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Saturday, June 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 28

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Verses 1-8

The Lord Is Risen!

The two Mary’s do not depart from the Lord. They want to be where He is. That’s why they come to see the grave, His grave. They do so on the evening of Saturday, the Sabbath, when according to the Jewish calendar – where a day begins at six o’clock in the evening – the Sabbath has ended. As the women stand there, everything seems to be over, finished.

Then, early on Sunday morning, the great miracle of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus takes place. That great event is accompanied by a reaction from the earth in the form of a great earthquake. An angel comes out of heaven to earth. He walks to the grave, rolls away the stone that seals the opening and sits down on it, as if to prevent anyone from rolling it back.

Earthly powers had sealed the grave (Matthew 27:66), a much higher heavenly power breaks that false seal. By sitting on it, the angel becomes, as it were, the new seal on the stone for the new situation. No one can roll it back until an adequate testimony of the resurrection of Christ has been given. That testimony will be given by people who have seen the empty grave. Christ already left the grave before the stone was rolled away. The rolling away is not to let Him out, but to let people in, so they can see that He is no longer in the grave.

The shape of the angel radiates the judgment and purity of heaven. The effect of his appearance on the soldiers guarding the grave is that their heroism turns into deathly fear. They become stiff with terror. What they are experiencing now, does not exist in their world. Yet they experience it because what does not exist to them is reality. Every person who only believes in what he can see, will one day be overwhelmed by this fear when he comes face to face with the Judge of the living and the dead.

The women have also become afraid, but the angel speaks to them the comforting words: “Do not be afraid.” Then he tells them that he knows that they are not enemies of the Lord Jesus, but that they are here to seek Him. The angel speaks of “Jesus who has been crucified”, referring to the Lord as they last saw Him and as He lives on in their minds. He has good news for them, namely that He is risen, as He had also said. They could have known this. Then he invites them to look into the tomb to the place where “the Lord” was lying. They were witnesses that He was laid there (Matthew 27:59-2 Peter :).

Then the angel commands them to tell this joyful news to His disciples. They must add that they will see Him in Galilee, because He has gone there ahead of them. The disciples are asked, just as before his death, to follow Him also now. Following Him is also the precondition to seeing Him. The angel emphasizes his words by saying to them that he, the messenger of God from heaven, has said it to them. They are not dreaming.

The women react immediately. Still afraid because of the impressive appearance of the angel and on at the same time very happy they rapidly leave the tomb and quickly go to the disciples of the Lord to bring them this wonderful message.

Verses 9-10

Appearance to the Women

While the women are on the way to tell the disciples that the Lord has risen and where they can see Him, the Lord appears to them. It is “Jesus”, for He is the same as before His death. They recognize Him immediately. They fall down before Him and take hold of His feet which are so lovely because He is the messenger of joy who proclaims salvation (Isaiah 52:7). They pay homage to Him, He has overcome death and brought to shame all of the expectations of those who killed Him. Their faith has not been in vain.

The Lord also speaks the word “do not be afraid” to them and repeats what the angel has said. Only the angel spoke of “His disciples”, while the Lord speaks of “My brethren”. This is a wonderful expression of the new relationship that has come about in grace through His work on the cross and His resurrection.

Verses 11-15

The Deceit of the Chief Priests

It is not only the women who left the grave with a message for others concerning what they saw and heard. Some guards also leave the grave with a message about what happened. Only they do not go to the disciples, but to Jerusalem where they seek out the chief priests to report to them about their experiences.

What the soldiers are saying is an unexpected disappointment for the chief priests and elders. They discuss how to solve this new problem. Just as so many dark things are covered up with money, so too they resort to bribing the witnesses. They gave Judas only thirty pieces of silver for delivering up the Lord Jesus, but to the soldiers they give “a large sum of money” to spread a lie about His resurrection.

They tell the soldiers what to say when questions arise. The truth must never be known. The lie must prevail. This is the way these wicked people act, who should teach God’s truth to the people of God. They even guarantee the soldiers that they will convince the governor that the soldiers are speaking nothing but the truth. This is the false testimony that the leaders of God’s people present to the Gentiles. How great their responsibility is for this horrible, thoroughly false testimony.

The leaders know what kind of man Pilate is and so do the soldiers. Pilate is as easy to bribe as they are. When the soldiers hear that they don’t have to be afraid of Pilate, they just accept that. The soldiers are also people without conscience who do everything for money. They do what they have been taught and spread the lie that that is gladly accepted by the Jews. The Jews, too, do not want to be confronted with the truth and prefer to persist in believing in lies. How very sobering it will be for all who are involved in this lie the moment they will see Him Whom they have pierced and Whom they denied after He was risen.

Verses 16-20

The Great Commission

The women have conveyed the message. Then “the eleven disciples” – Judas is no longer there – go to the mountain in Galilee, where the Lord said He would meet them. When the eleven see Him, there appears to be a distinction in faith among the disciples. There are those who are immediately convinced that it is the Lord. There are also some who doubt. The Scriptures do not mention the names of the doubters, so that we can consider for ourselves whether we might also belong to that group. Do we always see Him, and do we constantly honor Him?

The Lord does not stand as one unapproachable and exalted. He draws near to them. He continues to be the Servant Who meets their needs. Then He speaks words that indicate His supremacy over the universe. In heaven and on earth, in both spheres, He exercises all power, and there is nothing that is not subject to Him.

From this authority over all things He commands His disciples to make disciples. That commission is now not limited to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 10:5-Joshua :), but extends to all nations. Disciples are made by baptizing them. Baptism here is baptism in the Name of the triune God. To be a true disciple, teaching is also needed. They must do that too with those they have baptized.

The Lord concludes His commission – and this whole book of the Bible – with a word of great encouragement: “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” This word has been of enormous support to countless believers throughout the centuries. Faith in this word is experienced by countless people during the most difficult moments and in the darkest periods of life that are the part of every believer.

This word is the echo of this book of the Bible. It follows anyone who, in faithfulness to the Lord’s command, is busy proclaiming the gospel by presenting the Person Who is the content of the gospel: Jesus Christ, the dead and risen Lord.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Matthew 28". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/matthew-28.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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