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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 28

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

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Easter Sunday.

In this chapter Matthew furnishes a very brief account of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. There were good reasons why this event should be made visible to the disciples of Jesus alone. This seemed, indeed, to diminish the proof of the fact to that particular age, an age very little likely to profit by a more public display. We have nevertheless, in the very form of the narrative itself, a peculiar proof, for all ages, of its own perfect truth.

In comparing the different accounts of the resurrection given by the four evangelists, we find at first view the greatest apparent confusion and contradiction. There is thereby the most perfect proof that the authors were no copyists of each other’s account, but perfectly independent narrators.

But as we study them closely, and, like a well trained jurist, sift the evidence of the various witnesses giving the different parts of the same transaction from different points of view and with different purposes, we find that they begin to coincide. Making those assumptions which not only every jurist, but every man of common sense, makes in adjusting various partial narratives, we finally arrive at a clear accordance, for which the only solution is, the truth of the entire details. We thus have that sort of demonstration which arises from the agreement of witnesses who are examined, without warning, out of each other’s presence. The proof of truthfulness is rather heightened than diminished by the fact that the statements are reconcilable on two or three different hypotheses, as that fact contradicts still more decisively the charge of agreed fabrication. The agreement is seen to be absolutely impossible, without perfect truth at the centre of all their statements. There is plenty of variation but no contradiction.

Among the principles we have a perfect right to assume are the following:

1 . Inspiration does not impart omniscience. A man may be stimulated or guarded by inspiration to know certain things, and to tell all he knows, and no more. That he did not know more, is no tell.

2 . Where different witnesses give different sides or parts of a complex transaction, it is to be expected that one will say, and perhaps will have seen, more than the other. The omission of one does not contradict the supply of the other. What each supplies is to be held as true, and as the supplement of the other’s omissions.

Thus one, in the narrative of the resurrection, may mention a single angel, and the other more. One may mention a single person, as Mary Magdalene; another more, and another still more. The mentioning of the fewer does not deny the additional number.

3 . Different narrators may see the same object or person at different moments of the same transaction; one may see the angel standing, another sitting; yet both may state truly of different moments. Both thieves, at first, may have reviled Jesus, and so one evangelist be true; and yet one may have, after the miraculous darkness, confessed him, and so the other account be true.

Matthew and Mark narrate of the resurrection essentially the same points, giving an account of the visit of the women, naming the Marys and Salome, who see first the angel; and afterward, on their way, see Jesus himself.

Mark has his account apparently from the same sources, and, although less extended than Matthew, is more minute in what he states.

Luke takes his standpoint with the larger number of women, from some of whom he doubtless derived his account. They see the same angel, who addresses them; while, according to Luke, they also see a second angel standing in silence by.

John mentions of women Mary Magdalene alone. This was because she was the only one who had anything to do with himself in the transaction; or rather, it was because it was through her means that he himself had anything to do with it. If there were other women to his knowledge in the affair, it did not come within his purpose to mention the fact.

Verses 1-8

§ 145. THE WOMEN’S FIRST VISIT TO THE SEPULCHRE, Matthew 28:1 ; Matthew 28:5-8 .

closed at sunset. As it began to dawn John says, “when it was yet dark;” Luke says, “very early;” Mark says, “very early… at the rising of the sun.” There seems to be here at first sight a contradiction or two as to the precise time. No complotters to fabricate a tale would have allowed such discrepancy, and the narratives are therefore independent.

Now the visit to the sepulchre is a transaction which may have covered hours; extending from the first start from home until they left the sepulchre. Be it then that the Marys started at four o’clock, and after the company gathered proceeded on their way. By some unknown means, (perhaps the delay in the opening of the city gates,) they may not have arrived until the east was reddening with solar rays, and the sunrise may without difficulty be supposed to have shed its first beams upon them at the sepulchre. Yet it may be easily shown that the phrase rising of the sun may indicate not merely the time when the sun has visibly risen above the horizon, but the time when he is sensibly about rising to it.

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary The other Mary was sister to the virgin Mother. Both were left by the evangelists at the sepulchre, Matthew 27:61. Mark says that Salome (the mother of James and John) was with the Marys. These women came, not expecting the resurrection, but bringing spices for the embalmment. They had no knowledge of the watch or the sealing, but wondered who should roll away the stone. Little dreamed they that the body was embalmed with immortality; or that angel’s hands had opened the door of the tomb.

Verse 2


2. Earthquake As there was darkness and earthquake at the death, so there is now earthquake and light at the resurrection. Both were given for the same purpose; namely, to manifest to the senses of men the mighty operations that were going on beyond the reach of sense. Death, and life, and power are secret and unseen principles; their manifestations are shown forth to mankind through the senses. The earthquake and the resurrection of course took place previous to the arrival of the women. Angels The angel came not to awaken the corpse. That was done by the return of Jesus from his visitation to the spirit-world. No eye beheld his reviving body, warmed and loosened by the embraces of the soul. Rolled back the stone Not that Jesus could not have burst the barrier; but the ministry of angels was necessary to give form to the transaction to human conception.

Sat upon it Upon the conquered thing as upon a triumphal throne.

Verse 3

3. His countenance Rather, his whole figure. Raiment white His body was a perfect splendour shining through his investiture.

Verse 4

4. As dead men It is very probable that the splendour of a glorified body is always sufficient to overwhelm the senses and prostrate the strength of a living mortal. Such was the effect of the transfiguration upon the disciples. See also Daniel 8:27; Revelation 1:17. These men were not, therefore, eye-witnesses of the resurrection.

Verse 5

5. Angel… unto the women By comparing Mark, we find that the angel who sat upon the stone to appal and stupefy the guards, had entered the sepulchre as the women drew nigh, doubtless to prevent their being deterred from approaching. The women entered the sepulchre and there the words of the angel were uttered to them. The fact that the women entered the sepulchre and were there addressed by the angel, is implied by Matthew in Matthew 28:6. We learn from Mark 16:9, that on their first entrance the women saw but one angel and he sitting, at which they were terrified. Luke adds that, a moment after, two angels stood before them, (the one being joined by a second, to confirm the truth by two witnesses,) so that the words were uttered standing; the first angel doubtless having risen and being speaker for both. Thus all three evangelists are reconciled in regard to the number and positions of the angels. Fear not His purpose was to shed terror and stupefaction upon the guards, but to speak peace and courage to these mourning friends of Jesus. Luke furnishes further words of the angel, as he supplies the fact that there was another angel standing with him.

Verse 6

6. Come, see the place where the Lord lay Pointing doubtless to the particular cell in the wall of the tomb. This implies, in accordance with Mark, that the angel was in the tomb. The place was doubtless a cell or niche, usually cut horizontally in the perpendicular wall, so as to insert the corpse, with the head entering first and feet toward the court. Sometimes a shelf or bench was cut along the wall so as to allow the corpse to lie parallel to the wall and entirely visible. As Mary Magdalene saw two angels, “one at the head and the other at the feet” of Jesus, (John 20:12,) this must have been the method in which Jesus lay.

Verse 7

7. Goeth before you into Galilee According to his promise, in Matthew 26:32. Jesus did meet the disciples there according to appointment, and gave them their great commission. But meantime he sustained their faith, above his promise, by several previous appearances unto them.

Verse 8

8. With fear For in spite of the consoling words of the angel, the sense of an angel’s presence filled them with tremor. Great joy In spite of the tremor, a joy at the thought that the Saviour had risen, thrilled their hearts and frames.

Verse 9

§ 148. SECOND APPEARANCE OF JESUS, Matthew 28:9-10 .

9. Jesus met them According to John, Mary Magdalene left the company of women and brought John and Peter to the sepulchre, and then she saw the Lord. But this appearance to the women must apparently have taken place before she could have performed such a walk and returned, and therefore must have been the first of all. But if these women saw Jesus first, how says Mark (Mark 16:9) that Mary Magdalene saw the Lord first? See note on that passage.

Verse 11


11. The watch We suppose the quaternion or guard of four soldiers. While the women departed to inform the disciples, they departed to inform the Jews of the disappearance of the body. They bear no report to Pilate, for fear of punishment. They resort for aid and safety to those in whose behalf they have been serving. Chief priests Annas and Caiaphas. All the things that were done How great must have been the consternation of these men to find that after all the matter was not to die with the crucifixion; and that “the last error,” which they had feared as “worse than the first,” had truly taken place.

Verse 12

12. Assembled with the elders This was no doubt an informal meeting, not of the full Sanhedrim, but of the special enemies of Jesus. Gave large money That is, amply sufficient to secure their fidelity. This might not require so very much, for it is plain that their security from punishment for remissness depended on the success of the Jews in keeping Pilate uninformed or propitiated.

Verse 13

13. Disciples… stole him away It has been strangely doubted, even by Olshausen, whether this narrative of the setting the watch and their bribery by the Jews is truly authentic, because he could not conceive that the Jewish Sanhedrim could be so lost to honour as thus plainly to propose a shameful falsehood. But it is not so clear that they deemed it to be a falsehood. It was a rationalistic solution of the strange phenomenon. Whether the soldiers admitted it or not, the Sanhedrim might claim to believe this as truth, and only bribe the men to assent to this version of the story. While we slept The testimony of sleeping men to the fact of the disciples’ participation in the matter was of course not very valid evidence. They earned their money in fathering so poor and so self-criminating a falsehood.

Verse 14

14. If this come to the governor’s ears As Pilate would soon return to Cesarea it was not likely to come to his ears. Persuade Appease.

Verse 15

15. This saying This solution of the disappearance of the body. Commonly reported Diffused among the Jewish nation. It is still held by many modern so-called rationalists. Until this day Until the time that Matthew wrote, which was probably some eight years after the fact. Meanwhile the apostles had been constantly preaching the fact at Jerusalem from the day of its occurrence, and they had no doubt encountered this solution at every turn.

Verse 16

16. The eleven One alone, the “son of perdition,” is not among them. He has fallen like a star from heaven, and left his place vacant.

Verses 16-20


Matthew, omitting all the other accounts of the appearance of Jesus after the resurrection, hastens to the fulfilment of the Lord’s promise to go before them into Galilee. There the Saviour, in the plenitude of his power in his new kingdom, gives them authority as apostles to spread his kingdom through the world.

Verse 17

17. And when they saw him At the first and more distant perception of his person. They worshipped him That is, some of them recognized him with faith, and worshipped him as their Lord. Some doubted They distrusted whether it was really he until a nearer approach.

Verse 18

18. And Jesus came and spake And as he came and spake in the fulness of his power, all shadow of doubt disappeared from every mind.

All power is given unto me His death had finished the old dispensation. It had brought in the new. Thereby the kingdom of God had come with power. Jesus, returning from paradise, came in the glory of his kingdom. All power is given unto him. Eleven disciples had not tasted death until they had seen him come in his kingdom, endowed with “all power.” See note on Matthew 16:28. This was the completion of the First Coming, or Advent. The second will be his Advent to judge the world. See on Matthew 10:23; Matthew 16:27. But the coming seen in vision by Daniel (chapter vii) is not his coming to our world. It is a scenic picture of his endowment with “all power” by his Father in heaven. His ascension put him in complete possession of that kingdom; or, rather, this his coming as seen by his apostles, and that his coming as seen in vision by Daniel, are different glimpses of the same great coming. Of that coming the part seen by the apostles is rather at or after his resurrection, when he came from hades and the grave to the world. That seen by Daniel is rather the completing part at his ascension to the presence and right hand of God. As Paul says: “He raised him from the dead, and set him… far above all principality,” etc. Ephesians 1:20-21. “He became obedient unto death… wherefore God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name,” etc. Philippians 2:8-9. “Peter standing up with the eleven… said… Let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Acts 2:14; Acts 2:36. “To this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.” Romans 14:9. “He hath raised him from the dead and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come,” etc. Ephesians 1:19-20. Of this last passage, Daniel 7:13, is a visionary, pictorial, prophetic representation. These and other texts prove that Christ’s resurrection and ascension were a full coming in his kingdom.

It seems to me the plain doctrine of Scripture, that at the death of Christ his kingdom came with power, and by his resurrection, he came in his kingdom. Matthew 16:28.

Verse 19

19. Go ye therefore Therefore, that is, because all power is given unto me. Being, as I am now, the fountain of all authority; crowned, as I now am, with a rightful dominion, go forth and win it to a willing subjection by grace. All nations Both organically and individually. Teach Literally, Disciple them. And he shows how: First, by baptizing them into the faith, and then teaching. Of course, if they are at responsible age, they must become willing subjects of a true conversion. And a true baptism cannot take place unless the subject be a justified person, either by faith, or, as an infant, without faith. As infants are a large part of all nations, they are to be discipled by baptism, and subsequent teaching as soon as susceptible of it.

Upon this we may remark, 1. That our Lord here adds baptism to the Lord’s Supper as permanent institutes of the Christian Church. He is commissioning his apostles to preach among all nations. He is confirming them in their duty to that effect by a promise that shows that he is commissioning to the end of the world. To the end of the world their commission includes baptism. 2. Baptism, being the first part of the process of disciplining, is the proper initiating rite into the Christian Church. It is to circumcision what the Lord’s Supper is to the passover the substitution of a milder rite to answer the same purpose. 3. As baptism and the Lord’s Supper are obligatory institutions in the Christian Church, binding upon every individual Christian, so it is the obligation of every Christian to be a member of the visible Church of God. There are those who imagine that they can be good Christians just as well without the Church as in. Such persons are probably self-deceived. They imagine to themselves a religion which does not intend to obey the plain commands of Christ. So far as they are concerned, the ordinances of Christ would perish. The death of Christ would never be commemorated. A piety of so loose a kind is never-likely to save the soul.

In regard to the inclusion of all nations, we may remark that it includes the idea that all nations, and every creature, as another evangelist expresses it, shall be discipled, baptized, and taught. As Christ is a universal Saviour, so his Gospel is framed to be a universal Gospel, and his religion a universal religion. It knows no distinction of race, clime, or colour. It belongs to man, and holds that humanity is a unit; and claiming to be a blessing for all, and to possess a right over all, it designs to spread that blessing and assert that right.

Verse 20

20. Lo, I am with you That is, with the ministry he commissions. From which we infer three things: 1. That there is an order of men commissioned by Christ to continue, by some sort of succession, to the end of the world.

2 . We have a test by which the Church and the world can estimate a true ministry. Christ is with them. If Christ be not with them they are not in the true succession, however well signed their ministerial diploma or well traced their ordination pedigree. Ordaining hands cannot convey by a mechanical or muscular conductor the presence of Christ. To test whether the presence of Christ be with them, our Saviour gives a new rule: “By their fruits ye shall know them.” A wicked minister can never, therefore, be in Christ’s true succession. 3. We have a blessed promise for the truly commissioned minister. Christ’s presence is with him! And for a holy ministry collectively, whose duty is to convert the world, Christ’s presence is with them in the length and breadth of that great enterprise.

Unto the end of the world The word here is αιων and not κοσμος . The latter signifies the world more properly as a material fabric; the former refers more to the living world. It is often equivalent to age, or dispensation. It here signifies the present human system, the living world. It is equivalent, then, in duration, to the sacramental promise: “Ye do show forth the Lord’s death until he come.” 1 Corinthians 11:26.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Matthew 28". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/matthew-28.html. 1874-1909.
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