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Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament
Matthew 28

 

 

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Verse 1

THE WOMEN GO TO THE SEPULCHER

Matthew 28:1. And at the end of the Sabbath, at the dawn, toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the sepulcher.” Mark 16:2-4. And it being exceedingly early, on the first day of the week, they are coming to the tomb, the sun approaching the horizon. And they were saying to one another, Who shall roll for us the stone away from the door of the sepulcher? And looking up, they see that the stone has already been rolled away; for it was exceedingly great.”

Luke 24:1-3 : And on the first day of the week, at the depth of the dawn, they came to the sepulcher, bearing the aromatics which they prepared, and certain ones along with them. And they found that the stone had been rolled away from the sepulcher; and coming in, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.” John 20:1-2 : On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene comes to the sepulcher early in the morning, it being yet dark, and sees that the stone has been rolled away from the sepulcher.” The reason why on this item I quote all of the writers is because of the infidel criticism that has been concentrated upon this important point of the inspired history, vigorous efforts having been made to establish disharmony among the four historians. You see there is none, the E. V. translation of Mark, representing them as coming at sunrise, being here corrected, the Greek simply meaning, “the sun approaching the horizon,” and, as you see, perfectly harmonizing with Matthew, “at the dawn, toward the first day of the week,” Luke, “at the depth of the dawn,” and John, “early in the morning, it being yet dark.”


Verses 2-4

CHAPTER 29

THE RESURRECTION

Mark 16:1. And the Sabbath passing away, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, purchased aromatics, in order that, having come, they may embalm Him.” The city of Magdala, in the land of Dalmanutha, stands on the northwestern coast of the Galilean Sea, and was immortalized by the nativity and residence of the most heroic and spiritual female disciple of our Lord, cognomened Magdalene, designative of her city. I saw it frequently while sailing over that beautiful sea on the track of my Lord, and visited it once. The other Mary here mentioned, and second in prominence only to Mary Magdalene, was the mother of the Apostle James, surnamed the Less. Salome was the honored mother of James the Greater and John the beloved apostle. The hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes, furnished by Nicodemus at the time of His hurried interment on Friday evening, was only a noble beginning of that rich and royal embalmment with which they proposed to honor the One they all loved as no tongue could tell.

It is pertinent here to observe, that the disciples failed to discriminate between the prophecies appertaining to His two advents, mixing them up heterogeneously, and applied them all to His first coming; therefore we hear them certifying frequently that “when Christ comes, He will abide forever” (Daniel 7:14), which was currently enunciated by the prophets. Consequently when they all see that He is dead, the result is that they give up all hope of His Christhood but still believing that when the Messiah comes, He will abide forever. However, they still believe that He is a prophet, and the greatest of all the prophets who have ever lived upon the earth, having such power as none of His predecessors ever wielded, but unfortunately, venturing too far permitted His enemies to get the advantage of Him, and consequently lost His life in the bloom of youth, at the early age of thirty-three — with the Jews, thirty being majority and fifty maturity.

Though now under the awful collapse of blighted hopes and perished aspirations, yet they love Him as no tongue can fell; and feeling assured that He is the greatest prophet God ever sent to Israel, they are determined to compliment Him with the most honorable interment, embalming His body after the Jewish method, and sparing no expenditure in procuring an abundance of the most valuable Oriental antiseptics.

History says all the apostles, and these prominent, holy women so frequently mentioned, were at the house of Rabbi Amos, a friend of Jesus in the metropolis, and were all engaged in silent mourning, alter the Jewish method of mourning for the dead seven days. Naught is heard through the long, dreary night but sighs, groans, and sobs. As deepest grief is silent, their sorrow was too great for utterance. They also spent the ensuing day and night in silent mourning, the inviolable sanctity of the Sabbath being their only guarantee against the cruel arrest, imprisonment, and execution which would, it was apprehended, certainly follow quickly the ensuing week.

Matthew 28:2-4. And, behold, there was a great earthquake; for the angel of the Lord, having descended from heaven, coming, rolled away the stone from the door, and sat upon it. And his countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow. And from fear, the keepers did quake, and became like corpses.” When the great archangel, whose countenance was like lightning, his pinions like rainbows, and his feet like pillars of fire, came sweeping down from heaven, old Earth trembling and quaking, and touched the great stone, secured by the seal of the Roman Empire, it rolled away as if struck with a score of battering-rams; meanwhile those gigantic Roman soldiers, who delighted in the thunder of the battle-field, fell in their tracks on all sides, pale and motionless as dead men. And now, the Conqueror of Mount Calvary, vacating the sepulcher, walked out, as free as a bird of paradise.


Verses 5-7

ANGELS AT THE SEPULCHER

Matthew 28:5-7; Luke 24:4-8; Mark 16:5-7 : Having come to the sepulcher, they saw a young man sitting on the right, clothed with a white robe; and they were affrighted. And he says to them, Be not alarmed; you are seeking Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified; He is risen; He is not here; behold the place where they laid Him. But go tell His disciples, and Peter, that He goes before you into Galilee; and there you shall see Him, as He said to you.” Luke: And it came to pass, while they were at a loss concerning Him, and two men stood before them in shining apparel, they being afraid, and inclining their face toward the ground, he said to them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen. Remember how He spoke to you, being yet in Galilee, saying that it behooves the Son of man to be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and to be crucified, and to arise the third day; and they remembered His words.” These were angels in human form, and it is highly probable that Gabriel, who announced His conception, was one of them. We see here that these holy women were much alarmed, as in all ages it has been very trying to mortal nerves to meet glorified spirits. In this there is nothing condemnatory, but a demonstration of the simple fact of decisive, angelic superiority, so that their presence, when seen with mortal eyes, inundates us with the realization that we are actually in contact with the eternal world, and hence overawed, and even panic-stricken, by the certainty of the heavenly inhabitants literally present and looking us in the face. Here we observe an especial message sent to Peter, doubtless from the fact of the unhappy notoriety he gave himself by denying the Lord while under prosecution.


Verses 8-10

RETURN OF THE WOMEN

Matthew 28:8-10; Mark 16:8; Luke 24:9-11; John 20:2. Then she runs, and comes to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and says to them, They have taken away the Lord from the sepulcher, and we know not where they have placed Him.” This is spoken of Mary Magdalene, the most prominent of our Lord’s female disciples, and the only woman John mentions in this early visit to the sepulcher. This is not out of harmony with the other three, from the simple fact that she was the leader of the heroic sisterhood who lingered last at the cross, and hastened first to greet the risen Lord and look into the empty sepulcher.

I must here observe, in reference to Mark’s Gospel, that this eighth verse, which you see in the above reference, winds it up, the following twelve verses having been added by an unknown hand after Mark had laid down his pen. This fact of these last twelve verses not appearing in the old and authoritative manuscripts, does not necessarily invalidate their claims to inspiration, the author might have been inspired for ought we know, though we can have no idea as to his name. As it is believed that Peter dictated this Gospel to Mark, his faithful amanuensis and gospel helper, while in Rome, about A. D. 63, some suppose his martyrdom stopped the work, and consequently some one took it on himself to finish it out somewhat after the order of Matthew’s, which had been written A. D. 48. From the simple fact that in all of this writing I have used the Greek Testament by Tischendorf, on the basis of the Sinaitic manuscript which he discovered in the Convent of St. Catherine, on Mt. Sinai, A. D. 1859, and has thrown a flood of light on the New Testament, being the oldest manuscript and the only one entire, and as it closes Mark’s Gospel with this eighth verse of the sixteenth chapter, I shall neither quote nor expound the ensuing twelve verses; for, like John 8:1-11, and not a few other isolated passages, they are not in my book.

Matthew: Having quickly come out from the sepulcher, with fear and great joy, they were running to tell His disciples.” You see how these women take the report of the angels, and run with all expedition to render obedience. And while they were going to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, Hail! And they having come, embraced His feet, and worshipped Him. Then Jesus says to them, Fear not; go, tell My brethren, that they may depart into Galilee, and there they shall see Me.” Luke: And returning from the sepulcher, they proclaimed these things to the eleven, and all the rest, And they were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women along with them, who continued to tell these things to the apostles. And their words appeared unto them like a dream, and they believed them not.” Though Jesus had three different times distinctly prophesied to them His crucifixion and resurrection, they had never understood it; but were all settled in the common conviction that the Christ would never die, but abide and reign forever. Luke says that these prophecies were withheld from them, so they understood them not. That was all right. It was absolutely necessary that these most salient facts of redeeming mercy should be prominent in the prophetical curriculum, which, along with miracles, constitutes the basis of all faith in the Christhood.

Then why withhold it from their understanding until after it was all over? Good reason! If the disciples had understood it, they would have fought, bled, and died in His defense. Thousands would have helped them, and a bloody civil war broken out at the time of His arrest. Through fear of the people, His enemies were often restrained from laying hands on Him, finally attacking Him at midnight, doing their best to kill Him before day; and despite the tardiness of Pilate and Herod, actually had Him nailed to the cross at the early hour of 9 A.M., Pilate finally signing His death-warrant as a sheer peace measure, as he saw the crowd gathering rapidly, and knew they were going to fight for Him, and thus involve the whole country in a terrible civil war. In the good providence of God, the prophecies revealing His crucifixion and resurrection were withheld from the understanding of His disciples till after the momentous tragedy of the world’s redemption was consummated. When they saw Him expire on the cross, they gave up all hope of His Messiahship, settling down in the conclusion that He was the greatest prophet the world ever saw and no more, so that when those women came and told them that He was absent from the sepulcher, and the angels had said He was risen, and that they had actually seen Him, their words seemed like a dream — the news was too good to be believed.


Verses 11-15

REPORT OF THE WATCH

Matthew 28:11-15. And they going, behold, certain ones of the watch, having come into the city, announced to the high priests all the things which have taken place. And they being assembled with the elders, and taking counsel, gave much money to the soldiers, saying, Tell it that His disciples, having come by night, stole Him away, we being asleep.

And if this may be heard by the governor, we will persuade him, and make you safe. And they, taking the money, did as they were taught. And this report was current among the Jews even unto this day.” Matthew wrote his Gospel there in Judea fifteen years after the crucifixion of the Savior. He wrote it for the Christian Jews. We see from his testimony that even at the time of his writing — fifteen years having rolled away since the wonderful events of Calvary, Olivet, and Pentecost — this report, was current among the Jews, the leading men of the fallen Church having made its circulation a specialty, doing their utmost, even to the last, to bury the very name of Jesus in the oblivion of shame and crime, and vindicate their own rejection of His Messiahship and cruel treatment of His person at every hazard.

You see how the high priests and ruling elders — i. e., the men in authority, standing at the head of the Church condescended to bribe the soldiers to propagate what they knew to be positively false. Doubtless they had to bribe Pilate also, thus pouring out the Lord’s money, which the people had contributed to the temple treasury, to hire poor heathens to tell lies for them. You may think there is nothing of this kind in the fallen Churches of the present day; but you are entirely mistaken. Many years ago, when I was a youth, prosecuting my education, vigorous efforts were repeatedly made by Church leaders to buy me with filthy lucre. I am so glad I did not sell. You all see the transparent sophistry in any attempt possible for infidelity to use the report of the soldiers to the detriment of Christianity; for it is not probable that any of them slept, as they well knew it was a penalty of death for a Roman soldier to sleep on guard. If some of them did give way to a napping spell, it is not at all probable that the whole number, at least sixteen, slept so soundly, all at the same time, that the stalwart, mechanical effort necessary to remove the stone would not have awakened them before they could get away with the body. Hence you see, like all the dogmata of infidelity, founded on falsehood, any argument deducible from the above report would break down of its own weight.


Verses 16-20

OUR LORD MEETS THE APOSTLES, AND MORE THAN FIVE HUNDRED BRETHREN, ON A MOUNTAIN IN GALILEE

“Then He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at once; many of whom remain till now, but some indeed have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:6.)

Matthew 28:16-20 : And the eleven disciples departed into Galilee, into the mountain where Jesus commanded them. And seeing Him, they worshipped Him; but some doubted.” No one knows what mountain that was. As He appeared to them on the coast doubtless it was one of those mountains around the Sea of Galilee, and more likely to be the, Mount of Beatitudes, back of Capernaum; His headquarters the first two and a half years of His ministry.

Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying, All authority is given unto Me in heaven and upon earth. Therefore, going, disciple all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost teaching them to observe all things, so many as I command you; and, 1o, I am with you all the days, unto the end of the age.” This is the Great Commission of our Lord to His apostles and their successors down to the end of the age. Let no one foolishly say, “The age of miracles is past,” since our Lord flatly contradicts all such fanaticism, assuring us that He is with us all the days, unto the end of the age. Where He is, miracle is the order of the day. The E. V., “Go...teach” is incorrect, the word being matheteusate, “make disciples of all the nations,” didaskontes, “teaching,”

occurring further on in the sentence. Hence, you see, baptizing and teaching are for the disciples, as you are not allowed to baptize a sinner, from the fact that God does not mark the devil’s hogs, but His own sheep; meanwhile you can not teach a dead man, and all sinners are dead. Then what can we do for the sinner? Our Lord plainly commands us to make disciples of them. How shall we do that? Preach, pray, sing, exhort, and work, as the Spirit leads you, till you get him truly and genuinely converted Then, being a disciple, he is ready for baptism and a place in the school of Christ — i. e., the Church — where he is to be taught the “way of the Lord more perfectly,” sanctified wholly, and thus become an assiduous student taught by the Holy Ghost and human instrumentality the deep things of God and the wonders of His kingdom.

TENTH AND ELEVENTH APPEARINGS OF OUR LORD

“Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles.” (1 Corinthians 15:7.)

“To whom He presented Himself alive, after He suffered, in many manifestations, being seen by them through forty days, and speaking the things concerning the kingdom of God. And assembling them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to await the promise of the Father, which you heard from Me that John indeed baptized with water; but you shall be baptized of the Holy Ghost not many days hence. Then indeed they, having come together, asked Him, saying, Lord, at this time do You restore the kingdom to Israel? And He spoke these things to them, It is not for you to know the times or seasons, which the Father put in His own authority. But you shall receive the dynamite of the Holy Ghost having come on you, and you shall be witnesses, both in Jerusalem, in all Judea, and in Samaria, unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:3-8.)

It is now the end of the forty days. In E. V., “power” occurs both in verses 7 and 8. In the original, the same word does not occur in these two verses as in the English, but exousia, “authority” or power, in verse 7, and dunamis, “dynamite” or power, in verse 8. Dunamis, “dynamite,” is the Pauline definition of “gospel” (Romans 1:16), and the word constantly used revelatory of the Pentecostal blessing. Power is the best English definition, but hardly strong enough. The rule of translation is, that when a word has been adopted in the English language, we no longer translate, but transfer. According to that rule, where dunamis occurs we would render it “dynamite,” as it has been adopted into the English language, with slight modification peculiar to Anglicization; whereas the E. V. translators could not so render it, from the simple fact that dynamite had not yet been discovered, and therefore dunamis had not been Anglicized. When men of science made this wonderful discovery of the greatest mechanical power the world had seen, finding no word in the English language strong enough, they went to the Greek, and took the most prominent word in the New Testament, being actually used to define gospel and the enduement of the Holy Ghost in His sanctifying power. You see, this heavenly dynamite, which came down at Pentecost and so empowered the disciples as to make them witness to all the world the wonders of full salvation, constitutes the very essence of Christian experience, and is here emphasized in the very valedictory of our crucified and risen Savior at the very hour of His ascension into glory, and is thus His own honored climax of the glorious redemptive scheme. Hence, we see, it becomes the burning message of every true gospel preacher, and the sine qua non of all doctrine and experience. Without this glorious, culminating truth, experienced in the heart and verified in the life, all profession is a failure.

You see here that when the apostles said to the Lord, Do You at this time restore the king, down to Israel?” He simply answered, It is not your privilege to know the periods or epochs, which the Father placed in His own authority.” The truth of the matter is, the Son Himself, as He says in His sermon on the Second Coming (Mark 8), did not at that time know the date when He should come in the glory of His kingdom. You know that if He had not been going to “come in His glory and restore the kingdom to Israel,” He would certainly there have corrected such a mistake on the part of His disciples. All those misapprehensions in reference to His crucifixion and resurrection He had already corrected, so that their minds were clear and cloudless on those great, salient facts of His Christhood. The statement of our Lord on this occasion warrants the conclusion that He led His disciples and ascended to heaven knowing that they were looking for Him “to restore the kingdom to Israel.” He never permitted mistakes and illusions to remain with His people. All the apostles lived and died looking for Jesus to return on the throne of His glory and “restore the kingdom to Israel.”

And you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” This is a part of our Lord’s valedictory, spoken at the time of His ascension, and certainly will bear exhaustive analysis. You see the “fire” is not mentioned, confirming the fact that, like water, wind, and oil, it is a concomitant symbol of the Holy Ghost, always to be expected, recognized, and realized simply as an accompaniment of the Holy Ghost, and never separate from Him. When you separate any of the symbols from Him, you run headlong into fanaticism.

 


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Bibliography Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Matthew 28:4". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/matthew-28.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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