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Friday, June 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 28

Watson's Exposition on Matthew, Mark, Luke & RomansWatson's Expositions

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Introduction

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

1 Christ’s resurrection is declared by an angel to the women.

9 He himself appeareth unto them.

11 The high priests give the soldiers money to say that he was stolen out of his sepulchre.

16 Christ appeareth to his disciples,

19 and sendeth them to baptize and teach all nations.

Verse 1

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

In the end of the Sabbath, &c. — Οψε , with a genitive, signifies any past time; so that the words denote “after the Sabbath,” or, as St. Mark has it, “when the Sabbath was past,” which concluded at six o’clock on the Saturday evening. Sabbath here may, however, signify the week; for σαββατων in the plural is used for a week, which closed with the proper Sabbath or seventh day: So that σαββατων in the first clause of the sentence, will have the same signification as in the second; μια σαββατωμ being the first day of the week, — the Jews calling the first, second, &c., days, the first, second, &c., of the Sabbath.

The time when the two Marys came to see the sepulchre was as it began to dawn toward, or into, the first day of the week; which is explained by St. Luke to be “very early in the morning,” and by St. Mark, “at the rising of the sun.” The object of their visit was to complete the embalming of the body, for which purpose they brought “sweet spices.” St. Mark adds Salome to Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James. Joanna and “other women” also joined them, as we learn from St. Luke; so strongly intent were all these female disciples to pay their final respect to their Lord, and perform the last sad offices of sacred friendship and duty. In the sepulchres of persons of superior rank among the Jews, there was first says Lightfoot, a square floor within the cave, and on each side, deeper than the floor, caves to deposit the bodies.

Verse 2

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

A great earthquake. — Not after they arrived, but before; by which, and by the appearance of the angel, the soldiers of the guard had become as dead men. This great concussion of the earth was probably confined to the neighbourhood of the tomb.

Verse 3

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Like lightning. — Of intense, brightness, heightened by the snowy whiteness of his raiment. The word rendered countenance signifies form or aspect.

Verse 6

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

He is risen, as he said. — They had gone to the sepulchre perplexed who should roll away the stone, being ignorant both of its being sealed, and of a guard being set over it; but now they find the stone removed, see the angel sitting upon it, are saluted by him with encouraging words, and hear Christ’s actual resurrection announced. Yet this was not done without mild reproof: he is risen, AS HE SAID, — words of their Lord which they ought to have remembered and believed.

Come, see the place, &c. — They are invited into the area within the cave, that they may see the place, the cell below its level, where the Lord had been laid. See note on verse 1. Maundrell has an illustrative passage in describing a sepulchre, near the ancient Arphad: “The chamber is eight feet broad and ten long. In it are seven CELLS for corpses hewn out of the firm rock.”

Verse 7

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

He goeth before you into Galilee. — There he had many disciples, and designed to make the most public manifestation of himself, and did appear “to five hundred brethren at once.” This message, as it has been well remarked, was sent to all the disciples then at Jerusalem, the greater part of whom were from Galilee, celebrating the passover in that city. To so many of them he did not intend, at that time, to appear; but only to a select few and the apostles, which he did that evening.

Verse 8

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Fear and great joy. — Fear produced by the presence of so illustrious a supernatural being, and joy at the news he had announced. They “trembled,” says St. Mark, “were amazed, and sore afraid:” yet though women, not as the guards, who had become as dead; these emotions being restrained by the friendly aspect and voice of the heavenly visitant.

Verse 10

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

All hail. — A word of friendly and affectionate salutation. The Syriac has, “Peace be unto you.”

Held him by the feet. — An action which expressed the deepest reverence, mingled with the strongest affection. By embracing his feet they were also assured that it was not a phantom which they beheld, but the body of the real Jesus.

And worshipped him. — Although the original word will not of itself prove that this was an act of Divine worship, who can reasonably doubt it when his resurrection had indeed demonstrated him to be the SON OF GOD, a title to which all the Jews attached ideas of Divinity? Nor did Jesus, after his resurrection, prescribe that proper worship which we know the disciples publicly and constantly paid to him after his ascension; because it followed of course from his being thus proved to be what he had professed, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD.

Verse 11

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Some of the watch came into the city. — It may be remarked that St. Matthew states only the leading facts of the resurrection, and a few only of the appearances of Jesus afterward, and these briefly; his main object being to refute the tale circulated respecting the stealing of the body of Jesus which he now introduces. He gives all that is necessary to establish the facts, and to show that he was acquainted with the manner in which the slanderous attempt to account for the absence of our Lord from the tomb originated. This having been sufficiently done by him, the other evangelists record other particulars; for all the gospels have respect to each other.

How long it was before the soldiers of the Roman guard recovered from that overwhelming terror, which probably dispersed them, and overcame for a time their faculties, does not appear. It would seem, however, that some time did elapse before they came into the city, and that then they arrived in scattered companies: Some of the watch came into the city, &c.

Verse 12

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

When they were assembled, and had taken counsel. — The absurd fiction which was invented was therefore the work of the sanhedrim or great council, the same that had condemned our Lord. Their incredulity and obduracy are indeed astonishing; but scarcely more so than that they had all along manifested; and we must take into account that they were men judicially given up by God to the blind and malevolent passions of their own bad hearts. That they were guilty of both a wicked and a clumsy fiction is seen from this, that afterward they manifestly appear to have been ashamed of avowing it, and that it was adopted in haste as a temporary expedient. Of this we have a striking, though an incidental proof in the words of Gamaliel, in this very council, who, when Peter and the other apostles were brought before them for preaching the very fact of Christ’s resurrection, and they were disposed to put them to death, said, “If this counsel and work be of men, it will come to naught; but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it,” Acts 5:38-39; — words which presupposed that the resurrection might be true, and which could not have been uttered had the council continued to maintain the story they taught to the Roman soldiers. Still, it was something that they had originated, a tale which ignorance and prejudice made long current among the vulgar; for the evangelist adds, And this saying is commonly reported among the Jews to this day. Unwilling to believe so clearly a demonstrated truth, like all those who love error, they were given up “to believe a lie,” the absurdities of which they obstinately overlooked. For, as the obvious remark has been often made, if the whole sixty soldiers slept, how should they know how the body was taken away? if only a part of them, they would alarm the rest; and if the whole were awake, their force was sufficient to resist, the attempt. Yet infidels, and infidel Biblical critics too, of the present time, believe equal absurdities in framing theories to refute or to explain away “the supernaturalism,” as it is called, of the Holy Scriptures. Thus human nature, in all ages, is true to itself; and the objections which have been urged against the miracles and the resurrection of Christ, from the very unbelief of the Jews of the same, are solved by the moral phenomena which the human heart in every age exhibits.

Verse 14

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Persuade him. — Conciliate or appease him; because it was death for the sentinel to sleep upon his post.

Verse 16

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Went away to Galilee. — Not immediately, but some time after; the brevity of St. Matthew omitting the intermediate appearances of Christ, as recorded by the other evangelists.

Verse 17

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Some doubted. — Not of the apostles, but of the disciples then with them; for now our Lord fulfilled his promise, to appear to his disciples generally in Galilee; and this was probably the time when he was seen of “the five hundred brethren at once.” They doubted whether it was he, when he first appeared; but when he came and spake to them, as it follows in the next verse, they doubted no longer.

Verse 18

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. — Our Lord’s dominion therefore comprehends angels, men, and devils. “All things are put under him,” saving, as St. Paul observes, “that he is excepted which did put all things under him.” Every creature, through the wide realms of space, is subjected to the rule of THE GOD-MAN MEDIATOR; all are made subservient to the working out of his grand design, the restoration of our world from sin and misery, rendered wretched by sin; and the manifestation, through successive ages, of his own rectoral justice, boundless mercy, and infinite wisdom. And this his authority shall, in the fulness of time, be acknowledged even by those who have most rebelliously struggled against it. By the conquests of GRACE or POWER all shall be subdued, “that at his name every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God, the Father,” Php_2:10-11 .

Verse 19

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Teach all nations. — Make disciples of all nations; which means, instruct them in the faith, and persuade them to the belief and reception of it; for how else should men be made disciples but by instructing them in the doctrine held out to their acceptance?

Baptizing them, &c. — So that instruction as to those capable of it, which is manifestly implied, must precede baptism; this being a rational ordinance to be submitted to on knowledge and conviction, and not that to which it has often been debased, something little better than a superstitious charm and ceremony.

On this great rite it may be remarked,

1. That it is of universal obligation; all who are made disciples are to be baptized.

2. That it is designed as a public profession of faith in the trinity in unity; that is, in the Deity as revealed in the Holy Scriptures; the doctrine of which, that there is one Divine essence, and that “in the unity of this Godhead there are three persons of one substance, power, and eternity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost;” which profession of faith is also an acknowledgment of their various rights, relations, and offices, and of entire submission to them.

3. That it is the initiatory rite by which we enter the covenant of grace. The old covenant had circumcision for its initiatory rite; and if Christian baptism is not to be regarded as taking its place, then has this new and better covenant no initiatory rite at all, since the Lord’s supper is not initiatory but of regular and habitual observance. But as the entrance into the Jewish Church was by circumcision, so the entrance into the Christian Church is by baptism. Hence its administration is here prescribed to those who are made disciples, and as such disposed to become formally the members of Christ’s Church. Hence it derives its federal or covenant character, and is rightly considered as a mystery or sacrament. Of the blessings of this covenant it is the SIGN, holding forth the washing away of sin, and the pouring out of the Holy Ghost; and it is the SEAL, inasmuch as, being administered under the command of Christ, it is a constant PLEDGE of his unchangeably gracious intentions to those that believe and are baptized; while our submission to this rite is that act by which we accept and make ourselves parties to this covenant of grace and salvation, claiming its blessings, and binding ourselves to fulfil its conditions.

4. The rite of baptism, instituted by Christ, differs both from that of John and that which was administered by the disciples of Jesus before his resurrection. John baptized into a belief of the speedy appearing of Messiah; the disciples in the name of Jesus, which was a profession of faith in him as the Messiah; but the rite as instituted by our Lord, was baptism in the name, into the name, of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, — into the belief and worship of the triune God as above stated, including faith in the incarnation and offices of the Son, and the offices and operations of the Holy Spirit. All these are the objects of distinct profession, and where these are not acknowledged there can be no truly Christian baptism; men stumble at the very threshold, and cannot enter into the Church of God and covenant of grace.

5. Baptism is therefore a standing testimony to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, and the offices of each person in the economy of redemption. the name is ONE, not names; the persons, THREE, each of whom is manifestly represented as coequal, because the common objects of trust, obedience, and worship, and the source of blessing. Thus is the absolute unity and the Divine character of that sacred Three unequivocally marked, in a rite by which they become our ONE and ONLY God, and we become HIS people.

It has been questioned whether these words prescribe the formula to be used in baptism, or merely express the end and intention of the rite. If the former, the latter is necessarily included in it as its reason; but should the latter only have been intended by our Lord, yet when used as a formula, they do no more than audibly declare the real import of the rite, which is never truly performed but when the trinity in unity, with the relations and glories of each of the three persons as revealed in the Scriptures, is acknowledged. Nothing therefore can be so proper as the use of words which publicly declare the intention of the rite; and it may be traced up to the first ages of the Christian Church. Arguments for and against the baptism of infants have been deduced from these words. “How,” say some, “are all nations to be baptized, if children are to be excluded?” “How,” says the antipædo-baptist, “should children be included, if baptism is to follow instruction and believing?” The truth is, that adults could only be spoken of in the text; and the right of the children of believers rests on other grounds, and may be sufficiently established by them.

Verse 20

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Teaching them to observe, &c. — To make disciples implies, as above observed, teaching, in order to knowledge and faith; but this is elementary teaching, and is not intended to supersede the more copious and constant teaching which is to succeed baptism. A stronger word, διδασκω , is therefore used; and the object of this patient and official instruction assigned to ministers is, to lead the baptized to OBSERVE all things whatsoever I have commanded you, — to practise universal obedience without separating one duty from another, and to do this perseveringly to the end of life. Thus we have the threefold end of the Christian ministry, to convert men to the faith, by making them disciples of Christ, to bring them to a public profession and cordial reception of it by baptism, and to train them up to the practice of universal holiness, as their preparation for heaven.

And, lo, I am with you, &c. — As no men had so high a work assigned them as the conversion and sanctification of men, so these words reminded them of two great truths: that it was not a work of man but of God, so that the Divine invisible presence of Christ with them was necessary to their success; and also that his presence should be ever with his faithful ministers both to aid and comfort them, and to give efficacy to their labours.

Alway. — Πασας τας ημερας , all the days, that is daily, or constantly, without interruption.

Unto the end of the world. — Unto the consummation of all things; which shows that the ministry was to be perpetuated throughout all time, and that the words of Christ in these verses were not addressed to the apostles only, but to their successors throughout all full ages.

Amen. — This was either added by Christ in confirmation of his promise, or by the evangelist to express his joyful concurrence and earnest wish.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Matthew 28". "Watson's Exposition on Matthew, Mark, Luke & Romans". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwc/matthew-28.html.
 
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