28:7.)—"My brethren." (1) This suggests humility, at our utter unworthiness of the honour. (2) It encourages return if we have forsaken him. (3) It stimulates to diligence in doing the will of God, Matthew 12:50. (4) It reminds us that we can serve him by serving the least of his brethren, Matthew 25:40. Hall: "Beloved Jesus, how dost thou raise the titles of thy followers with thyself! At first they were thy servants, then disciples, a little before thy death they were thy friends; now, after thy resurrection, they are thy brethren."
Matthew 28:11-15. The chief priests and the guard. (1) No multiplication of evidence will convince those who are stubbornly resolved not to believe. (2) Think of religious teachers serving God by a purchased lie. (3) Bribery required further and heavier bribes; first a trifle to Judas, now large money to the soldiers, and presently, perhaps, the governor. (4) A falsehood will be long-lived if it suits men's prejudices. (Matthew 28:15.) (5) Efforts against the truth sometimes help its progress; the seal and the guard only make it more clear that the Saviour rose from the dead.
Matthew 28:13. Schaff: "Men in the infatuation of unbelief will believe any story, however improbable."
Matthew 28:15. Chrys.: "Seest thou again the disciples' love of truth, how they are not ashamed of saying even this, that such a report prevailed against them."
The resurrection of Christ is not only a pillar of Christian evidence, but has important theological and practical relations. (a) It completed his work of atonement, and stamped it with divine approval; Romans 4:24 f.; Romans 8:14; 1 Corinthians 15:15. (Rev. Ver.) Accordingly, to believe that God raised the Lord Jesus from the dead is to believe the gospel; Romans 10:9. See Milligan, "Leer." IV. (b) It is the ground and pledge of his people's resurrection. (1) Of their spiritual resurrection, to walk in newness of life; Romans 6:4, Colossians 2:12 f.; Colossians 3:1-4. See Westcott, "The Gospel of the Resurrection"; Liddon, "Easter Sermons," 2 vols., 1885, (treating numerous aspects and relations of our Lord's Resurrection). (2) Of the resurrection of the body; 1 Corinthians 15:20, 1 Thessalonians 4:14, Philippians 3:10 f. See Candlish, "Life in a Risen Saviour" (Lectures on 1 Corinthians 15); Liddon. (c) It is represented in baptism; Romans and Colossians (as above). (d) It is celebrated on the Lord's Day.
Found also in Mark 16:9-20, Luke 24:13-53; John 20:19 to John 21:25; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8. Combining the four Gospels and Paul's account we find recorded ten appearances of our Lord between the resurrection and the ascension; compare the Harmonies of Robinson and Clark, and that of Augustine, III, sec. 83; also Westcott on John, beginning of chap. 20. (1) To the women; in Matthew (2) To Mary Magdalene; in John and Mark. (3) To Simon Peter; in Luke and Paul. (4) To the two going to Emmaus; in Luke and Mark. (5) To the apostles, except Thomas; in Luke, John and Mark.—These five appearances were on the day of the resurrection, and at or near Jerusalem. (6) To the apostles, including Thomas, a week later at Jerusalem; in John and Paul. (7) To seven disciples at the Sea of Galilee; in John. (8) To the apostles, and probably at the same time to above five hundred brethren, on a mountain in Galilee; in Matt. and Paul. (9) To James; in Paul. (10) To the apostles, just before the ascension; in Luke; (Acts) and Paul.—Then comes the Ascension; in Luke, Gospel and Acts and in Mark.—Of these ten appearances Matthew records but two, viz., 1 and 8; Luke records four; John four; Paul five; Mark (if Matthew 16:9-20 be genuine), three. Thus the events following the resurrection are to be sought much more in the other narratives than in Matt. But the one appearance and commission here given must be regarded as of very great interest and importance.
As to our Lord's appearances in general certain points may be noted. (a) He appeared under a great variety of circumstances; as to places, times of day and night, number of persons. This seemed to leave no doubt of the fact that he had risen, and to make his followers thoroughly familiar with it. (b) He took great pains to show that here was a real body, of "flesh and bones," not "a spirit" and that it was the same body, with the marks of crucifixion. (c) Yet he appeared only ten times that we know of, in forty days. And he never remained long in their company. He was thus preparing them to live without him. See Hanna and Geikie. (d) He appeared suddenly in a room with closed doors, (John 20:26) so that sometimes he was not at first recognized. (Luke 24:16, John 21:4) With this agrees the expression of Mark 16:12, "in another (that is, in a changed) form." It would seem that his body was already partially transformed, as it were beginning to be glorified. This, with the foregoing, would prepare his followers for thinking of him aright after his ascension; compare Ellicott, Hanna. Yet he was not, as some have thought, fully glorified, completely changed into a "spiritual body,"at the resurrection, for he afterwards ate food. (e) He appeared only to his disciples, though once to above five hundred of these. (1) Perhaps they were alone able to appreciate the change in him; compare Westcott, "Gosp. of Res."; Milligan," Lect. I." (2) Had he appeared to others, we can see that the multitude would have blazed with fanaticism, worse than ever; and the rulers would have furiously sought to slay him afresh, as they proposed with reference to Lazarus. (John 12:10) It was necessary to lift friend and foe to the thought of his spiritual work; and this would have been defeated by his bodily appearance to the multitudes at this time.
Then, or but, in opposition to what the soldiers and the chief priests did, the eleven disciples carried out the Saviour's direction. The Greek could be rendered "now," as a particle of transition, though the connection here indicates the other idea of opposition; but 'then,' as in Com. Ver., would suggest a notion quite foreign to the Greek. The eleven disciples went. Matthew gives no means of judging how soon. But we see from John 20:26 that it was more than a week after the resurrection, and from Acts 1:3 that it was within forty days thereafter. It is commonly taken for granted that the commission of Acts 1:19 was given shortly before the ascension, and hence the arrangement of the Harmonies as above indicated. But this is by no means certain, for in John 20:22 ff., we find a commission given on the very day of the resurrection. So we cannot decide at what point in the four weeks preceding the ascension the appearance recorded by Matt. occurred. And if Matthew's record seems to suggest that the disciples went promptly to Galilee (after the week required by John 20:26), and that this appearance and commission came not many days after their arrival in Galilee, there is nothing to forbid the adoption of that view. If we suppose that above five hundred were present, it would require several days to circulate the private invitation. Into Galilee. See description of the district on Matthew 4:12, Matthew 4:23. Matthew's account of our Lord's ministry, except the last week or two, is confined to the ministry in Galilee. (Matthew 4:12 to Matthew 18:35) That is probably the reason why he seized with exclusive interest upon the direction to go to Galilee (Matthew 28:7, Matthew 28:10; compare Matthew 26:32), with the appearance and commission which followed accordingly. Compare on Matthew 26:7. Luke tells only of appearances in Jerusalem and vicinity; John gives appearances both in Jerusalem and in Galilee. When it is said that Matt. appears to exclude all other appearances than those he has described, it may be answered that from Luke 24, one might understand our Lord's Ascension to have taken place on the day of the resurrection, while from Luke's statement in Acts 1:3, we know that forty days intervened.
Into a (the) mountain where Jesus had appointed them. We have not been told of a mountain, or other particular place in Galilee, as appointed for the promised meeting. But Matthew (R. V.) speaks of it as 'the mountain,' one definitely appointed or assigned; and there is nothing in the other accounts to conflict with this representation. We have no means of judging what particular mountain it was, and conjecture is idle. A very late and very silly tradition makes it mean the northern part of the Mount of Olives, said to have been called 'Galilee'; such a meaning in Acts 1:7, Acts 1:10, and in Matthew 26:32, is out of the question. The selection of a mountain, which would be a retired place, and the formal appointment of the meeting at that place, suggests something more than a mere meeting with the eleven, such as we know from John to have been held once and again before leaving Jerusalem. Now Paul (1 Corinthians 15:6) says that Jesus appeared to "above five hundred brethren at once," the greater part of whom remained as living witnesses some twenty-seven years later. The supposition that this, appearance is to be connected with the one in Matt., accounts for the retired place and the formal appointment. It also helps to explain why this meeting was to be in Galilee, both because Galilee contained a larger number of pronounced and trustworthy disciples of Jesus than Judea or Perea, and because it was farther from the watchful jealousy of the rulers at Jerusalem. This accounts also for the stress laid at the outset on going to Galilee and there seeing him; there was to be the great meeting with many disciples, and the giving of the Great Commission (compare on Matthew 28:7). These two appearances are placed together in the Harmonies of Robinson and Clark, and by many very able recent expositors, including Ellicott, Godet, Weiss. They worshipped him. This was not merely homage to a king (as in Matthew 2:2, Matthew 9:18, and often), but probably involved the conviction that he was divine. Thomas had already expressed his personal conviction to this effect. (John 20:28) Even the Saviour's bodily appearance seems to have been, since the resurrection, so altered and spiritualized (see above), that they felt more inclined than formerly to worship him, besides the awe with which he was invested by the fact of having raised himself from the dead. (John 10:18) But some doubted. The peculiar Greek construction is the same as in Matthew 26:67. The subject of doubt must have been whether this was their Lord really come to life. From Matt. alone we should naturally understand that the doubters were some of the eleven, and this is in itself entirely possible, even as at first they "disbelieved for joy", (Luke 24:41. R. V.) or from previous despondency. (Luke 24:21, John 20:25) Such continued doubt is more intelligible if we suppose this to have occurred in the early part of the forty days. The accounts all go to show that the apostles were by no means swift to accept the great and amazing fact of their Master's resurrection, and that they became all fully convinced at last only because of multiplied and varied evidence—a fact which makes their final conviction and testimony all the more valuable to us. Jerome: "Their doubting increases our faith." If we suppose the "above five hundred" to have been present on the same occasion, then 'some doubted' may mean some of the five hundred, though not of the eleven. We should in that case suppose Matt. to be writing simply as an eye-witness, mentioning persons whose presence his narrative has not accounted for. Whoever the doubters were, we may feel confident that their doubts were removed by the words that follow, and by the ascension and the Pentecostal gift. Some take the phrase, and Jesus came, as suggesting that he suddenly appeared at a distance, and tile doubting continued only until he came near. And spake unto them. We may well suppose that he first said many other things. What is here given divides itself into three parts; (a) The assertion of authority, Matthew 26:18; (b) The commission, Matthew 26:19 f.; (c) The promise, Matthew 26:20 b.
(a) Matthew 28:18. All power. Jesus claims universal authority. We have see on "Matthew 9:6"that the Greek word denotes permission, privilege, right, authority, and it sometimes suggests the power naturally attendant upon authority, or necessary to enforce it. In this passage 'authority' is the correct translation, and tile idea of corresponding power is suggested. All power (authority) in heaven and in earth, evidently denotes complete and universal authority. Calvin: "He must have supreme and truly divine dominion, who commands eternal life to be promised in his name, the whole world to be reduced under his sway, and a doctrine to be promulgated which is to subdue every high thing and bring low the human race. And certainly the apostles would never have been persuaded to attempt so arduous a task, had they not known that their Protector and Avenger was sitting in the heavens, to whom supreme dominion had been given." But by the very fact of saying 'in heaven and in (or on) earth,' the Saviour showed that he did not mean the authority of a temporal king, such as even the disciples so persistently believed that the Messiah would be. Is given, more literally, was given, without saying when, and leaving it to be understood that the authority thus given is still possessed. We might suppose a reference to the councils of eternity, but more likely the gift was at his incarnation, as in Matthew 11:27, Rev. Ver., "all things have been delivered unto me of my Father," and perhaps was consummated at his resurrection. Compare in general Daniel 7:13 f. The giver was God the Father; compare especially John 13:3 and John 17:2, also Matthew 9:8, Matthew 20:23, Matthew 21:23, John 5:27, John 12:49. We learn elsewhere that this authority given to the God-man, the Mediator, is a temporary gift. When he shall have subjected to himself all opposing authority among men, then he will deliver up this delegated authority of the King Messiah to God, even the Father, and his special mediatorial dominion will be re-absorbed into the universal and eternal dominion of God. (1 Corinthians 15:24-28) It is on the basis of this mediatorial authority, in heaven and on earth, that the Saviour issues his commission to his followers. Go ye therefore. This 'therefore'(1) should never be overlooked when we think of the commission (compare 'therefore,' in Hebrews 4:16). It was a despised Galilean, a wandering and homeless teacher, that gave this audacious command; but it was a teacher just raised from the dead, and endowed by God with universal authority, Hanna : "When Jesus said, 'Go, make disciples of all nations,' he announced in the simplest and least ostentatious way the most original, the broadest, the sublimest enterprise that ever human beings have been called upon to accomplish."
(b) Matthew 28:19 f. Jesus gives direction that all the nations shall be discipled unto him, and taught to keep his commandments. If the "above five hundred "were present (see above on Matthew 28:16), then this commission was not addressed to the Eleven only; and it is plain from Acts 8:2, Acts 8:4, that the first Christians all set themselves to carry it out. Judaism in general was not a missionary religion. It was willing for Gentiles to come, as the prophets had predicted they would, but it had no thought of going. The later Judaism had developed a zeal in proselyting, which in itself would have been commendable; but it proselyted to mere formalism and hypocrisy; (compare on Matthew 23:15). Christianity is essentially a missionary religion, analogous to the great conquering nations, the Romans, English, Russians. It must spread, by a law of its nature; it must be active at the extremities, or it becomes chilled at the heart; must be enlarging its circumference, or its very centre tends to be defaced. We learn from Luke (Luke 24:47-49) that they were not to go immediately, but to tarry at Jerusalem for the promised gift of the Holy Spirit's power. This came in a very short time, and yet they tarried long, apparently several years; for the great Pentecost was probably in A. D. 30, and the death of Stephen in A. D. 36 or 37. It required persecution at last to scatter them, and then they "went about preaching the word."
Teach, Rev. Ver., make disciples of, or more exactly, disciple. We greatly need an English verb 'disciple,' for this passage, and for Matthew 13:52 and Acts 14:21. In John 4:1, the literal translation is 'makes disciples.' The Syriac (Pesh.) here exactly reproduces the Greek, by means of a causative form, probably devised for the purpose, and quite distinct from 'teach' in John 4:20. The Latin and the Coptic were unable to make the distinction, and the Latin failure extended itself to the early English and German translations. Some later Germans have rendered 'make disciples of,' as in several recent English versions. The verb 'disciple' is found once in Shak. ("All's Well," 1, 2, 28), once in Spenser's "Faery Queene," b. iv., c. (1), also in Hammond (d. A. D. 1660); it is called obsolete by Webster, but recognized by Richardson, Worcester, Stormonth, etc. There may be doubt as yet about introducing it into a popular version, though employed here by Am. Bib. Un. and by Davidson, but it may be used in religious discourse with great advantage. 'Teach,' in all early English versions, was a very imperfect translation, confounding this term with that in John 4:20, which really means 'teach.' To disciple a person to Christ is to bring him into the relation of pupil to teacher, "taking his yoke" of authoritative "instruction," (Matthew 11:29) accepting what he says as true because he says it, and submitting to his requirements as right because he makes them. Towards a mere human and uninspired teacher we can properly feel and act thus only within narrow limits; but the Great Teacher has perfect wisdom and unlimited authority. We see then that Christ's intimated authority (Matthew 28:18) is not only the basis of our duty to disciple others, but the basis of all true discipleship. His teachings and requirements are perfectly wise and righteous and good, and we may see this to some extent at the outset, and more and more as we go on in the disciple's life; but we accept them at once, and set about conforming to them, because he has a perfect right to be believed and obeyed. As to the noun 'disciple,' see on "Matthew 5:1". We know from other Scriptures that in order to men's becoming true disciples to Christ, there is needed, not merely human instruction and influence, but a special work of the Holy Spirit of God.
All (the) nations, the Greek having the article. Not merely the contiguous, or the kindred nations, not merely the most cultivated, but all the nations. Discipleship to Christ is possible to all, necessary to all. Our Lord has already predicted that the good news shall be preached in the-whole world, (Matthew 26:13) and that when he finally comes for judgment "before him shall be gathered all the nations." (Matthew 25:32) So in the latest commission, given just before the ascension, "and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem." (Luke 24:47. R. V.) And if, Mark 16:9-20, R. V., be accepted as genuine, the commission there given reads, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation." In Matthew 10:5, Rev. Ver., the Twelve were forbidden to go "into any way of the Gentiles"; but that was a temporary and limited mission; the final and permanent mission made them begin with the Jews, (Luke 24:47) but go into every way of the Gentiles, disciple all the nations. The idea of one religion for all the world then seemed very strange. Liddon (II, 247): "No existing religion could aim at it, since the existing religions were believed to be merely the products of national instincts and aspirations; each religion was part of the furniture of a nation, or at most of a race. Celsus, looking out on Christianity in the second century of our era, with the feelings of Gibbon or of Voltaire, said that a man must be out of his mind to think that Greeks and Barbarians, Romans and Scythians, bondmen and freemen, could ever have one religion. Nevertheless this was the purpose of our Lord."
Baptizing them. See the term explained on see on "Matthew 3:6". It is here the present participle,(1) as is 'teaching' in the next clause. This construction might grammatically mean, if called for by the natural relation between the actions, or by the connection here, or by the known relations as elsewhere set forth, 'disciple by baptizing—by teaching'; and so many understand it. But the general teachings of Scripture do not allow us to think that discipling can be effected by a ceremony and a subsequent course of instruction in Christ's precepts. We must therefore understand that the present participles give baptizing and teaching as in a general way concomitants of discipling, the ceremony attending it promptly and once for all, the instruction in precepts beginning immediately, and continued without limit, from the nature of the case.
In the name, but into (Rev. Ver.) is the most obvious and commonest translation of the Greek phrase (eis to onoma). The same preposition and case are found after baptize in Acts 8:16, Acts 19:5, 1 Corinthians 1:13, and (with other nouns) in Galatians 3:27, Romans 6:3 (twice); 1 Corinthians 10:2; compare also Matthew 10:41 f.; Matthew 18:20. Now if we take this obvious sense 'into,' the question will arise whether the ceremony actually brings the person into the name, into Christ, into Paul, Moses, etc., or whether it only represents, symbolizes, the relation thus indicated. Those who believe in baptismal regeneration, or in baptism as constituting regeneration, will of course take the phrase in the former sense; others will understand that the ceremony only represents the person's introduction into the name, into Christ. In either case the idea denoted by 'into' seems to be a highly important, and with those who believe in baptismal regeneration, etc., an essential element in the significance of the ceremony. Now it is to be observed that Luke in Acts, while twice using 'into the name' (eis to onoma) (as above cited), in Acts 2:38 has epi toi onomati (so also in Matthew 18:5, Matthew 24:5), 'upon the name,' upon this as basis or ground of the ceremony, and in Acts 10:48 en toi onomati, 'in the name,' within the limits of it, with relation to it and it alone. If then the idea attached to 'into' be highly important, or even essential, how do we account for the fact that Luke uses these other expressions, which may with some effort be construed as equivalent, but will quite fail to indicate the important conception in question? It would seem clear that Luke, when recording the action of the apostles in carrying out the commission, did not regard the distinctive notion of 'into' as essential or highly important, or he would not have used that phrase twice, and twice the other phrases. And those who insist on the most obvious translation of eis by 'into,' must beware of treating any particular interpretation of the expression as very important, in the presence of Luke's usage. The question may also arise whether it is not better, with the great grammatical commentators Fritzsche and Meyer (compare also Weiss) to understand eis to onoma as meaning in all these cases 'unto the name,' with reference to the name, as that to which the ceremony is restricted. Then it becomes plain at once that Luke's other phrases give substantially the same sense, and we see why he has varied the expression at will. This rendering is felt by all to be necessary in 1 Corinthians 10:2, 'baptized unto Moses,' which only Davidson ventures to translate 'into Moses.' Noyes says 'into the name,' but 'to Moses'; Darby 'to the name' and 'unto Moses.' And in Galatians 3:27, Romans 6:3, 'unto' gives a thoroughly appropriate conception, 'baptized unto Christ,' with distinct and exclusive reference to him; i. e., the ceremony does not refer to Moses, or to Paul, but to Christ. And note especially the appropriateness in Romans 6:3, "all we who were baptized unto Christ Jesus were baptized unto his death." Our baptism in referring to Christ Jesus referred especially to his death. "We were buried therefore with him through the baptism unto death," etc. We believe then that it would be a decided improvement to render baptize eis everywhere by 'unto.' If this be not done, it would be less misleading to retain the customary baptismal formula 'in the name,' and thus avoid suggesting a conception which Luke's usage clearly forbids.(1) Or if 'into' be employed as the most obvious translation, then we should beware of treating the distinctive notion it suggests as essential or important, when Luke has evidently not so considered.
In Hebrew thought and feeling, the name of God was peculiarly sacred, as representing him. It must not be spoken irreverently, and later Jewish feeling exaggerated this into a rule that the proper name Yahweh must not be pronounced at all, but another word substituted. (Compare on Matthew 22:44) The name of God must not in an oath be taken in vain, but the oath by that name must be solemnly taken and sacredly kept. In numerous passages of the Old Testament, the name of God solemnly represented himself; to perform any action with express reference to his name gave the action a sacred character. And so in the New Testament use, 'hallowed be thy name,' 'did we not prophesy by thy name,' 'in his name shall the Gentiles hope,' 'where two or three are gathered together in my name,' 'many shall come in my name,' etc. In such phrases a great variety of specific ideas will arise according to the natural relations of the particular objects and actions, and the connection of the statement; but in all cases the name is a sacred representative of the person. Thus 'baptized unto the name of Paul' is an impressive way of saying 'baptized unto Paul,' like 'baptized unto Moses'; 'baptized unto the name of the Lord Jesus' (Acts 8:16, Acts 19:5) and 'baptized on (in) the name of Jesus Christ', (Acts 2:38, Acts 10:48) are an impressive equivalent for 'baptized unto Christ'; (Galatians 3:27, Romans 6:3) and 'baptize unto the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit' is a solemn way of saying 'unto the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.'
Baptism then is here enjoined as to be performed with express reference to the Holy Trinity. Compare 2 Corinthians 13:14. Prom this, no doubt, arose the quite early practice of baptizing three times, a practice still maintained in the Greek Church, and in Germany and America by the Tunkers or Dunkards, and some others. It is not an unnatural conception, and, not in itself particularly objectionable, but it has no warrant in Scripture; and indeed, the form of expression here employed, 'unto the name' being used only once, is distinctly unfavourable to that practice. It should also be discouraged as tending to exalt the ceremonial element, while New Testament Christianity has the minimum of ceremony.
It is very natural that Christians should everywhere employ in baptizing this phrase, 'unto (into, in) the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,' and we see no reason for departing from it. But it is of doubtful propriety to call this a law, and to insist that baptism would not be "valid "without the use of this particular phrase. For it must be remembered that baptize is nowhere else in the New Testament. associated with this particular expression. In Acts and the Epistles we find only 'the Lord Jesus,' or 'Jesus Christ,' or simply 'Christ.' We may well enough understand that this is a compendious expression, which touches the main point or peculiarity of the great Christian purification. We could not wisely infer from that usage that it is improper or undesirable to employ the full expression given by Matthew., but we are bound to understand that it is not indispensable. There would be nothing gained in practice by using one of the shorter phrases given in Acts and Paul, but there is something gained in just conception if we abstain from regarding the expression in Matt. as having the character of a law, about which we should then have to suppose that Luke and Paul had been strangely negligent. Plumptre fancies (after Cyprian, "Ep. 73," c. 17, 18) that it was enough for Jewish converts "to be baptized into the name of Jesus as the Messiah," while heathen converts, who "were without God in the world," and had not known the Father, needed the other and fuller formula. But Paul has not used it, and his converts were mainly heathen.(3) —It was probably this passage and the great benediction of 2 Corinthians 13:14 that made the English Revisers unwilling to adopt the suggestion of their American associates, and change 'Holy Ghost' into 'Holy Spirit' (compare on Matthew 1:18) The former will, no doubt, long continue to be employed in certain phrases of devotion; but it would he a gain to uniformity and clearness of rendering, if the latter were everywhere used in the translations.
The design of Christian baptism seems to be indicated as threefold. (1) The element employed represents purification;"arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name." (Acts 22:16, R.V.) This meaning it has in common with the Old Testament purifications of every kind, being a very impressive kind of purification, because "the putting away of the filth of the flesh" (1 Peter 3:21) is in this case so complete. (2) The action performed symbolizes burial and resurrection, the actual burial and resurrection of Christ, and the spiritual death and resurrection of the believer in union with Christ. (Romans 6:3 ff; Galatians 3:27) (3) To have this ceremony performed upon ourselves in the name of Jesus Christ, or in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, is a sort of oath of allegiance or pledge of devotion to him as our Saviour, and our God; we are not baptized unto Moses or unto Paul, but unto Christ, unto the Trinity. Hence it was a pleasant fancy of the early Latin Christians to call baptism a sacramentum, the Roman soldier's oath of absolute devotion and obedience to his general; though the word sacrament afterwards came to be gradually employed in applications and senses quite foreign to the New Testament.
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. Baptism is a mere ceremonial and initial act of obedience to Christ, which should be followed by a lifelong obedience to all his commandments. The person who is discipled and baptized is only started in a course of Christian living. Notice that it is not simply teaching them the commandments of Christ, but teaching them to observe his commandments. They who disciple and baptize men must teach them the duty of obeying Christ in all things; and the Christian instructor has still fallen short of his task unless those whom he is called to instruct have both learned what Christ's commandments are, and have learned to observe them. Notice also the emphatic and comprehensive terms, 'all things whatsoever I have commanded you.' The risen Redeemer looks back upon his now finished work of teaching and speaks of it all in the past tense, as he already often did in the prayer of John 17, on the night before the crucifixion. These completed commandments would be hereafter brought fully to the remembrance of the disciples by the new Paraclete who would soon take the Saviour's place as their instructor and counsellor, (John 14:16, John 14:26) and this whole mass of sacred instruction and duty, without omission or alteration, they must teach those whom they disciple to observe. Liddon : "This is not the least noteworthy feature of our Lord's words, that he does not foresee a time or circumstances when any part of his teaching will become antiquated or untrue, inappropriate or needless."
How vast is the range of thought presented or suggested by this saying of our Lord. (1) Theology, the doctrine of the Trinity, and the Mediatorial authority of Christ. (2) Discipleship, and the work of discipling others. (3) The great missionary idea, 'all the nations.' (4) The ceremonial element of Christianity. (5) Christian ethics. (6) Christ's perpetual spiritual presence with those who serve him. (7) Christ's final coming.
(c) Matthew 28:20 b. Jesus gives assurance of his perpetual spiritual presence with all engaged in discipling others and in observing his commandments. Obedience to the Great Commission is based on his universal and complete authority (Matthew 28:18), and encouraged by the promise of his unfailing and sustaining presence. And this clearly applies, not merely to the apostles, but to disciples of every period, even to the end; compare Matthew 18:20. True Christian workers may be despised by sceptical philosophers and some pretentious men of science or men of letters; but history has shown that they are a power in the world, and that power is explained by the perpetual presence of their Lord and Redeemer.
Many things in this Gospel have been introduced by lo or behold, calling attention to what follows as wonderful; but surely none more fitly than this its marvellous and blessed closing word. I is separately expressed in the Greek, and is therefore emphatic. Alway is literally (margin, Rev. Ver.), all the days; flays of strength and of weakness, days of success and of failure, of joy and of sorrow, of youth and of age, days of life and day of death—all the days. (Compare Westcott, "Revelation of the Risen Lord.") The end of the world is literally (margin, Rev. Ver.), the consummation of the age, or of the world period (compare on Matthew 13:39, Matthew 24:3), viz., of that world-period which was introduced by the Messiah's coming, and will be consummated by his second coming. Then his spiritual presence will become a visible presence, bat none the less spiritual, sustaining, and delightful; then we shall see him whom not having seen we love, and shall know even as also we were known.
Jesus, the very thought of thee
With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far thy face to see,
And in thy presence rest.
May every heart confess thy name,
And ever thee adore;
And seeking thee, itself inflame
To seek thee more and more!
Grant me, while here on earth I stay,
Thy love to feel and know;
And when from hence I pass away,
To me thy glory show.
—Bernard of Clairvaux, Tr. by Caswall