The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Matthew 28

Mat 28:1

"Mat 28 commences as the sabbath concludes. The RSV states: 'Now after the sabbath, towards the dawn of the first day of the week.' Thus it is Saturday, 17th Abib. Jerusalem was in an uproar because of the events of the passover. The disciples were in a confusion, not understanding the circumstances of their Master's death. So two women went to the sepulchre to attend to the body of the Lord: v 1. Then came a startling experience. There is a 'great earthquake,' the second earthquake of the weekend. The first was at the time of death; this second is at the time of resurrection. The two earthquakes typify the two earthquakes yet to occur at the return of the Lord Jesus. The angels looked with delight on the work of redemption. Thus: (1) Earthquake and resurrection: vv 1-4. So the record reveals on the next day, Sunday, 18th Abib: (2) The women are told that Christ is risen: vv 5-8. (3) The first meeting with Christ: vv 9,10. (4) The watch enters the city: vv 11-15. (5) At Galilee: vv 16,17. (6) In Jerusalem: vv 18-20. What a thrilling record, and a powerful conclusion to the gospel of Matthew. The atoning work of Yahweh in His Son has been achieved, and we can benefit by identifying with a newness of life, after the example of our Master" (GEM).

As soon as the Sabbath restrictions were past, ie after sunset on Saturday -- the 3 women (close companions of Christ in life) prepare to give their last token of love to their Lord in his death. Early on Sunday morning, at first light in the east, they set out for the tomb.

THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK: Lit, "day one of the seven". The beginning of a new creation week! Cp Gen 1: a new creation, "day one"! God had said, "Let there be light", and now there was! Cp Col 1:15-18: Jesus the beginning of the new creation! To the disciples, this day (when they understood it later) would mark the beginning of their new lives. This new "Sun" of the morning was to drive away the dark shadows of lost hope, and create a new spirit within the disciples (Isa 9:1,2; 2Co 4:6).

Difficulties with reconciling all accounts. There are poss 2 separate visits by the women: (1) One on Saturday evening, Salome not present (Mat 28:1). (By Heb reckoning, Sunday would begin at sunset Saturday; cp usage of "dawn" in Luk 23:54.) (2) Another on Sunday morning, just at sunrise (Luk 24:1; John 20:1; Mar 16:1,2), Salome is present.

Mat 28:2

Possibly the angel rolled the stone some distance away, laid it flat, and sat upon it. It would now be impossible to replace without a lot of time and effort. He thus "sealed" it open (ct Mat 27:66)!

If one angel's descent caused a great earthquake, what will the earthquake be like when all the angels return? (Mat 25:31). Cp Psa 104:4.

A VIOLENT EARTHQUAKE: The earth, which trembled with horror at the death of Christ, now leaps for joy at his resurrection.

ROLLED BACK THE STONE: KJV adds "from the door", but other mss omit this. Cp Luk 24:2: it was rolled some distance "from the tomb", and laid flat. In itself, this could have looked like a miracle, for it was a very large stone! Cp also John 20:1.

AND SAT ON IT: Probably after laying it flat. This would preclude its being easily replaced, even after the angel departed (Dobson 82). This would also account for the ready acceptance of the soldiers' story by the authorities (Dobson 88).

Was ever a mountain so "large" as the great stone which sealed Christ's tomb? Truly, as miracles go, no miracle has been or could be so great as the one that caused this "very large" stone to be removed, and thus proclaimed Christ's tomb to be open... forevermore.

Jesus had told his followers, "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him' " (Mar 11:23). Of course, we have trouble with moving literal mountains, even as we have trouble explaining this passage.

But seen from a spiritual perspective, isn't the greatest "mountain" of difficulty -- which no man can move -- death and the grave? Engineers with bulldozers and explosives can move even literal mountains. But who among them can move the mountainous "stone" that covers the grave? Not a one!

And even the disciples of Jesus could not move such a stone from the mouth of his sepulcher... not at that time; they were weeping in sorrow, and hiding in fear. It was the faith of Jesus alone -- though he was dead and unconscious in the tomb -- that moved the hand of the angels of God, and rolled back the stone. It may be said that the greatest miracle that Jesus ever performed was this: the blood of this wholly righteous man cried out from the depths of the earth, and the Father heard!

Do WE, today, have faith to move mountains? The answer, I believe, is really another question: 'Do WE have faith that the greatest "mountain" has already been moved?' "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours" (Mar 11:24). Our faith may be -- not a prospective -- but a retrospective faith: we look backward, and ask, 'Do I really believe that the "mountain" has been moved?' If we truly believe that, then -- it is absolutely sure and certain -- ALL THINGS are possible for us!

Mat 28:4

THE GUARDS WERE SO AFRAID OF HIM THAT THEY SHOOK AND BECAME LIKE DEAD MEN: The appearance of the angel was more frightening than the great earthquake!

The soldiers, assigned to guard the dead, became as dead men themselves. Paralyzed with terror, they cowered on the ground, and then crept away at their first chance.

How many Roman soldiers were at the tomb? No definite number is given, but in the other instance where a Roman guard is described, it consists of 16 soldiers (Acts 12:4). One writer has this to say: "A Roman guard was usually made up of 16 members of the Roman legion -- the finest fighting force of its day... The Roman guard normally placed four men immediately in front of what they were to protect. The other 12 slept in watches in a semi-circle in front of these, with their heads pointing inward. To steal what they were protecting, thieves would first have had to walk over those asleep. By the time they got there, the thieves would have been surrounded by soldiers. Every four hours, another four men were awakened to begin their watch" -- and thus the soldiers slept and watched alternately throughout the day and night.

Mat 28:6

Possibly the risen Christ had passed through the sealed stone; the barrier would have made no difference to him. The stone is removed so that all the world might know what had already happened!

Mat 28:8

AFRAID YET FILLED WITH JOY: A telling phrase: fear mingled with joy. An answer to the old question: should we be motivated by fear or by love? Both!

Mat 28:9

KJV has "And as they went to tell his disciples..." -- which is omitted in many other versions.

GREETINGS: Gr "chairo": to be cheerful, to rejoice.

THEY CAME TO HIM, CLASPED HIS FEET: At Jesus' feet, the place of: rest (Luk 8:35); pardon (Luk 7:38); healing (Luk 17:16); teaching (Luk 10:39); comfort (Joh 11:32); intercession (Mar 7:25); and worship (Mat 28:9).

WORSHIPED HIM: See Lesson, Worship of Christ?

Mat 28:10

TELL MY BROTHERS: "Fellowship is a wonderful means of communication, partnership and sharing with the members of a family whose Head is God, the Father, and whose Son is the Lord Jesus. Several times during his ministry he identified his followers as his brethren, and after his resurrection he said to the women who were on their way to tell the disciples of the empty tomb: 'Go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.' By reason of this fact that we belong to a divine family we ought to be the more careful what we say and do in relation to our brethren (or sisters) who should come first in our responsibilities. And if what we have to say in writing an essay for a Bible class, or in speaking from a platform is likely to offend, then we ought not to write or say it, and if our message is one of a critical, yet exhortative nature, then it ought to come from the Scripture and not from personal feelings" (TNL 163,164).

GALILEE: They would meet Jesus, not in Judaistic Jerusalem, but in Galilee of the GENTILES!

Mat 28:11

Vv 11-15: The guards, awed and bewildered, were reporting their stories in the palace of the High Priest. Thus these rulers, who had repeatedly come to Jesus demanding a sign from heaven, were now given a sign from "hell" (the grave) also, which they could not deny!

Although the "chief priests" begin to devise a plan to "explain" all this, we are not told that the other priests even doubted the miracles reported. Did many of them begin to believe (Acts 6:7)?

Mat 28:12

Vv 12-14: "It is very difficult to believe that the soldiers of Pilate would admit falling asleep (v 13): that would be tantamount to suicide. But the temple police could more easily be bribed, even though it took 'a large sum of money' (v 12), and could more easily be protected from Pilate's anger. The plan devised (cp Mat 12:14; 27:1) by the chief priests and elders (v 12; cp Mat 21:23) proves to Matthew that their pious promises to believe if Jesus would only come down from the cross (Mat 27:42) were empty. Once again the instinctive concern of the Jewish leaders relates to expedience and the people's reaction, not to the truth. The story they concoct shows how desperate they are for an explanation, for if the guards were asleep, they could not know of the alleged theft; and if one of them awoke, why was not an alarm sounded and the disciples arrested? Molesting graves was a serious offense in the ancient world, subject at times to the death penalty. The famous 'Nazareth Inscription,' recording an ordinance of Caesar to this effect, confirms this, though the relation of this inscription to Jesus' death and burial is uncertain [see "Nazareth Decree": FE Mitchell, Tes 48:318,319]... It is equally improbable that the timid and fearful disciples could have mustered up the courage to open Jesus' tomb and run the risk of a capital indictment, or that the Jewish authorities would have failed to prosecute the disciples if they had possessed a scrap of evidence pointing to the disciples' guilt. Nor was the 'large sum of money' an adequate measure of how far the Jewish leaders would go, for to 'satisfy' the governor may well have involved further bribery" (EBC).

Mat 28:13

Thus these leaders and the nation deceived themselves with lies. They closed their eyes to the truth, and their ears became dull of hearing. The story became true of them, even if untrue of the Roman soldiers: they lost their Messiah through being fast asleep!

Mat 28:14

IF THIS REPORT GETS TO THE GOVERNOR: Why would the Roman governor be interested at all, unless these were Roman soldiers (deputed to the High Priest for the time being, ie prob for the feast)?

WE WILL SATISFY HIM: By another sizable bribe, of course!

Mat 28:16

Vv 16,17: Instances of Jesus withdrawing into a mountain, apart -- sometimes for privacy and prayer, and sometimes to instruct his followers: Mat 5:1; 8:1; 14:23; 15:29; 17:1; 24:3; 28:16; Mark 3:13; 6:46; 9:2; 13:3; Luke 6:12; 9:28; 22:39; John 6:3,15; 8:1.

Were there about 500 disciples here (1Co 15:6)?

Mat 28:17

THEY WORSHIPED HIM: See Lesson, Worship of Christ?

Mat 28:18

CAME: Or "came near". When they saw only at a distance (v 17), some doubted; but when Jesus came near to them, they believed!

ALL AUTHORITY... GIVEN: Why? Phi 2:5-11.

Mat 28:19

THEREFORE: Because Jesus has all authority everywhere (v 18), THEREFORE go and preach everywhere (v 19)! 'I am king of the whole world; go and tell them!' (Cp idea, Dan 7:14).

OF ALL NATIONS: In ct to earlier, limited commission (Mat 10:5,6).

BAPTIZING THEM IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER AND OF THE SON AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT: Baptism is essential to salvation: Mar 16:15,16.
Commanded by Jesus: Joh 3:3-5. Salvation based on obedience to commandments of Christ: Mat 7:21; Joh 15:13,14. Obeyed by those who believed: ie, Jews on day of Pentecost: Acts 2:37,38.

Cp Acts 2:38; 4:12. Now, a baptism into the death of Christ, and thus into the fulness of the "Name": Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Not 3 names, but one, in all its manifestations. Only in death and resurrection could the Son truly manifest the Father and show forth the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus, and finally, God's name (authority: v 18) IS Christ's name (authority)!

IN THE NAME: Should be "into" the Name!

Mat 28:20

I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS: Encouragement, Christ's perpetual presence with believers (cp Mat 18:20; Act 18:9,10).

More generally, God's presence with His people, in: (1) Suffering: Joseph (Gen 39:21), the 3 captives (Dan 3:25), (2) Service: David (1Sa 18:12-14), Paul (2Ti 4:17), and (3) Testimony: Moses (Exo 3:12,13), Jeremiah (Jer 1:7,8).

"Unto the End":
"I am with you unto the end": Mat 28:20.
''He loved them unto the end": John 13:1.
"Who shall confirm you unto the end": 1Co 1:8.
"The rejoicing of hope firm unto the end": Heb 3:6.
"Beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end": Heb 3:14.
"Full assurance of hope unto the end": Heb 6:11.
"Keepeth my works unto the end": Rev 2:26.

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