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Now late on the sabbath as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week (οψε δε σαββατων, τη επιφωσκουση εις μιαν σαββατων). This careful chronological statement according to Jewish days clearly means that before the sabbath was over, that is before six P.M., this visit by the women was made "to see the sepulchre" (θεορησα τον ταφον). They had seen the place of burial on Friday afternoon (Mark 15:47; Matthew 27:61; Luke 23:55). They had rested on the sabbath after preparing spices and ointments for the body of Jesus (Luke 23:56), a sabbath of unutterable sorrow and woe. They will buy other spices after sundown when the new day has dawned and the sabbath is over (Mark 16:1). Both Matthew here and Luke (Luke 23:54) use dawn (επιφωσκω) for the dawning of the twenty-four hour-day at sunset, not of the dawning of the twelve-hour day at sunrise. The Aramaic used the verb for dawn in both senses. The so-called Gospel of Peter has επιφωσκω in the same sense as Matthew and Luke as does a late papyrus. Apparently the Jewish sense of "dawn" is here expressed by this Greek verb. Allen thinks that Matthew misunderstands Mark at this point, but clearly Mark is speaking of sunrise and Matthew of sunset. Why allow only one visit for the anxious women?
There was a great earthquake (σεισμος εγενετο μεγας). Clearly not the earthquake of Matthew 27:51. The precise time of this earthquake is not given. It was before sunrise on the first day of the week when the women made the next visit. Matthew alone relates the coming of the angel of the Lord who rolled away the stone and was sitting upon it (απεκυλισε τον λιθον κα εκαθητο επανω αυτου). If one is querulous about these supernatural phenomena, he should reflect that the Resurrection of Jesus is one of the great supernatural events of all time. Cornelius Lapide dares to say: "The earth, which trembled with sorrow at the Death of Christ as it were leaped for joy at His Resurrection." The Angel of the Lord announced the Incarnation of the Son of God and also His Resurrection from the grave. There are apparent inconsistencies in the various narratives of the Resurrection and the appearances of the Risen Christ. We do not know enough of the details to be able to reconcile them. But the very variations strengthen the independent witness to the essential fact that Jesus rose from the grave. Let each writer give his own account in his own way. The stone was rolled away not to let the Lord out, but to let the women in to prove the fact of the empty tomb (McNeile).
Appearance (ειδεα). Here only in the N.T. Compare μορφη and σχημα.
The watchers did quake (εσεισθησαν ο τηρουντες). And no wonder that they became as dead men and fled before the women came.
Unto the women (ταις γυναιξιν). According to John, Mary Magdalene had left to go and tell Peter and John of the supposed grave robbery (John 20:1). But the other women remained and had the interview with the angel (or men, Luke) about the empty tomb and the Risen Christ.
Jesus the Crucified (Ιησουν τον εσταυρωμενον). Perfect passive participle, state of completion. This he will always be. So Paul will preach as essential to his gospel "and this one crucified" (κα τουτον εσταυρωμενον, 1 Corinthians 2:2).
Risen from the dead (ηγερθη απο των νεκρων).
Jesus the Risen . This is the heart of the testimony of the angel to the women. It is what Paul wishes Timothy never to forget (2 Timothy 2:8), "Jesus Christ risen from the dead" (Ιησουν Χριστον εγηγερμενον εκ νεκρων). They were afraid and dazzled by the glory of the scene, but the angel said, "Come, see the place where the Lord lay" (δευτε ιδετε τον τοπον οπου εκειτο ο Κυριος). Some MSS. do not have ο Κυριος, but he is the subject of εκειτο. His body was not there. It will not do to say that Jesus arose in spirit and appeared alive though his body remained in the tomb. The empty tomb is the first great fact confronting the women and later the men. Various theories were offered then as now. But none of them satisfy the evidence and explain the survival of faith and hope in the disciples that do not rest upon the fact of the Risen Christ whose body was no longer in the tomb.
He goeth before you into Galilee (προαγε υμας εις την Γαλιλαιαν). Jesus did appear to the disciples in Galilee on two notable occasions (by the beloved lake, Matthew 28:21, and on the mountain, Matthew 28:16-20). Probably before the women were permitted to tell this story in full to the disciples who scouted as idle talk (John 24:11) their first accounts, Jesus appeared to various disciples in Jerusalem on this first great Sunday. Jesus did not say that he would not see any of them in Jerusalem. He merely made a definite appointment in Galilee which he kept.
With fear and great joy (μετα φοβου κα χαρας μεγαλης). A touch of life was this as the excited women ran quickly (ταχυ εδραμον) as they had been told "to bring his disciples word" (απαγγειλα τοις μαθηταις αυτου). They had the greatest piece of news that it was possible to have. Mark calls it fear and ecstasy. Anything seemed possible now. Mark even says that at first they told no one anything for they were afraid (Mark 16:9), the tragic close of the text of Mark in Aleph and B, our two oldest manuscripts. But these mingled emotions of ecstasy and dread need cause no surprise when all things are considered.
Jesus met them (Ιησους υπηντησεν αυταις). Came suddenly face to face (ανταω, υπο) with them as they brooded over the message of the angel and the fact of the empty tomb (associative instrumental, αυταις). Cf. Matthew 8:34; Matthew 24:1-6. Probably the lost portion of Mark's Gospel contained the story of this meeting with Jesus which changed their fears into joy and peace. His greeting was the ordinary "Hail" (χαιρετε). They fell at his feet and held them in reverence while they worshipped him. Jesus allowed this act of worship though he forbade eager handling of his body by Mary Magdalene (John 20:17). It was a great moment of faith and cheer.
Fear not (μη φοβεισθε). They were still afraid for joy and embarrassment. Jesus calms their excitement by the repetition of the charge from the angel for the disciples to meet him in Galilee. There is no special mention of Peter ("and Peter") as in Mark 16:7, but we may be sure that the special message to Peter was delivered.
Told unto the chief priests (απηγγειλαν τοις αρχιερευσιν). These Roman soldiers had been placed at the disposal of the Sanhedrin. They were probably afraid also to report to Pilate and tell him what had happened. They apparently told a truthful account as far as they understood it. But were the Sanhedrin convinced of the resurrection of Jesus?
They gave large money (αργυρια ικανα εδωκαν). The use of the plural for pieces of silver (αργυρια) is common. The papyri have many instances of ικανα for considerable (from ικανω, to reach to, attain to). These pious Sanhedrists knew full well the power of bribes. They make a contract with the Roman soldiers to tell a lie about the resurrection of Jesus as they paid Judas money to betray him. They show not the slightest tendency to be convinced by the facts though one had risen from the dead.
Stole him away while we slept (εκλεψαν αυτον ημων κοιμωμενων). Genitive absolute. An Irish bull on the face of it. If they were asleep they would not know anything about it.
We will persuade him, and rid you of care (ημεις πεισομεν κα υμας αμεριμνους ποιησομεν). They would try money also on Pilate and assume all responsibility. Hence the soldiers have no anxiety (αμεριμνους, alpha privative and μεριμναω, to be anxious). They lived up to their bargain and this lie lives on through the ages. Justin (Dial. 108) accuses the Jews of spreading the charge. Bengel: Quam laboriosum bellum mendacii contra veritatem.
It was spread about (διεφημισθη) diligently by the Jews to excuse their disbelief in the Messiahship of Jesus.
But some doubted (ο δε εδιστασαν). From δις (in two, divided in mind). Cf. Matthew 14:31. The reference is not to the eleven who were all now convinced after some doubt, but to the others present. Paul states that over five hundred were present, most of whom were still alive when he wrote (1 Corinthians 15:6). It is natural that some should hesitate to believe so great a thing at the first appearance of Jesus to them. Their very doubt makes it easier for us to believe. This was the mountain where Jesus had promised to meet them. This fact explains the large number present. Time and place were arranged beforehand. It was the climax of the various appearances and in Galilee where were so many believers. They worshipped (προσεκυνησαν) Jesus as the women had done (Matthew 28:9). He is now their Risen Lord and Saviour.
All authority (πασα εξουσια). Jesus came close to them (προσελθων) and made this astounding claim. He spoke as one already in heaven with a world-wide outlook and with the resources of heaven at his command. His authority or power in his earthly life had been great (Matthew 7:29; Matthew 11:27; Matthew 21:23). Now it is boundless and includes earth and heaven.
Hath been given (εδοθη) is a timeless aorist (Robertson, Grammar, pp. 836f.). It is the sublimist of all spectacles to see the Risen Christ without money or army or state charging this band of five hundred men and women with world conquest and bringing them to believe it possible and to undertake it with serious passion and power. Pentecost is still to come, but dynamic faith rules on this mountain in Galilee.
All the nations (παντα τα εθνη). Not just the Jews scattered among the Gentiles, but the Gentiles themselves in every land. And not by making Jews of them, though this point is not made plain here. It will take time for the disciples to grow into this Magna Charta of the missionary propaganda. But here is the world program of the Risen Christ and it should not be forgotten by those who seek to foreshorten it all by saying that Jesus expected his second coming to be very soon, even within the lifetime of those who heard. He did promise to come, but he has never named the date. Meanwhile we are to be ready for his coming at any time and to look for it joyfully. But we are to leave that to the Father and push on the campaign for world conquest. This program includes making disciples or learners (μαθητευσατε) such as they were themselves. That means evangelism in the fullest sense and not merely revival meetings. Baptism in (εις, not into) the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, in the name of the Trinity. Objection is raised to this language in the mouth of Jesus as too theological and as not a genuine part of the Gospel of Matthew for the same reason. See Matthew 11:27, where Jesus speaks of the Father and the Son as here. But it is all to no purpose. There is a chapter devoted to this subject in my The Christ of the Logia in which the genuineness of these words is proven. The name of Jesus is the essential part of it as is shown in the Acts. Trine immersion is not taught as the Greek Church holds and practices, baptism in the name of the Father, then of the Son, then of the Holy Spirit. The use of name (ονομα) here is a common one in the Septuagint and the papyri for power or authority. For the use of εις with ονομα in the sense here employed, not meaning into, see Matthew 10:41 (cf. also Matthew 12:41).
Teaching them (διδασκοντες αυτους). Christians have been slow to realize the full value of what we now call religious education. The work of teaching belongs to the home, to the church (sermon, Sunday school, young people's work, prayer-meeting, study classes, mission classes), to the school (not mixing of church and state, but moral instruction if not the reading of the Bible), good books which should be in every home, reading of the Bible itself. Some react too far and actually put education in the place of conversion or regeneration. That is to miss the mark. But teaching is part, a weighty part, of the work of Christians.
I am with you (εγω μετα υμων). This is the amazing and blessed promise. He is to be with the disciples when he is gone, with all the disciples, with all knowledge, with all power, with them all the days (all sorts of days, weakness, sorrows, joy, power), till the consummation of the age (εως της συντελειας του αιωνος). That goal is in the future and unknown to the disciples. This blessed hope is not designed as a sedative to an inactive mind and complacent conscience, but an incentive to the fullest endeavor to press on to the farthest limits of the world that all the nations may know Christ and the power of his Risen Life. So Matthew's Gospel closes in a blaze of glory. Christ is conqueror in prospect and in fact. Christian history from that eventful experience on the Mountain in Galilee has been the fulfilment of that promise in as far as we allow God's power to work in us for the winning of the world to Christ, the Risen, all powerful Redeemer, who is with his people all the time. Jesus employs the prophetic present here (ειμ, I am). He is with us all the days till he comes in glory.
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Matthew 28". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany