THE GREAT DISCOVERY (Matthew 28:1-10)
28:1-10 Late on the Sabbath, when the first day of the week was beginning to dawn, Mary from Magdala and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And, look you, there was a great earthquake; for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning, and his garment was as white as snow. Those who were watching were shaken with fear, and became as dead men. The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he is risen, as he said he would. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. Go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He is risen from among the dead. And, look you, he goes before you into Galilee; there you will see him.' Look you, I have told you." So they quickly went away from the tomb with fear and with great joy, and they ran to tell the news to his disciples. And, look you, Jesus met them. "Greetings!" he said. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Fear not! Go tell my brothers to go away into Galilee, and there they will see me."
Here we have Matthew's story of the empty tomb. And there is something peculiarly fitting in that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary should be the first to receive the news of the Risen Lord and to encounter him. They had been there at the Cross; they had been there when he was laid in the tomb; and now they were receiving love's reward; they were the first to know the joy of the Resurrection.
As we read this story of the first two people in the world to be confronted with the fact of the empty tomb and the Risen Christ, three imperatives seem to spring out of it.
(i) They are urged to believe. The thing is so staggering that it might seem beyond belief, too good to be true. The angel reminds them of the promise of Jesus, and confronts them with the empty tomb; his every word is a summons to believe. It is still a fact that there are many who feel that the promises of Christ are too good to be true. That hesitation can be dispelled only by taking him as his word.
(ii) They are urged to share. When they themselves have discovered the fact of the Risen Christ, their first duty is to proclaim it to and to share it with others. "Go, tell!" is the first command which comes to the man who has himself discovered the wonder of Jesus Christ.
(iii) They are urged to rejoice. The word with which the Risen Christ meets them is Chairete (Greek #5463); that is the normal word of greeting; but its literal meaning is "Rejoice!" The man who has met the Risen Lord must live for ever in the joy of his presence from which nothing can part him any more.
THE LAST RESORT (Matthew 28:11-15)
28:11-15 While they were on their way, certain of the guard came to the city and told the chief priests all that had happened. When they had met with the ciders, they formed a plan. They gave a considerable amount of money to the soldiers. "Say," they said, "'His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.' And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will use our influence, and we will see to it that you have nothing to worry about." They took the money and followed their instructions. And this is the story which is repeated amongst the Jews to this day.
When some of the guard came to the chief priests and told them the story of the empty tomb, the Jewish authorities were desperately worried men. Was it possible that all their planning had come to nothing? So they formed a simple plan; they bribed the members of the guard to say that Jesus' disciples had come while they slept and had stolen his body.
It is interesting to note the means that the Jewish authorities used in their desperate attempts to eliminate Jesus. They used treachery to lay hold on him. They used illegality to try him. They used slander to charge him to Pilate. And now they were using bribery to silence the truth about him. And they failed. Magna est veritas et praevalebit, ran the Roman proverb; great is the truth and it will prevail. It is the fact of history that not all men's evil machinations can in the end stop the truth. The gospel of goodness is greater than the plots of wickedness.
THE GLORY OF THE FINAL PROMISE (Matthew 28:16-20)
28:16-20 So the eleven disciples went into Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had instructed them to go. And they saw him and worshipped him; but some were not sure. Jesus came and spoke to them. "All power," he said, "is given to me in heaven and upon earth. Go, therefore, and make all nations my disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to keep all the commandments I have given you. And, look you, I am with you throughout all days until the end of the world."
Here we come to the end of the gospel story; here we listen to the last words of Jesus to his men; and in this last meeting Jesus did three things.
(i) He assured them of his power. Surely nothing was outside the power of him who had died and conquered death. Now they were the servants of a Master whose authority upon earth and in heaven was beyond all question.
(ii) He gave them a commission. He sent them out to make all the world his disciples. It may well be that the instruction to baptize is something which is a development of the actual words of Jesus. That may be argued about; the salient fact remains that the commission of Jesus is to win all men for himself.
(iii) He promised them a presence. It must have been a staggering thing for eleven humble Galilaeans to be sent forth to the conquest of the world. Even as they heard it, their hearts must have failed them. But, no sooner was the command given, than the promise followed. They were sent out--as we are--on the greatest task in history, but with them there was the greatest presence in the world.
"Though few and small and weak your bands,
Strong in your Captain's strength,
Go to the conquest of all lands;
All must be his at length."
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
W. C. Allen, St. Matthew (ICC G)
J. C. Fenton, The Gospel of St. Matthew (PC E)
F. V. Filson, The Gospel According to St. Matthew (ACB E)
A. H. McNeile, St Matthew (MmC G)
A. Plummer, An Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Matthew (E)
T. H. Robinson, The Gospel of Matthew (MC E)
R. V. G. Tasker, The Gospel According to St. Matthew (TC E)
ACB: A. and C. Black New Testament Commentary
ICC: International Critical Commentary
MC: Moffatt Commentary
MmC: Macmillan Commentary
PC: Pelican New Testament Commentary
TC: Tyndale Commentary
E: English Text
G: Greek Text
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
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Barclay, William. "Commentary on Matthew 28". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany