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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Matthew 28

Verse 1

In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn, [ opse (G3796) de (G1161) sabbatoon (G4521), epithooskousee] - 'After the Sabbath, as it grew toward daylight.'

Toward the first day of the week. Luke (Luke 24:1) has it, "very early in the morning" [ orthrou (G3722) batheos (G901), but the true reading is batheoos (G901)] - properly, 'at the first appearance of daybreak;' and corresponding with this, John (John 20:1) says, "when it was yet dark." See the note at Mark 16:2. Not an hour, it would seem, was lost by those dear lovers of the Lord Jesus.

Came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary - "the mother of James and Joses" (see the notes at Matthew 27:56; Matthew 27:61),

To see the sepulchre - with a view to the anointing of the body, for which they had made all their preparations. See the note at Mark 16:1.

Verse 2

And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.

And, behold, there was - that is, there had been, before the arrival of the women,

A great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. And this was the state of things when the women drew near. Some judicious critics think all this was transacted while the women were approaching; but the view we have given, which is the prevalent one, seems the more natural. All this august preparation-recorded by Matthew alone-bespoke the grandeur of the exit which was to follow. The angel sat upon the huge stone, to overawe, with the lightning-luster that darted from him, the Roman guard, and do honour to his rising Lord.

Verse 3

His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:

His countenance, [ idea (G2397)] - or, 'appearance,' was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow - the one expressing the glory, the other the purity of the celestial abode from which he came.

Verse 4

And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. Is the sepulchre "sure" now, O ye chief priests? He that sitteth in the heavens doth laugh at you.

Verse 5

And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.

And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye, [ Mee (G3361) fobeisthe (G5399) humeis (G5210)]. The "ye" here is emphatic, to contrast their case with that of the guards. 'Let those puny creatures, sent to keep the Living One among the dead, for fear of Me shake and become as dead men (Matthew 28:4); but ye that have come here on another errand, fear not ye.'

For I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified, [ ton (G3588) estauroomenon (G4717)].-`Jesus the Crucified.'

Verse 6

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

He is not here; for he is risen, as he said. See the notes at Luke 24:5-42.24.7.

Come, [ Deute (G1205)], as in Matthew 11:28, see the place where the Lord lay. Charming invitation! 'Come, see the spot where the Lord of glory lay: now it is an empty grave: He lies not, but He lay there. Come, feast your eyes on it!' But see the note at John 20:12; and Remarks below.

Verse 7

And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.

And go quickly, and tell his disciples. For a precious addition to this, see the note at Mark 16:7.

That he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee - to which those women belonged (Matthew 27:55).

There shall ye see him. This must refer to those more public manifestations of Himself to large numbers of disciples at once, which He vouchsafed only in Galilee; because individually He was seen by some of those very women almost immediately after this (Matthew 28:9-40.28.10).

Lo, I have told you. Behold, ye have this word from the world of light!

Verse 8

And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.

And they departed quickly. Mark (Mark 16:8) says "they fled" from the sepulchre with fear and great joy. How natural this combination of feelings! See on a similar statement of Mark 16:11.

And did run to bring his disciples word. "Neither said they anything to any man [by the way]; for they were afraid" (Mark 16:8).

This appearance is recorded only by Matthew.

Verse 9

And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.

And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail! [ Chairete (G5463)] - the usual salute, but from the lips of Jesus bearing a higher signification.

And they came and held him by the feet. How truly womanly!

And worshipped him.

Verse 10

Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.

Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid. What dear associations would these familiar words-now uttered in a higher style, but by the same Lips-bring rushing back to their recollection!

Go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me. The brethren here meant must have been His brethren after the flesh (Matthew 13:55); because His brethren in the higher sense (see the note at John 20:17) had several meetings with Him at Jerusalem before he went to Galilee, which they would have missed if they had been the persons ordered to Galilee to meet Him.

The whole of this important portion is special to Matthew.

Verse 11

Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done.

Now when they were going - while the women were on their way to deliver to His brethren the message of their risen Lord, Behold, some of the watch came into the city, and showed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. Simple, unsophisticated soldiers! How could ye imagine that such a tale as ye had to tell would not at once commend itself to your sacred employers? Had they doubted this for a moment, would they have ventured to go near them, knowing it was death to a Roman soldier to be proved asleep when on guard? and of course that was the only other explanation of the case.

Verse 12

And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers,

And when they were assembled with the elders. But Joseph at least was absent; Gamaliel probably also; and perhaps others.

And had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers. It would need a good deal; but the whole ease of the Jewish authorities was now at stake. With what contempt must these soldiers have regarded the Jewish ecclesiastics!

Verse 13

Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.

Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept - which, as we have observed, was a capital offence for soldiers on guard.

Verse 14

And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you.

And if this come to the governor's ears, [ ean (G1437) akousthee (G191) touto (G5124) epi (G1909) tou (G3588) heegemonos (G2232)] - rather, 'If this come before the governor;' that is, not in the way of mere report, but for judicial investigation.

We will persuade him, and secure you, [ heemeis (G2249) peisomen (G3982) auton (G846), kai (G2532) humas (G5209) amerimnous (G275) poieesomen (G4160)]. The "we" and the "you" are emphatic here-`We shall [take care to] persuade him and keep you from trouble,' or 'save you harmless.' The grammatical form of this clause [ ean (G1437) akousthee (G191) ... peisomen (G3982)] implies that the thing supposed was expected to happen. The meaning then is, 'If this come before the governor--as it likely will-we shall see to it that,' etc. The "persuasion" of Pilate meant, doubtless, quieting him by a bribe, which we know otherwise he was by no means above taking (like Felix afterward, Acts 24:26).

Verse 15

So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.

So they took the money, and did as they were taught - thus consenting to brand themselves with infamy --

And this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day - to the date of the publication of this Gospel. The wonder is that so clumsy and incredible a story lasted so long. But those who are resolved not to come to the light will catch at straws. Justin Martyr, who flourished about 170 AD, says, in his 'Dialogue with Trypho the Jew,' that the Jews dispersed the story by means of special messengers sent to every country.


(1) If the Crucifixion and Burial of the Son of God were the most stupendous manifestations of self-sacrifice, His Resurrection was no less grand a vindication of His character and claims-rolling away the reproach of the Cross, revealing His Personal dignity, and putting the crown upon His whole claims. (See Romans 1:4). As His own Self bore our sins in His own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24), and so was "made a curse for us" (Galatians 3:13), His resurrection was a public proclamation that He had now made an end of sin, and brought in everlasting righteousness (Daniel 9:24). And how august was this proclamation! While His enemies were watching the hours, in hope that the third day might see Him still in the tomb, and His loving disciples were almost in despair of ever beholding Him again, lo! the ground heaves sublime, an angel, bright as lightning and clad in raiment of snowy white, descends from heaven, rolls the huge sealed stone from the door of the tomb, and takes his seat upon it as a guard of honour from heaven; while the keepers for fear of him are shaking and crouching as dead men.

(2) What then took place, none of the Four sacred Narrators has dared to describe, or rather, none of them knew. All that we need to know they do record-that when the women arrived, the grave was empty, and speedily Jesus Himself stood before them in resurrection-life and love! What a glorious Gospel-voice issues from these facts! O, if even the guiltiest sinner on the face of the earth would but draw near, might he not hear a voice saying to him, "He is not here; for He has risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay;" and as he looks into this open grave, shall he not hear the Risen One Himself whispering to him, "Peace be unto thee," and as He says this "showing him His hands and His side," in evidence of the price paid for the remission of sins?

(3) How delightful a subject of contemplation is the ministry of angels, especially in connection with Christ Himself, and most of all in connection with this scene of His resurrection; where we not only find them hovering around the Person of Jesus, as their own adored Lord, but showing the liveliest interest in every detail, and the tenderest care for the disciples of their Lord! And what is this but a specimen of what they feel and do toward "this heirs of salvation" of every quality, every age, every clime?

(4) If anything were needed to complete the proof of the reality of Christ's resurrection, it would be the silliness of the explanation which the guards were bribed to give of it. That a whole guard should go to sleep on their watch at all, was not very likely; that they should do it in a case like this, where there was such anxiety on the part of the authorities that the grave should remain undisturbed, was in the last degree improbable; but-even if it could be supposed that so many disciples should come to the grave as would suffice to break the seal, roll back the huge stone, and carry off the body-that the guards should all sleep soundly enough and long enough to admit of all this tedious and noisy work being gone through at their very side without being awoke, and done too so leisurely, that the very grave clothes-which would naturally have been kept upon the body, if only to aid them in bearing the heavy burden-should be found carefully folded and orderly disposed within the tomb: all this will not believe even by credulity itself, and could not have been credited even at the first, though it might suit those who were determined to resist the Redeemer's claims to pretend that they believed it. And the best proof that it was not believed is, that within a few weeks of this time, and in the very place where the imposture of a pretended resurrection-if it really was such-could most easily have been detected, thousands upon thousands, many of whom had been implicated in His death, came trooping into the ranks of the risen Saviour, resting their whole salvation upon the belief of His Resurrection. Now, therefore, is Christ risen from the dead, and become the First-Fruits of His sleeping people!

(5) Let believers taken the full comfort of that blessed assurance, that "as Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him" (1 Thessalonians 4:14). "But each [ hekastos (G1538)] in his own order, Christ the first-fruits, afterward they that are Christ's at His coming" (1 Corinthians 15:23).

(6) The Resurrection of Christ-as it brought resurrection-life not only to believers in their persons, but to the cause of truth and righteousness in the earth-should animate the Church, in its seasons of deepest depression, with assurances of resurrection, and encourage it to sing such "songs in the night" as these: "After two days will He revive us; in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight." "I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord" (Hosea 6:2; Psalms 118:17).

Verse 16

Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.

Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee - but certainly not before the second week after the resurrection, and probably somewhat later.

Into a mountain [ to (G3588 ) oros (G3735 )], where Jesus had appointed them. It should have been rendered 'the mountain,' meaning some certain mountain which He had named to them-probably the night before He suffered, when He said, "After I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee" (Matthew 26:32; Mark 14:28). What it was can only be conjectured; but of the two between which opinions are divided-the Mount of the Beatitudes or Mount Tabor-the former is much the more probable, from its nearness to the sea of Tiberias, where last before this the Narrative tells us that He met and dined with seven of them. (John 21:1, etc.) That the interview here recorded was the same with that referred to in one place only - 1 Corinthians 15:6 - when "He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remained unto that day, though some were fallen asleep," is now the opinion of the ablest students of the Evangelical History. Nothing can account for such a number as five hundred assembling at one spot but the expectation of some promised manifestation of their risen Lord; and the promise before His resurrection, twice repeated after it, best explains this immense gathering.

Verse 17

And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.

And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted - certainly none of "the Eleven," after what took place at previous interviews in Jerusalem. But if the 500 peple were now present, we may well believe this of some of them.

Verse 18

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

Verse 19

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, [ matheeteusate (G3100)] - rather, 'make disciples of all nations;' for "teaching," in the more usual sense of that word, comes in afterward, and is expressed by a different term.

Baptizing them in the name, [ eis (G1519) to (G3588) onoma (G3686)]. It should be, 'into the name:' as in 1 Corinthians 10:2, "And were all baptized unto (or rather 'into') Moses" [ eis (G1519) ton (G3588) Moouseen (G3475)]; and Galatians 3:27, "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ" [ eis (G1519) Christon (G5547)].

Of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit;

Verse 20

Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and,

Teaching them, [ didaskontes (G1321)]. This is teaching in the more usual sense of the term; or instructing the converted and baptized disciples.

To observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I. The "I" [ Egoo (G1473)] here is emphatic. It is enough that

I am with you alway, [ pasas (G3956) tas (G3588) heemeras (G2250)] - 'all the days;' that is, until making converts, baptizing, and building them up by Christian instruction, shall be no more.

Even unto the end of the world, [ aioonos (G165)].

Amen. [On the difference between the words aioon (G165) and kosmos (G2889), see the note at Hebrews 1:2 ] This glorious Commission embraces two primary departments, the Missionary and the Pastoral, with two sublime and comprehensive Encouragements to undertake and go through with them.

First, The MISSIONARY department (Matthew 28:18): "Go, make disciples of all nations." In the corresponding passage of Mark (Mark 16:15) it is, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature." The only difference is, that in this passage the sphere, in its worldwide compass and its universality of objects, is more fully and definitely expressed; while in the former the great aim and certain result is delightfully expressed in the command to "make disciples of all nations." 'Go, conquer the world for Me; carry the glad tidings into all lands and to every ear, and deem not this work at an end until all nations shall have embraced the Gospel and enrolled themselves My disciples.' Now, Was all this meant to be done by the Eleven men nearest to Him of the multitude then crowding around the risen Redeemer? Impossible. Was it to be done even in their lifetime? Surely not. In that little band Jesus virtually addressed Himself to all who, in every age, should take up from them the same work. Before the eyes of the Church's risen Head were spread out, in those Eleven men, all His servants of every age; and one and all of them received His commission at that moment. Well, what next? Set the seal of visible discipleship upon the converts, by "baptizing them into the name," that is, into the whole fullness of the grace "of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," as belonging to them who believe. (See the note at 2 Corinthians 13:14.) This done, the Missionary department of your work, which in its own nature is temporary, must merge in another, which is permanent. This is,

Second, The PASTORAL department (Matthew 28:20): "Teach them" - teach these baptized members of the Church visible - "to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you," My apostles, during the three years ye have been with Me. What must have been the feelings which such a Commission awakened! 'WE conquer the world for Thee, Lord, who have scarce conquered our own misgivings-we, fishermen of Galilee, with no letters, no means, no influence over the humblest creature? Nay, Lord, do not mock us.' 'I mock you not, nor send you a warfare on your own charges. For'-Here we are brought to

Third, The ENCOURAGEMENTS to undertake and go through with this work. These are two; one in the van, the other in the rear of the Commission itself.

First Encouragement: "All power in heaven" - the whole power of Heaven's love and wisdom and strength, "and all power in earth" - power over all persons, all passions, all principles, all movements-to bend them to this one high object, the evangelization of the world: All this "is given unto Me," as the risen Lord of all, to be by Me placed at your command - "Go ye therefore." But there remains a

Second Encouragement-which will be best taken up in the Remarks below - "And lo! I am with you all the days" - not only to perpetuity, but without one day's interruption, "even to the end of the world." The "Amen" is of doubtful genuineness in this place. If, however, it belongs to the text it is the Evangelist's own closing word.


(1) In this Great Commission we have the permanent institution of the Gospel Ministry, in both its departments, the Missionary and the Pastoral-the one for fetching in, the other for building up-together with Baptism, the link of connection and point of transition from the one to the other. The Missionary department, it is true, merges in every case in the Pastoral, as soon as the converts are baptized into visible discipleship; yet since the servants of Christ are commanded to "go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature," it follows that so long as there is an inhabited spot unreached, or a human being outside the pale of visible discipleship, so long will the Missionary department of the Christian ministry abide in the Church as a divine institution. As for the pastoral office, it is manifest that as the children of believers will require to be trained in the truth, and the members, of the Church to be taught, not only to know, but to observe, all that Christ commanded, there can be no cessation of it so long as the Church itself continues in the flesh, or before Christ comes in glory.

(2) But we have here also something for the Church's private members as well as for its ministers. Are they to deem themselves exempt from all concern in this matter? Nay, is it not certain that just as all ministers are to trace their commission to this Great Commission, so the whole Church, from age to age, should regard itself as here virtually addressed in its own sphere, and summoned forth to cooperate with its ministers, to aid its ministers, to encourage its ministers in the doing of this missionary and pastoral work to the world's end?

(3) We must have a care not unduly to narrow that direction regarding the Pastoral instruction of the disciples - "Teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you," the Twelve. For some talk of Christ as the only Lawgiver of Christians, to the exclusion of the Old Testament, as authoritative for Christians; while some would exclude, in this sense, all the New Testament except the Evangelical Records of our Lord's own teaching. But does not our Lord Himself set His seal on the Old Testament Scriptures at large as the Word of God and the Record of eternal life? And what are all the subsequent portions of the New Testament but the development of Christ's own teaching by those on whom, for that very end, He set the seal of His own authority?

Thus may our Lord be said virtually to have referred His servants to the entire Scripture as their body of instructions. Still it may be asked, Is there nothing special in all those things whatsoever Christ commanded the Twelve, that He should refer the pastors of the flock for their instructions in every age specifically to that as their grand repository? Undoubtedly there is; for as all that preceded Christ pointed forward to Him, and all that follows His teaching refers back to it, so His personal teaching is the incarnation and vitalization, the maturity and perfection of all divine teaching, to which all else in Scripture is to be referred, and in the light of which all else is to be studied and apprehended.

(4) What an all-comprehensive encouragement to the continued discharge of even the most difficult and trying duties embraced in this Commission is found in the closing words of it! Thus:

'Feel ye your utter incompetency to undertake the work? Lo! I am with you, to furnish you for it; because all power in heaven and in earth is Mine. Fear ye for the safety of the cause, amidst the indifference and the hatred of a world that crucified your Lord? Be of good cheer: I am with you, who have overcome the world. Dare ye not to hope that the world will fall before you? It is Mine by promise-the pagan for My inheritance, the uttermost parts of the earth for My possession; and to conquer and to keep it by your agency, all power in heaven and in earth is given unto Me and by Me made over to you.

'Dread ye the exhaustion of My patience or power, amidst oft-recurring seasons of difficulty, despondency and danger, and the dreary length of time it will take to bring all nations to the obedience of faith, and to build them up unto life eternal? Lo! I am with you always, to whom all power in heaven and in earth is given for your behoof.'

'Truth, Lord'-perhaps ye will still say-`this pledge to be with us to perpetuity is indeed cheering; but may there not be intervals of withdrawal, to be followed, no doubt, by seasons of certain return, but enough, in the meantime, to fill us with anxiety, on whose shoulders Thou art laying the whole weight of Thy cause in the earth?' 'Nay, have ye not marked those words of Mine, "Lo! I am with you," not only to perpetuity, but "all the days" - without any break - "even unto the end of the world."' What more could they, or the servants of Christ in any age, desire or imagine of encouragement to fulfill this blessed Commission?

(5) Is it necessary to ask any intelligent reader whether such a Commission could have issued from the lips of one who knew himself to be a mere creature? Would "all power in heaven and in earth" be given away to a creature, by Him who will not give His glory to another? or if this were conceivable, could it be lodged in a creature, or wielded by a creature? And whereas it is here said to be given to Christ, that is only in conformity with the whole economy of Redemption and the uniform language of the New Testament, which represents the Son as sent and furnished by the Father, in order to bring men back, as prodigal children, to their Father's love. But while the Son thus honours the Father, the Father requires, in return, "that all men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father."

(6) If there is one inference from the language of this Great Commission more obvious than another, it is this, that Jesus would have Himself regarded by His servants in every age as sole Master in His own House. Are they to make disciples of all nations? It is disciples to Him. Are they to set the seal of visible discipleship upon them? It is to bind them over only the more effectually to Him. Are they to teach the converts thus made and thus sealed? It is to observe all things whatsoever HE has commanded them. Want they support and encouragement in all the branches of this work? They are to derive it from this twofold consideration, that all the resources of heaven and earth are, for their benefit, given unto Him, and that He is with them alway, even unto the end of the world.

Thus are they to transact, each with the other-no other third party coming in between them. Hence, whatever understanding or arrangement they may deem it lawful and expedient to come to with the civil powers in matters ecclesiastical, they are to stipulate for perfect freedom to carry out all their Master's requirements; nor dare they abridge themselves of one iota of this liberty for any temporal consideration whatever.

(7) We have here the secret of the Church's poverty during long ages of its past history, and of the world's present condition, to so appalling an extent estranged from the Christian pale. The Church has neglected the Missionary, and corrupted the Pastoral, department of its great Commission. For long ages the missionary energy of the Church had either ceased, or expended itself chiefly on efforts to extend the ghostly authority of Papal Rome; and when at the Reformation period it sprang forth in such glorious rejuvenescence, instead of sending forth its healing waters into the vast deserts of paganism, making the wilderness and the solitary place to rejoice, it kept them pent up within its own narrow boundaries until they stank and bred the pestilence of rancorous controversy and deadly heresy and every evil. And then did the Pastoral work languish, thousands upon thousands fell away from all observance of Christian ordinances, and within the bosom of Christendom infidelity and irreligion spread apace, while real Christianity came to a very low ebb. Nor could anything else be expected of such unfaithfulness to the Church's Head. Neglecting either branch of this great Commission, neither the Power nor the Presence promised dare be expected. But going forth in faith to both alike, the conquest of the world to Christ-as it might have been achieved long ago, but for the Church's unbelief, selfishness, apathy, corruption, division-so it will be achieved, when, through the Spirit poured upon it from on high, it shall become "fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners" (Song of Solomon 6:10).

(8) In concluding this First Portion of our Fourfold Gospel, who that has followed our humble efforts to display a little of its riches does not feel it to be as treasure hid in a field, the which, when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath and buyeth that field? The good Lord lodge its contents in the hearts both of the writer and his readers!

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Matthew 28". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.