Matthew 28

Matthew 28  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 10
VERSE 1 OF this chapter tells us that the two Marys who had watched His burial were back at the sepulcher immediately the Sabbath day had ended. They came “as it was the dusk of the next day after the sabbath” (New Trans.). The day according to Jewish reckoning ended at sunset, and their devotion was such that directly the Sabbath was over they were on the move and visited the grave. It is not easy to piece together the details given us by the four Evangelists to form a connected narrative, but it would appear that the two Marys made this special visit and then returned at daybreak with Salome and possibly others, bearing spices for embalming. Mark and Luke tell us about this, and we should judge that verse 5 of our chapter refers to this second occasion, so that what is recorded in verses 2-4, took place between the two visits. Be that as it may, it is clear that by sunrise on the first day of the week Christ was risen.
An earthquake signalized His death, and a great earthquake, though apparently a very local one, for it was connected with the descent of the angel of the Lord, heralded His resurrection. The authorities of earth had sealed the tomb but a vastly higher authority broke the seal and flung back the stone door. At his presence the guards trembled and were smitten into death-like unconsciousness. The sealed tomb was the challenge of daring men. God accepted their challenge, broke their power, and reduced their representatives to nothingness. The Lord Jesus had been raised by the power of God, and the tomb was opened that men might see that without a doubt He was not there. The angel not only rolled back the stone but sat upon it, placing himself as a seal upon it in its new position, that no one might roll it back until an ample number of witnesses had seen the empty tomb.
Matthew tells us of one angel sitting on the stone. Mark tells us of one sitting on the right side, but inside the tomb. Luke and John both speak of two angels. Yet they all show us that though the women feared in the presence of the angels they were not smitten as were the soldiers. They were seeking the crucified Jesus, so “Fear not ye,” was the word for them. His resurrection was announced and they were invited to see the spot where His body had lain, and where, as we gather from John’s account, the linen wrappings lay all in their place and undisturbed, but out of which the sacred body had gone. One had only to see the place where He lay to be convinced that the body had not been abstracted or stolen. A supernatural act had taken place; and they were to go as messengers to the disciples, telling them to meet Him in Galilee.
Though filled with the conflicting emotions of fear and joy, the women received the angel’s word with faith and consequently they set out in obedience. The obedience of faith was quickly rewarded by an appearance of the risen Lord Himself, and this brought them to His feet as worshippers, and sent them on their way as messengers of the Lord and not merely of the angel. On the occasion of the last supper the Lord had appointed Galilee as the meeting place, and He confirmed it to them.
The parenthetical paragraph, verses 11-15, furnishes us with a striking contrast. We pass from the bright scene of resurrection with joy, faith, worship and testimony, to the dense darkness of unbelief with hatred, plotting, bribery and corruption, resulting in a lie of so flagrant a kind that its falsity was carried on its face. If they were asleep how could they know what had transpired? Money and the love of it lay at the root of this particular evil. The soldiers were bribed, and we should suppose that the persuading of the governor would be achieved in the same way. Anything to stop the truth as to the resurrection coming out! They realized how it would wreck their cause while establishing His, and the devil, who moved them, realized it far more keenly than they did. They only gave thirty silver coins to Judas to encompass His death, but they gave large money to the soldiers, endeavoring to suppress the fact of His resurrection.
The Gospel closes with the disciples meeting their risen Lord in Galilee, and with the commission He gave them there. No mention is made of the various appearances in Jerusalem or the ascension from Bethany. While pointing forward to the establishment of the church, this Gospel has in the main traced for us the transition from the presentation of the kingdom as connected with the Messiah upon earth as foretold by the prophets, to the kingdom of heaven in its present form: that is, in a mysterious form while the King is hidden in the heavens. Jerusalem was the place where they were to receive the Spirit and be baptized into the body, the church, not many days hence: Galilee was the district where was found the great majority of the godly remnant of Israel who, receiving Him, entered the kingdom whilst the mass of the people missed it.
So the Lord resumed links in resurrection with that remnant, the eleven disciples being the most prominent members of it; and though we do not hear of His being caught up into heaven yet He commissions them as though He were speaking from heaven, for all power was His, in heaven as much as on earth. The time had not yet come to reveal fully the Christian enterprise of gathering out of the nations a people for His name: the terms here are more general. They were to go and make disciples and baptize them, and this is a commission which can be taken up by the believing remnant of Israel after the church is gone. As Israel were baptized to Moses their leader, so the disciple is to be baptized to the risen Christ as coming under His authority, and the baptism is to be in the name of God as He has been fully revealed. It is not plural but singular—not names but name—for though revealed in three Persons, the Godhead is one.
The closing word is, “I am with you all the days, until the completion of the age,” (ch. 28:20) so that in this closing word we have “all” no less than four times. Our exalted Lord wields all power in both spheres, so that nothing is beyond His reach. If anything adverse happens to His servants it must be by His permission. All nations are to be the scope of their service, and not in the midst of Israel only as heretofore. Those baptized from the nations are to be taught to observe all the Lord’s commands and instructions, for the servants are to be marked by obedience, and to bring those that they reach into obedience also. Then all the days to the finish they can count on the support and spiritual presence of their Master.
Such is the commission with which the Gospel ends. As we travel on into the Acts and pass through the Epistles we find coming to light developments which furnish us with the full gospel commission of today; yet we do not lose the light and benefit of what the Lord says here. We still go to all nations, baptizing in the Name. We still have to teach all the Lord’s word. All power is still His. His presence will be with us all the days till the end of the age, no matter what may betide.
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