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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Matthew 28

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-20


The Resurrection

For the Resurrection see special article. 1-10. The Resurrection and appearance to the women (Mark 16:1; Luke 24:1; John 20:1). If it be remembered that a considerable number of women visited the tomb—Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James, Salome (Mk), Joanna (Lk), and 'the other women with them' (Lk)—the fragmentary accounts of the evangelists are not very difficult to arrange in order. (1) Mary Magdalene and the other women visit the tomb immediately after the resurrection, and see one angel (Mt, Mk), or two (Lk). (2) She runs at once to Peter and John, who were probably alone at Peter's house, and thus misses the appearance of Christ to the women recorded by St. Matthew. (3) The other women returning more leisurely are met by Christ Himself (Mt), and report what they have seen to the other apostles. (4) Mary returns to the tomb, and after the departure of Peter and John, sees Jesus in the garden (Jn). Other arrangements of the events are also possible.

1. In the end of the sabbath] RV 'late on the sabbath.' Strictly speaking, the Jewish sabbath closed at sunset, but here St. M.atthew, adopting the popular method of reckoning, regards the sabbath as lasting till dawn on Sunday morning. 'Late on the sabbath' is, therefore, between midnight and dawn on Sunday, as indeed is expressly stated. The other Mary] i.e. Mary, the mother of James. The women had come with ointment and spices (Mk, Lk) to anoint and embalm the body, either not knowingwhat Joseph and Nicodemus had done, or supposing that the work had been too hastily performed owing to the approach of the sabbath, which was also the feast day.

2-4. The descent of the angel, the earthquake, and the consternation of the watchers, which accompanied the resurrection, are peculiar to St. Matthew. He does not, however, state that the resurrection itself was visible, as do many of the later authorities.

5. The angel] Mk 'a young man'; Lk 'two men.' In Mk and Lk the angel (or angels) appears inside the tomb. Such slight discrepancies harmonise well with the excited feelings which such a vision would be likely to produce. Minute and detailed agreement in independent narratives under such circumstances would be suspicious. Fear not ye] The words of the angel are nearly the same in St. Matthew and St. Mark, but considerably different in St. Luke, who follows an independent tradition. St. Luke, who records no Galilean appearances, naturally omits the reference to Galilee.

7. He goeth before you into Galilee] as, indeed, Jesus Himself had already promised (Matthew 26:32).

9. Jesus met them] This appearance is peculiar to St. Matthew. All hail] A common Jewish salutation. 'How do they salute an Israelite? “All hail.”'

Held him by the feet] viz. to kiss them. Tins was not uncommon. 'As Rabbi Janni and Rabbi Jonathan were sitting together, a certain man came and kissed the feet of Rabbi Jonathan.' 'When Rabbi Akiba's wife came to him, she fell at his feet and kissed them.' Cp. 2 Kings 4:27. Worshipped him] now with more than merely human reverence. It is noticeable that Jesus never repelled any mark of reverence shown to Him, however profound.

10. Into Galilee] again emphasising the importance of this meeting.

The appearance to the women is not regarded by recent critics as belonging certainly to the oldest form of the tradition.

11-15. Bribery of the guards (peculiar to St. Matthew). The report of the soldiers may have had something to do with the conversion of so many priests described in Acts 6:7.

11. Chief priests] These were Sadducees, hostile to any idea of a resurrection.

12. Assembled] This was a packed, informal meeting of the Sanhedrin.

13. His disciples, etc.] A somewhat inconsistent statement, since if they were asleep, they could not know that the disciples had stolen the body. It is important, however, to notice that this fiction of the chief priests demonstrates that the tomb was empty, and that, therefore, the resurrection of Jesus was a bodily resurrection.

14. And secure you] The ordinary punishment for an offence of this kind was death (Acts 12:19), but Pilate would hardly trouble himself about what the soldiers had done while under the orders of the chief priests.

16-20. Appearance on a mountain in Galilee (peculiar to St. Matthew, but there can be little doubt that the original ending of St. Mark, which is unfortunately lost, recorded the same appearance: see Mark 16:7). It is highly probable (see on Matthew 28:16), but is incapable of strict proof, that this appearance is identical with that to five hundred brethren at once mentioned by St. Paul (1 Corinthians 15:6). At any rate, it is a meeting of great importance, being mentioned once by the angel and twice by our Lord (Matthew 26:32; Matthew 28:10). If there were five hundred living persons who could give a particular account of this incident, the rapid way in which the evangelist passes over it is in part accounted for.

16. The eleven disciples] This does not of necessity imply that no others were present, but only that the words of Jesus were mainly addressed to them. Where Jesus had appointed them] St. Matthew does not say when Jesus made this appointment, thus indicating that he does not profess to give a full account of the appearances after the resurrection. That the meeting was by appointment renders it probable that all the disciples who could possibly be brought together were present.

17. They worshipped him] Certainly with divine worship: see John 20:28. But some doubted] or, as the Gk. may perhaps be more correctly translated, 'but others doubted,' i.e. not the Eleven, but others who were present.

The doubt may have arisen from the change which had passed over our Lord's now glorified body (Mark 16:13; Luke 24:16; John 21:4), but more probably from the reason which Paley gives: 'Christ appeared first at a distance; the greater part of the company, the moment that they saw Him, worshipped, but some as yet, i.e. upon this first distant view of His person, doubted; whereupon Christ came up to them (Matthew 28:18) and spake to them, etc': the doubt, therefore, was a doubt only at first, for ä moment, and upon His being seen at a distance, and was afterwards dispelled by His nearer approach, and by His entering into conversation with them.

18. And Jesus came] RV 'came to them,' viz. to resolve their doubt by giving them a close view of His person. It is worthy of notice that in all the appearances after the resurrection, our Lord allowed the disciples either to touch or to come into very close proximity to His risen body. His anxiety to remove all reasonable doubts as to the cardinal fact of His bodily resurrection, is especially evident in Luke 24:39; John 20:20, John 20:27.

All power (authority) is given] lit. 'was given,' viz. at My resurrection. 'There was given Me, says Jesus, as man, the power which I before possessed as God' (Euthymius): cp. Ephesians 1:20-22. 'Human nature, which was before condemned, now sits in heaven personally united to the Divine Word, and is adored by angels. For in truth human nature wjiich was before enslaved, now in Christ rules the Universe' (Theophylact).

The view, which dates the glorification of Christ, not from the Ascension, but from the Resurrection, is safely grounded on this passage. It is the view of St. Augustine, of most of the fathers, of Albertus Magnus, of the schoolmen, and of many modern authorities. Von Gerlach correctly says, 'The Resurrection of Jesus, and not His Ascension, was His entrance into the new eternal, divine, and heavenly life, as in it all power in heaven and upon earth was already given to Him.' Similarly Milligan, 'The glorification of Jesus began at His Resurrection, not at His Ascension'; and Westcott, 'After the Resurrection our Lord belongs already to another realm, so that the Ascension only ratifies and presents in a final form the lessons of the forty days in which it is included.' The only really doubtful point is the locality of Christ's body during the forty days; whether it was in heaven at God's right hand (Theophylact, Milligan, Rothe, etc.), or on earth (Aquinas). In either case, the heavenly reign and glory of Christ had begun.

19. And teach (RV 'make disciples of') all nations, baptising them (or 'by baptising them')] In the clearest possible language Christ expresses His intention of founding a universal religion. It has sometimes been argued that these words cannot be authentic, because of the subsequent unwillingness of the Church of Jerusalem, and even of Peter, to receive Gentile converts. But the question in the Acts was not whether Gentile converts should be received, but whether they should first be circumcised.

The argument against infant baptism drawn from this passage (that infants cannot be 'taught,' and therefore should not be baptised, disappears in the RV, which says that the apostles are 'to make disciples of all nations by baptising them.' To Jewish hearers such words would naturally suggest infant baptism, because the idea of infant disciples or proselytes was familiar to Judaism: see on Matthew 19:13-15.

In the name (RV 'into the name') of the Father, etc.] One of the leading dogmatic texts in the NT., being the nucleus around which.the Apostles' Creed subsequently grew. It teaches, (1) the divinity of Christ, for no mere man could thus insert his name between those of the Father and of the Holy Spirit. (2) The unity of the Godhead, for one 'name,' or divine nature, belongs to the three. (3) The Trinity of persons, for since the former two are persons, so also is the third. (4) The subordination of the coequal persons to one another, viz. the Son to the Father, and the Spirit to both. 'Let therefore Arius and Sabellius be put to shame, Arius because Christ said not “Into the names (pi.),” but “Into the name (sing.),” and the name, or deity, of the Three is one. Wherefore the Three are but one God. Sabellius, because the Lord made mention also of the three persons, not of one person having three names, sometimes being called the Father, sometimes the Son, and sometimes the Spirit, as Sabellius ignorantly affirmed' (Theophylact).

The RV changes 'in the name' to 'into the name.' If the difference is to be pressed (which is not certain), it implies that baptism is a change of religious condition. The baptised person passes from a state of alienation from God into a state of union and reconciliation with Him. This passage does not record the first institution of Baptism, which had been in use from the beginning of the ministry, but its solemn promulgation as a rite of universal, perpetual, and necessary observance: see John 3:22; John 4:1.

Although the Trinitarian formula in this passage is found in all MSS and versions, some recent critics regard it as an interpolation, or at least as an unauthentic utterance of Jesus. They argue that all the baptisms described in the NT. are into the name of Jesus, not into the name of the Trinity (Acts 2:38; Acts 8:16; Acts 10:48; Acts 19:5), and that so definite, and, as it were, stereotyped, a formulation of Trinitarian doctrine, must be later than the apostolic age. These arguments are not without weight, nevertheless there are important considerations on the other side. For the formula, whether spoken by Jesus or not, dates certainly from the apostolic age. It was clearly known to Clement of Rome (90 a.d.), who has three Trinitarian statements, mentioning Father, Son, and Holy Spirit thrice in that order; it forms the basis of the earliest form of the Apostles' Creed (cirMatthew 100 a.d.); it is expressly quoted in the 'Didache' (Matthew 100 a.d.); and is definitely alluded to by Justin Martyr (150 a.d.). It may be doubted whether any other single text of the NT. has such early and satisfactory attestation. Nor is it easy to say, with such a definite Trinitarian formula before us as 2 Corinthians 13:14, that the baptismal formula must necessarily be later. Trinitarian doctrine and approximations to it, are diffused through the whole NT. literature, and the prevalence of such a type of teaching is most naturally accounted for by supposing that it has behind it some such pregnant utterance of our Lord as the present, the meaning of which was gradually unfolded subsequently under the guidance of the Spirit. The argument from the baptisms 'into the name of Jesus' or of 'the Lord Jesus' in Acts is more plausible than strong. In no case is the actual formula given, and we cannot be sure that the author means more than that the baptisms in question were Christian baptisms. The 'Didache' (Matthew 100 a.d.), like Acts, speaks of Christian baptism as being into the name of the Lord Jesus, but when it comes to describe the rite in detail, prescribes the Trinitarian formula, and that only.

20. Teaching them] 'Next because it is not sufficient merely to be baptised, but it is necessary also to do good works after baptism, He saith, “Teaching them to observe all things whatever I commanded you,” not one or two only, but all my commandments. Let us tremble therefore, brethren, reflecting that if one thing be lacking in us, we are not perfect servants of Christ, for we are required to keep all' (Theophylact).

Lo, I am with you] This presence of Christ by His Spirit may be taken in the most comprehensive sense:—in His Church, to guide it into all the truth; in the assemblies of the faithful, to receive their worship, and to present their petitions to the Father; in the official acts of His ministers, as being the true High Priest and Pastor of His Church; and in the hearts of the faithful, as the source of their spiritual life and growth. The omnipresence of Christ implies His divinity.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Matthew 28:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/matthew-28.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, August 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19
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