Jesus rises from the dead, and appears to the holy women. (Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-10.) It is to be noted that there are great and important variations in the four (or, with St. Paul's, 1 Corinthians 15:1-58., the five) accounts of the events of the Resurrection, which have given welcome occasion to the sceptic to cast doubts upon the whole transaction. The divergences in the narratives are plainly to be ascribed to the facts that the writers did not depend upon one another, nor draw their accounts from one source; that each gives only an incomplete history, introducing those details with which he was familiar, or which it suited his plan to recount. On all main points the agreement is perfect, and every difference could be easily reconciled, if we knew the whole of the circumstances and the exact sequence of each word and act during this momentous period. Attempts at harmonizing the various accounts have been made with more or less success by writers from St. Augustine to the present time; but as they vary in many particulars, and have no authoritative basis, dependence cannot be placed upon them. The narrative in St. Matthew is brief and imperfect, and we shall chiefly confine our remarks to the exposition of the actual text before us, without importing much matter from the other evangelists.
In the end of the sabbath; ὀψετων: late on the sabbath; Vulgate, vespere sabbati. The expression is obscure. In the parallel passage of St. Mark we read, "When the sabbath was past." We must take it that St. Matthew is thinking of the sabbath as extending, not from evening to evening, but till the following morning. "So that it is not the accurate Jewish division of time, according to which the sabbath ended at six on Saturday evening, but the ordinary civil idea of a day, which extended from sunrise to sunrise (or at least adds the night to the preceding day)" (Lange). We have, then, now arrived at the commencement of the first Christian Easter Day. As it began to dawn toward the first day of the week; εἰς μι ìαν σαββα ìτων: in prima sabbati (Vulgate); literally, unto one day of sabbath; i.e. one day after the sabbath, the Jews reckoning their days in sequence from the sabbath, and Christians at first carrying on the same practice, as we see in Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2. Later Christians named the days of the week in sequence from the Sunday, which was the first day, Monday being the second day, feria secunda, and so on. Came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (see on Matthew 27:61) to see the sepulchre. Love cannot abandon its object, living or dead. There were probably other women with these two, or perhaps there were two separate bands of women who in this early morning visited the sepulchre. Among these Mary Magdalene stands prominently forward, first in love and first in care. She and the rest evidently knew nothing of the sealing of the stone or the posting of the guards. St. Matthew's expression, "to see ( θεωρῆσαι, "to gaze upon," "contemplate") the sepulchre," conveys only a partial notice of the object of their visit. They came not only to take a view of the tomb, but also to embalm the Lord's body, for which necessary preparations had been made, the approach of the sabbath on the evening of the Crucifixion having cut short the arrangements. We know from St. Mark that they were perplexed about the difficulty of removing the stone, and St. Matthew may be referring to a preliminary inspection made in regard of this impediment. Our Gospel omits mention of the intention of embalming the corpse, as the Resurrection rendered it impracticable; and, indeed, the Lord's body had already been anointed for his burial by Mary of Bethany.
And, behold. A wonderful sight met their eyes. The following event took place before their arrival; they saw only the result. No mortal eye beheld, and no pen has recorded, the actual issuing of the Lord from the closed tomb. There was a great earthquake. St. Matthew does not attempt to give the exact sequence of events. Probably the shock, caused by the sudden advent and action of the angel, befell as the women were approaching the cemetery. Christ had risen before this occurrence, nothing being a barrier to his spiritual body. For the angel of the Lord … from the door. The narrator accounts for the phenomenon just mentioned. The words, "from the door," are omitted by the best manuscripts, the Vulgate, and modern editors, and seem to be a marginal interpolation. The angel rolled away the stone which Joseph had rolled up (Matthew 27:60), not in order to afford passage to the body of the Lord, who had already raised himself, but to give the women and others entrance to the empty tomb, and to strike terror into the heart of the soldiers. In the case of Lazarus the stone had to be removed to give exit to the resuscitated body—a natural body (John 11:39, John 11:41); in the case of Jesus such removal was not necessary, as his was a spiritual body, possessed of supernatural powers and qualities (John 20:19). And sat upon it. In triumph, and to show that it was not to be replaced; death had done its work, and now was vanquished. Angels' appearances had always accompanied the great events in the history of the chosen people; angels had shown themselves at Christ's birth, at his temptation, at his agony; now they guard his tomb, proving that he was well pleasing unto the Lord, and was raised from the grave by him. The narration of this awful incident was probably given by the soldiers, who alone witnessed it.
His countenance ( ἰδε ìα, appearance) was like lightning. The angel's aspect was as bright and startling as the flash of lightning (comp. Ezekiel 1:14; Daniel 10:6). His raiment white as snow. Pure and glistening, like the effect of the Transfiguration on the Lord (Matthew 18:2; comp. Acts 1:10; Revelation 10:1).
And for fear of him; but from the fear of him. From the fear inspired by this awful angel. It would seem, from this expression, that the soldiers were sensible, not only of the earthquake and the movement of the stone, but also of the presence of the heavenly messenger, in this respect differing from the companions of Daniel and St. Paul, who were only partially conscious of the visions beheld by the two saints (see Daniel 10:7; Acts 22:9). Did shake. The verb is cognate with the noun "earthquake;" they were shaken, convulsed with terror. If these were some of the company that had watched the Crucifixion, they were already possessed of some feeling respecting the unearthly nature of the Occupant of the tomb which they were guarding, and had a vague expectation of something that might happen. At any rate, they must have heard the late events discussed by their comrades, and were not without apprehension of a catastrophe. Became as dead men. They fell to the ground in deathlike faintness, and, when they recovered from the trance, fled in terror from the tomb into the city (verse 11).
The angel answered and said. The women arrived probably while the guards were lying unconscious on the ground. They saw them, and they saw the angel rotting on the stone, or, according to St. Mark, "a young man sitting on the right side, arrayed in a white robe;" St. Luke says that "two men stood by them in dazzling apparel," i.e. first one had shown himself, and then another. Doubtless innumerable angels were thronging around, and one or more became visible to certain persons as they were capable of receiving spiritual impressions, or as these spirits were directed to show themselves. The women spake not, were too affrighted to ask questions; hut their amazed look, their blank surprise, were themselves interrogative, and the angel replied to their inward emotion. Fear not ye ( ὑμεῖς, emphatic). The soldiers have cause to fear; they are the enemies of the Lord; but ye are his friends, and need feel no alarm. Ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. Ye are seeking him, to do honour to his body; I know your pious intention, but it is useless. The angel shrinks not from the mention of Christ's shameful death, which is now his glory, "the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:23, 1 Corinthians 1:24). "It was the good pleasure of the Father through him to reconcile all things unto himself, having made peace through the blood of his cross … whether things upon the earth, or things in the heavens" (Colossians 1:19, Colossians 1:20). The crucifixion "was not simply a temporary incident in the life of Christ. It is an eternal principle in his kingdom" (Milligan).
He is not here. He is not in this tomb; his bodily presence is removed from this his whilom resting place. St. Matthew's account is greatly condensed, and omits many details which harmonists try to fit into our text. The attempt is not to be commended, for it really involves greater confusion, and, after all, is forced and only conjectural. For he is risen, as he said. If they had believed Christ's often-repeated announcement, they would not have come seeking the living among the dead. (For Christ's predictions concerning his resurrection, see Matthew 12:40; Matthew 16:21; Matthew 17:23; Matthew 20:19.) On this simple, but pregnant sentence, "He is risen," depends the phenomenon of Christianity, in its origin, existence, continuance, extension, and moral power. "Death began with woman; and to women the first announcement is made of resurrection" (Hilary, quoted by Wordsworth, in loc.). Come, see the place where the Lord lay. The angel invites them to satisfy themselves that Christ's body was no longer in its resting place. That Jesus was designated as "the Lord," ὁ κυ ìριος, by the disciples is obvious (see John 20:18; John 21:7, etc.), but it is doubtful whether the words are genuine here, though they are found in many good manuscripts and in the Vulgate. They are omitted by א, B, 33, etc., and by Tischendorf and Westcott and Hort in their editions. Regarding them as genuine, Bengel calls them "gloriosa appellatio," which indeed it is, for it is equivalent to "Jehovah." Harmonists suppose that the angel was at first not seen by the women; that Mary Magdalene, observing the stone removed, at once hurried to the city to tell Peter and John; that, the rest of the women remaining, the angel made himself visible to them and bade them enter the sepulchre; and that, doing so, they beheld another angel sitting on the right side of the recess. Thus, it is conjectured, the accounts in Mark and John may be harmonized with that in our text. (See also Westcott on John 20:1-31 ., where is given a provisional arrangement of the facts of the first Easter Day.)
Go quickly, and tell his disciples. St. Mark significantly adds, "and Peter." The disciples were to believe without seeing. They had deserted Christ in his hour of need, had not stood by the cross, nor aided in his burial; so they were not to be honoured with the vision of angels or the first sight of the risen Lord. This was reserved for the faithful women, who thus received their mission to carry a message to the messengers—a foretaste of the ministry which they should perform in the Church of Christ. He goeth before you ( προα ìγει ὑμᾶς) into Galilee. The verb is noticeable. It is that used by our Lord himself on his way to the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:32), and it implies the act of a shepherd at the head of his flock, leading them to new pastures (comp. John 10:4). The good Shepherd had been smitten, and the sheep scattered; now under his guidance they were to be reunited. The apostolic band had been temporarily dissolved and disintegrated; the college was again to be reformed, and was to receive its renewed commission in seclusion and peace, that it might return to Jerusalem with unimpaired strength to commence its arduous labours. The place of meeting is in Galilee, where most of his mighty works were done, and where it was safer for the disciples to assemble than at Jerusalem. The majority of them came from this region, and thither they returned some ten days (John 20:26; John 21:1-4) after the Resurrection, to resume their ordinary occupations (verse 16). Thus they would realize that it was the same Jesus who met them there with whom, these three past years, they had held familiar intercourse. It was ordained, for some reason not expressly stated, that from Galilee should proceed Christ's spiritual kingdom which he came to establish—that "word which," as Peter said (Acts 10:37), "was published throughout all Judaea, beginning from Galilee." We read of only two appearances of Christ in Galilee—once at the lake, mentioned in the last chapter of St. John, and again in verse 17 of this chapter of St. Matthew. It is, however, possible that the appearance named by St. Paul (1 Corinthians 15:6), when he was seen by more than five hundred brethren at one time, may have occurred in Galilee. If this is the ease, it would be remarkable as the only public revelation of Christ after his resurrection, and the comparative seclusion of the northern district may have been one reason for its selection as the scene for this great demonstration. There was doubtless some moral fitness in the humble and despised Galilee being made the starting point of his Church who was despised and rejected of men whom it was contemptuously said, "Doth the Christ come out of Galilee?" (John 7:41). "As in all things God sets at naught the pride of mankind, and chooses persons, instruments, and places mean in the eves of the world, teaching us that in humbler and more retired abodes, secret from the world, we are to seek for the strength of God, who hideth himself" (I. Williams). Lo, I have told you. The angel thus solemnly confirms what he had just said. The Authorized Vulgate gives, Ecce, praedixi vobis, which is warranted by no existing Greek manuscripts, the uniform reading of the original being εἶπον or εἶμα
They departed ( ἐξελθοῦσαι, better ἀπελθοῦσαι) quickly from the sepulchre. At the angel's invitation (Matthew 28:6), they, or some of them, had entered into the inner chamber of the tomb (Luke 24:3), and now came hurrying out. With fear and great joy. With a mixture of emotions—fear at the sight of the heavenly visitant, the supernatural presence, and joy at the assurance that their beloved Master had risen again, having burst the bonds of death. Did run. They did as they were bidden with all possible speed, acting as heralds of good tidings to the disconsolate disciples.
As they went to tell his disciples. This clause is omitted by the best manuscripts, and the Vulgate and other versions, and is rejected by modern editors. It is not quite in St. Matthew's style, and seems to be rightly regarded as a gloss There is. one advantage in its omission, in that the actual moment of this appearance of our Lord is left undecided, and we are at liberty to harmonize it, if so minded, with other details. Now the women, according to our history, receive the reward of their faith and love. Behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail! χαι ìρετε: literally, Rejoice ye! This is not the usual Eastern salutation, "Peace be unto you!" but one that came with peculiar significance on their lately sorrow-stricken hearts. So he had said to his apostles, "Your sorrow shall be turned into joy" (John 16:20), and now he made good his word. This is the only one of Christ's appearances in Jerusalem or its neighbourhood. that St. Matthew relates. They came and held him by the feet (took hold of his feet). As soon as they saw him, they went to him with glad surprise, and yet with such awe, that they could only fall down before him and tenderly clasp his feet. He had appeared before this to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9), but had not permitted her to touch him because he had not yet ascended to the Father (John 20:17), implying thereby either that she would have other opportunities of holding converse with him, as he was not going to leave the earth immediately, and she must not detain him now; or, more probably, that the spiritual body demanded, not the touch of earthly affection, but the attitude of awe and reverence, and that all future contact would be supernatural and spiritual, realizing his presence after a heavenly and supersensuous manner by faith. But these women clung to Christ with something higher than natural, earthly affection, acknowledging his superhumanity, and he allowed them, like Thomas, to assure themselves of his corporeity by touch as well as sight. Worshipped him. They remained at his feet in profound adoration.
Be not afraid. So he spake on other occasions when his acts had caused terror and amazement (comp. Matthew 14:27; Matthew 17:7). With all their joy and love, the women could not help feeling fear at his sudden appearance and at the nearness of this unearthly yet familiar form. Go, tell my brethren. He here for the first time calls his disciples his brethren, intending thereby to assure them of his love and good will in spite of their cowardly desertion, and to signify that he was in very truth the Man Christ Jesus, their Lord and their Master, whom they had known so long and so well. He had called them friends before his Passion (John 15:14, John 15:15); now he gives them a tenderer title; he is not ashamed to call them brethren (Hebrews 2:11). That they go into Galilee. The message is the same as that given by the angel (Matthew 28:7). It was meant to comfort them in the absence of daily intercourse with him. But they were not to set out immediately; some other incidents were first to befall them. And there shall they see me. Galilee was to be the scene of the most important revelation, though the Lord vouchsafed to individuals many proofs of his risen life before the promised great announcement. Why St. Matthew mentions none of these we may form conjectures, but we cannot determine (see on verse 16).
The Roman soldiers bribed by the Jewish rulers to give a false account of the Resurrection. (Peculiar to St. Matthew.)
When (while) they were going. Into the city, in order to find the disciples and to deliver to them their Lord's message. This account takes up the narrative of Matthew 27:63-66 and Matthew 27:4 of this chapter. As soon as they recovered from their swoon and had assured themselves that the tomb was empty, the soldiers hurried in affright to the Jewish rulers, under whose orders they had temporarily been placed, and told them all the things that were done. They could speak of the earthquake, of the appearing of the angel, of the removal of the stone, of the absence of the body which they were appointed to watch. Their task was done; the corpse was gone, they knew not how taken; they could not be expected to contend with supernatural visitants, or to guard against supernatural occurrences. St. Matthew seems to have introduced this incident in order to account for the prevalence of the lying rumour which he proceeds to mention, and which had been widely disseminated among his countrymen.
When they (i.e. the chief priests) were assembled with the elders. On hearing the report of the soldiers, the Sanhedrists held a hurried and informal meeting, to consult about this alarming matter. It would be fatal to their policy to let the real truth get wind. Such testimony from unprejudiced heathens would infallibly convince the people of the validity of Christ's claims, and produce the very effect which their unusual precautions had been intended to obviate. One course alone remained, and that was to prepare a circumstantial lie concerning one part of the story, and to deny or ignore utterly the supernatural details. The plainest evidence will not persuade against wilful blindness. These rulers acted according to Christ's sad foreboding on another occasion, "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead" (Luke 16:31). They gave large money (money enough) unto the soldiers. They bribed the soldiers with a sum of money sufficient to satisfy their cupidity. This they did personally, or more probably through some trusty agent. They never doubted the facts to which the guards bore witness; they never attempted to discredit their story by suggestion of error or superstitious invention. They accepted the tale, and took most dishonourable means to make it innocuous. They had bought the aid of the traitor Judas; they now buy the silence of these soldiers. It. is suggested by St. Jerome that in both cases they made use of the temple funds, thus employing against the cause of God that which was devoted to his service.
Say ye, etc. They put the lie into the soldiers' mouth, directing them to answer inquiries in this way. The last resource of an infatuated obstinacy! If they were asleep, how could they know that the disciples stole the body? St. Chrysostom comments well on the infamous transaction, "How did they steal him? O most foolish of all men! For because of the clearness and conspicuousness of the truth, they are not even able to make up a falsehood. For indeed, what they said was highly incredible, and the falsehood had not even speciousness. For how, I ask, did the disciples steal him, men poor and unlearned, and not venturing so much as to show themselves? What? was not a seal put upon it? What? were there not many watchmen and soldiers and Jews stationed round it? What? did not those men suspect this very thing, and take thought, and break their rest, and are in anxiety about it? And wherefore, moreover, did they steal it? That they might feign the doctrine of the resurrection? And how should it enter their minds to feign such a thing—men who were well content to be hidden and to live? And how could they remove the stone that was made sure? How could they have escaped the observation of so many? Nay, though they had despised death, they would not have attempted without purpose and fruitlessly to venture in defiance of so many who were on the watch. And that moreover they were timorous, what they had done before showed clearly: at least, when they saw him seized, all rushed away from him. If, then, at that time they did not dare so much as to stand their ground when they saw him alive, how when he was dead could they but have feared such a number of soldiers?" ('Hem.,' 90.).
And if this come to the governor's ears; if this be heard before the governor; i.e. if the matter be brought officially before the procurator. For a Roman soldier to sleep on his post was to incur the penalty of death. Pilate would not be likely to hear of what had taken place, as vulgar rumours were not encouraged by his stern and unsympathizing attitude towards the Jewish people, but it was just possible that some officious person might bring the report before him, and ask him to take measures to ascertain the truth, and, if necessary, to punish the delinquents. We ( ἡμεῖς, emphatic) will persuade him. Such persuasion usually took the form of bribery, Roman officials being notoriously venal (comp. Acts 24:26); but perhaps the rulers intended to make him believe that the story was not true, but merely a ruse to keep the populace quiet. The soldiers must have fully believed in the Sanhedrists' assertion, or they would never have imperilled their lives by promulgating such a condemnatory tale. Secure you; rid you of care. They promise the guard indemnity and freedom from all penal consequences. Pilate, however, later learned the great fact of Christ's resurrection, and though, as far as we know, he took no steps towards punishing the guard (being probably convinced of its supernatural occurrence), yet, according to a fragment of Hegesippus, and Eusebius, 'Chronic.,' Matthew 2:2, he sent an account of the matter to Tiberius, who, in consequence, endeavoured to make the senate pass a decree enrolling Jesus in the list of Roman gods. This fact is attested by Tertullian ('Apolog.,' 5.).
This saying; viz. the theft of the body by the disciples. Is commonly reported (was spread abroad) among the Jews until this day; i.e. and continues to be reported until this day. This was true when St. Matthew wrote, and it is true at the present time, though thoughtful Jews of late years have adopted the idea that the apostles, in their excited state, were deceived by visions of Christ which they took for substantial realities (see on Matthew 27:64). In the passage of Justin Martyr we are told that the Jews sent emissaries in all directions to spread this false report. The evangelist shows the origin of this most improbable tale, and virtually challenges any other explanation of the miracle than the authentic one.
Our Lord appears to the disciples in Galilee, and gives them a commission to teach and baptize.
Then the eleven disciples. There is no note of time in the original, which gives merely, But the eleven, etc. The meeting here narrated took place on some day after the first Easter week. The number "eleven" shows the loss of one of the sacred college, whose complement was not filled up till just before Pentecost (Acts 1:15-26). Went away into Galilee. St. Matthew takes pains to show the exact fulfilment of Christ's very special injunction and promise concerning Galilee (see verses 7, 10, and notes there, and Matthew 26:32). The evangelist's object being to set forth Christ in his character as King and Lawgiver, he puts aside all other incidents in order to give prominence to this appearance, where Jesus announces his supreme authority (verse 18), gives the commission to his apostles, and promises his perpetual presence (verses 19, 20). Into a mountain ( το Ì ὀ ìρος, the mountain), where ( οὗ instead of οἷ) Jesus had appointed them. We do not know the locality intended, though it must have been some spot familiar to the disciples, and was probably plainly designated at the time when Christ appointed the meeting. Some have fixed on Tabor as the scene of this revelation, others on the Mount of Beatitudes; but where nothing is stated it is best to lay aside conjecture and accept the designed indefiniteness. Many commentators have determined that this appearance on the Galilaean mountain was that mentioned by St. Paul (1 Corinthians 15:6), as manifested to five hundred brethren at once. This is a mere conjecture, probable, but not certain. If it was the case, we must consider that St. Matthew singles out the eleven apostles as the most eminent among the company, and those to whom the Lord specially addressed the commission which he mentions. Of the five hundred brethren, St. Paul, writing some twenty years or more after this time, testifies that the greater number were still alive, only some having "fallen asleep." There never was, indeed, any historical fact the authenticity of which was more remarkably and irrefragably certified than the resurrection of Christ.
They worshipped him. Evidently here they, or the majority of those present (for it is plain that others beside the apostles were there), adored him as God and Lord. This is the first time that this action of supreme worship is mentioned in connection with the disciples, though the women had offered the same homage to him (Matthew 28:9). But some doubted ( οἱδε Ì—without οἱμε Ìν— ἐδι ìστασαν). (For the verb, comp. Matthew 14:31.) The doubters could not have been any of the eleven, for they had seen the Lord more than once at Jerusalem, and had had indubitable proofs that he had risen from the dead, and was no mere spirit or spiritual appearance, but possessed of his former body, with new powers, faculties, and laws. Those who for the moment doubted did not hesitate to acknowledge his resurrection, but his identity. They were, perhaps, at a distance. Christ may have appeared surrounded with heavenly glory; at any rate, in a shape, or vesture, or with an aspect with which they were not familiar; hence in this majestic form, they failed to recognize the "despised and rejected of men," the lowly Jesus whom they had known (cf. John 21:4).
Jesus came. Some medieval exegetes have deemed that this verse refers to the time of the ascension; but there is no valid reason for dissociating this portion from the rest of the account. If we do this, we lose the great reason for the oft-enjoined meeting on the Galilaean mountain, which seems to have been expressly and with much care arranged to notify at large the fact of Christ's Resurrection and of his supreme authority, and to convey the Lord's commission to the apostles in the presence of many witnesses. We may suppose that Jesus, who had been standing apart, now drew near to the company, so that all, especially the doubting, might see him closely and hear his familiar voice. Spake unto them ( ἐλαλησεν αὐτοῖς, talked unto them). Doubtless he said much more than is here recorded, resolving doubts, confirming faith, infusing comfort. "Thus it is even now; we worship him, and then he draws near, and, by his nearer approaches and secret manifestation of himself to our hearts, we are confirmed in the faith, and see in him God and man" (I. Williams). All power ( ἐξιυσι ìα) is given ( ἐδο ìθη, was given) unto me in heaven and in earth. Jesus here asserts that he, as Son of man, has received from the Father supreme authority in heaven and earth, over the whole kingdom of God in its fullest extent. This is net given to him as Son o! God; for, as God, naught can be added to him or taken from him; it is a power which he has merited by his incarnation, death, and Passion (Philippians 2:8-10), which was foretold in the Old Testament, by psalmist (Psalms 2:8; Psalms 8:5-8) and prophet (Daniel 7:13, Daniel 7:14), and with which he was indued on the day that he rose victorious from the grave. So the verb "was given" is in the past tense, because it refers to the dotation arranged in God's eternal purpose, and to the actual investiture at the Resurrection. The power is exercised in his mediatorial kingdom, and will continue to be exercised till he hath put all enemies under his feet, and destroyed death itself (1 Corinthians 15:24-27); but his absolute kingdom is everlasting; as God and Man he reigns forever and ever. This mediatorial authority extends not only over men, so that he governs and protects the Church, disposes bureau events, controls hearts and opinions; but the forces of heaven also are at his command, the Holy Spirit is bestowed by him, the angels are in his employ as ministering to the members of his body.
Go ye therefore ( οὖν). The illative particle is perhaps spurious, but it is implied by what has preceded. It is because Jesus has plenary authority, and can delegate power to whom he will, that he confers the following commission. He is addressing the eleven apostles, of whom alone St. Matthew makes mention (verse 16); but as they personally could not execute the grand commission in all its extent and duration, he lays his commands upon their representatives and successors in all ages. They were to go forth, and carry the gospel throughout the world. Doubtless herein is implied the duty of all Christians to be in some sense missionaries, to use their utmost efforts to spread abroad the knowledge of Christ, and to make men obedient to his Law. The propagation of the gospel is a work for all in their several spheres. Teach; docete (Vulgate). These are unfortunate renderings of the verb μαθητευ ìσατε, which means, "make disciples." Teaching is expressed in verse 20, as one of the elements or components of full discipleship. The imperative aorist μαθητευ ìσατε is, as it were, decomposed by the two following present participles, "baptizing" and "teaching." In the case of infants the process is exactly what is here represented; they are admitted into the Christian society by baptism, and then instructed in faith and duty. Adults have to be instructed before baptism; but they form a small minority in most Christian communities, where, generally, infant baptism is the rule, and would be regarded rather as exceptions. Teaching alone is not stated by the Lord to be the only thing necessary to convert an unbeliever into a Christian; this is effected by the grace of God applied as Christ proceeds to explain. All nations ( πα ìντα τα Ì ἐ ìθνη all the nations). The apostles were no longer to go only to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 10:6); they were to Christianize all the nations of the world, Jew and Gentile alike. The gospel is adapted to all the varying minds and habits of men, barbarous and civilized, near and remote, ignorant or cultivated; and it is the duty and privilege of Christ's ministers to make it known and acceptable in all quarters of the globe. Baptizing them; i.e. individuals of all the nations. The present participle denotes the mode of initiation into discipleship. Make them disciples by baptizing them. Christ thus explains his mysterious announcement to Nicodemus (John 3:5), "Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." To the disciples the notion of baptism was no new thing. As a rite typifying the cleansing of the heart and the purpose of leading a new life, it had been long practised in the case of proselytes to the Jewish faith; they had seen it employed by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:6), and had used it themselves (John 4:1, John 4:2). Christ adopts the old rite, gives it a new solemnity, a most sacred formula of administration, a new meaning, new spiritual effects. The persons to whom and in whose presence he spoke would understand his injunction as applicable to all who were capable of its reception, children and adults, the subjects of the initiatory ceremony of proselytism. There was no need of closer specification. Or, if any such instruction was needed, the rules concerning circumcision would be a sufficient guide. In ( εἰς, into) the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Our version follows the Vulgate, in nomine, which does not give the right force to the expression. The phrase does not mean merely invoking the Name, under the sanction of the great Name, but something more than this. It signifies into the power and influence of the Holy Trinity, into faith in the three Persons of God, and the duties and privileges consequent on that faith, into the family of God and obedience unto its Head. The "into" shows the end and aim of the consecration of baptism. The "Name" of God is that by which he is known to us—that which connotes his being and his attributes, that by which there exists a conscious connection between God and ourselves (comp. Matthew 18:20). So being baptized into the Name of God implies being placed in subjection to and communion with God himself, admitted into covenant with him. It is to be observed that the term is "name," not "names," thus denoting the unity of the Godhead in the trinity of Persons. The Lord's words have always been taken as the formula of baptism, and have in all ages been used in its administration. The three Divine Persons were revealed at the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:16, Matthew 3:17); they are invoked at every Christian baptism. It is true that we read, in the early Church, of persons being baptized "in the Name of the Lord Jesus," and "in the Name of the Lord" (Acts 8:16; Acts 10:48); but this expression by no means assumes that the names of the other Divine Persons were not used; it denotes that the converts were admitted into the religion which Jesus instituted, in fact, were made Christians. The above formula has from primitive times been considered indispensable for the valid administration of this sacrament. "From this sacred form of baptism," says Bishop Pearson, "did the Church derive the rule of faith, requiring the profession of belief in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, before they could be baptized in their Name" ('On the Creed,' art. 1.).
Teaching ( διδα ìσκοντες) them (i.e. all the nations) to observe all things, etc. The word for "teaching" is quite different from that used in Matthew 28:19, and there wrongly translated. Instruction is the second necessary condition for discipleship. In the case of adults, as was said above, some teaching must precede the initiation; but this has to be supplemented subsequently in order to build up the convert in the faith and make him perfect; while infants must be taught "as soon as they are able to learn, what a solemn vow, promise, and profession they have here made." All must be taught the Christian faith and duty, and how to obtain God's help to enable them to please him, and to continue in the way of salvation, so that they may "die from sin, and rise again unto righteousness; continually mortifying all their evil and corrupt affections, and daily proceeding in all virtue and godliness of living" ('Public Baptism of Infants'). "He gives," says St. Chrysostom, "the one charge with a view to doctrine [i.e. the form of baptism], the other concerning commandments" ('Horn.,' 90.). All that Christ commanded, both in doctrine and morals, all that he had taught and enjoined during the three past years, they were henceforward to take as their textbook, and enforce on all who were admitted into the Church by baptism. As the Greek is, "I commanded," being aorist and not perfect, it may be rightly opined that Christ here alludes also to various details which he set forth and enjoined during these great forty days, between his resurrection and ascension, when he gave commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen, and spake to them of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God (Acts 1:2, Acts 1:3). And, lo. "After that, because he had enjoined on them great things, to raise their courage, he says. Lo! "etc. (Chrysostom). I am with you alway ( ἐγω Ì μεθ ὑμῶν εἰμι πα ìσας ταρας). Every word is emphatic. The Ascension was at hand; this implied an absence of his visible presence, to be replaced by a spiritual presence, more perfect, potent, effectual, infinite. It is I myself, I, God and Man,who am (not "will be") henceforward ever present among you, with you as Companion, Friend, Guide, Saviour, God. I am with you in all your ministrations, prayers public and private, baptisms, communions, exhortations, doctrine, discipline And this, not now and then, not at certain times only, but "all the days" of your pilgrimage, all the dark days of trial and persecution and affliction; all the days when you, my apostles, are gathered to your rest, and have committed your work to other hands; my presence shall never be withdrawn for a single moment. Often had God made an analogous promise to his servants under the old dispensation—to Moses (Exodus 3:12), to Joshua (Deuteronomy 31:23), to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:8); but this spiritual presence of Christ is something unknown to previous history, a nearness unspeakable, in the Church at large and in the Christian's heart. Even unto the end of the world; the consummation of the age, as Matthew 24:3 (where see note). When the new era is ushered in, evangelizing work will cease; God shall be all in all; all shall know him from the least unto the greatest. And they shall ever be with the Lord; "wherefore comfort one another with these words" (1 Thessalonians 4:18). Amen. The word is here an interpolation, but it expresses what every pious reader must say in his heart, "So be it, O Lord; be with us unto the end; guide and strengthen us in life, and bring us safely through the valley of the shadow of death, to thy blessed presence, where is the fulness of joy forevermore!"
I. THE ANGEL AT THE SEPULCHRE.
1. The holy women. The great sabbath was over. It had been a busy day in the temple; all had been done as usual. The priests little thought, while performing their elaborate ritual, that the one great Sacrifice, Oblation, and Satisfaction for the sins of the whole world, the Sacrifice of which all their sacrifices were but figures, had been offered up on Calvary. Yet the great darkness and the portents which had marked the moment of the Saviour's death must have excited attention at Jerusalem, must have harrowed the consciences of many, and filled the whole city with uneasiness and doubt and awe. Strange anxieties must have disturbed the rest of that sabbath. Men went about asking strange questions of one another. Strange forebodings filled the air. The priests especially must have been full of excitement and anxiety. Their chiefs had been foremost in urging the Crucifixion; and the rent veil must have filled them with wonder and terror. What could it mean? The holy of holies lay exposed—the awful place, which no human being might behold, save only the high priest, and that but once a year, with solemn rites of expiation. It must have seemed to them a tremendous portent, foreboding some great change, some stupendous event. Even the cold indifferent Sadducees must have been stirred into anxious expectation by a prodigy so significant, so startling, so plainly preternatural. This feeling had constrained them to apply to the hated Gentiles even on the sabbath. Herod had employed his soldiers to slay, if it were possible, the infant King of the Jews. The chief priests employed the Roman soldiers to prevent, if it were possible, the resurrection of him whose cross had borne the title which the Wise Men from the East had attributed to the holy Child Jesus. But if that sabbath had been a disturbed and anxious day to the enemies of our Lord, what must it have been to his disciples? They had watched, some few of them, the awful scene on Calvary. Most of them had fled in terror. The Lord had put forth no supernatural powers, as perhaps they had hoped; there had been no armies of angels coming to his help, no display of Divine glory to crush his foes. He was dead, buried out of their sight. They forgot all that the prophets had spoken, all that the Lord himself had said about his resurrection on the third day. Even the circumstances of his death, its calm majesty, its attendant wonders, did not restore their lost faith. "We were hoping," they said, "that it was he which should redeem Israel." But now their hopes were crushed, their faith was gone. The one terrible fact of his death had overwhelmed them in utter despair. They had expected an earthly kingdom in spite of all his many warnings. That Jewish notion of the Messiah's reign had taken entire possession of their hearts. And now that hope had vanished altogether. The Lord had not taken the throne of David; he had died upon the cross, the death of extremest ignominy. They were sunk in misery and disappointment and despondency. The chief priests called to remembrance that they had been told of his predicted resurrection. Hatred is sometimes more keen sighted than love. The disciples seem to have had no hope at all. That sad sabbath day must have been clouded by many remorseful memories of broken promises and selfish fears—how all, save one, had left him at the last, and forsaken him in his agony who had loved them with so great a love. But the long hours of that sorrowful sabbath were over at last; the first day of the week was dawning—that day which was to be the first day of a new life, which was to be consecrated throughout the great Christian Church as the beginning of new hopes, new aspirations; the first great Easter Day was shedding its faint glimmering light through the surrounding darkness; and the holy women came—Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, and afterwards, it seems from St. Mark and St. Luke, Salome and Joanna. They had watched the burial—some of them, at least. Perhaps they were not allowed to approach at the time; perhaps only Joseph, who had obtained the governor's leave, and Nicodemus, a man of rank and authority like Joseph, were permitted on that Friday afternoon to touch the body of the Lord. But the women followed after, and beheld where he was laid. They were last at the sepulchre on the first Good Friday; they were the first to see the empty tomb on the first great Easter Day. They came to see the sepulchre—"to anoint," St. Mark says, the body of him whom they had regarded with a Jove so deep and reverent. They had prepared spices and ointments before the sabbath; they came as soon as the sabbath rest permitted to fulfil their work of love. But that very love, deep and true as it was, expressed itself in preparations which showed that they understood not the Saviour's words, or at least that the awful events of Friday had shaken their belief and destroyed their hopes. Neither Joseph and Nicodemus nor the holy women seem to have had any thought of seeing the Lord in life again. Joseph willingly gave his own new tomb to receive the dear remains. Perhaps he thought that one day his own bones might rest with the honoured body of him whom he so loved and reverenced. None of the followers of the Lord, not even those apostles who had been nearest to him, seem to have remembered those words of his which ought to have been their greatest comfort in the hour of darkness. The shock had been so great; they were so horrified, terror-stricken, bewildered. So it is with us sometimes in great pain, in overwhelming sorrow. We cannot collect our thoughts; we can scarcely pray; there seems to be no hope, nothing but darkness. It may give us some comfort to think that even saints, even apostles, shared this human weakness. But let us remember that in their despair they still loved the Lord; if they had lost hope, they still came to the sepulchre; if they thought that he could give them no help, that they had a living Lord no more, at least they clung to his sacred memory, and came to watch over and to care for his lifeless body. Let us in our sufferings try to keep the thought of the suffering Lord close to our very hearts. If there are times when we cannot find joy in the thought of his glory and majesty, let us try to find peace in the thought of his cross, his death, his burial. Let us pray that our anguish may be made the means of bringing us into closer sympathy with the suffering Lord, into "the fellowship of his sufferings; for if we have become united with him by the likeness of his death, we shall be also by the likeness of his resurrection."
2. The descent of the angel. The women had said among themselves, "Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?" It was a task beyond their strength, and they were troubled. There was no need for their anxiety. So we often trouble ourselves about the future; we wonder how this or that difficulty shall be overcome; who shall save us from this or that threatening calamity. "Let not your heart be troubled," saith the Lord; "ye believe in God, believe also in me." "In quietness and confidence shall be your strength." Those fears of ours, those anxious thoughts which almost wear us out, come from want of faith. How often the event proves that there was no ground for them! We fretted ourselves vainly, we made needless vexations for ourselves; for after all the threatened trouble never came; or, if it did come, it was not so terrible; God gave us strength to bear it. It was so now. One stronger than they had rolled away the stone. There was a great earthquake. A mighty angel had come down from heaven; his appearance was as lightning, and his raiment white as snow. What could the Roman soldiers do in the presence of that effulgent, blinding radiance? For fear of him the watchers did quake (the very earth had quaked at his approach), and became as dead men. The mere sight of one angel of the Lord affrighted them into utter helplessness. How would it have fared with the presumptuous multitude who seized the Saviour in Gethsemane, had he, who is the Lord God of hosts, summoned those heavenly legions? Then he meekly yielded himself; for he willed to suffer and to die that we might live forever. Now his humiliation was over, the hour of his triumph was come; one angel of the Lord scattered the Roman guard. The strength of man is helpless to withstand the will of God.
3. His address to the women. He had done what the women knew was beyond their strength; he had rolled away the stone; they found him sitting on it in his glorious beauty. The blessed angels terrify the enemies of the Lord; they bring joy and gladness to his chosen. The soldiers lay on the ground prostrate, like dead men. The holy women started at the glorious vision, but the heavenly music of the angel's voice soon gave them peace and joy. "Fear not ye," the angel said. The pronoun is emphatic. The guards had cause to fear; not so those faithful women. The angel knew what had brought them there—their love and devotion for the crucified Saviour. But there was no need of their ointments and spices; there was no use for them; for the angel said, "He is not here; he is risen, as he said." There was something, perhaps, of gentle reproof in those words. The Lord had said again and again that he would rise again the third day; his disciples should have remembered his words; they should not have been thus hopeless and despairing; they should have looked forward, despite the agonies of the cross, despite the sealing of the tomb, to the glory of the Resurrection. That prophecy was now fulfilled; they might see the empty tomb: "Come, see the place where the Lord lay." They entered into the sepulchre, St. Mark tells us; they saw that the Lord was gone. The angel sent them to bear the great Easter tidings to the apostles. The apostles had not shown the courage, the affectionate devotion, of these holy women. St. John alone had stood beside the cross; no apostle, as far as we are told, had witnessed the burial. The women, too, were the first to visit the sepulchre; their devotion was rewarded; they first heard the glad tidings; they had the privilege of bearing the blessed news to the apostles, who were to be the witnesses of the Lord's resurrection and to preach his glorious gospel throughout the world. Holy women have often been the means of bringing to the faith of Christ those who have afterwards laboured most abundantly in the Saviour's cause. The angel repeated his charge: "Lo, I have told you," he said. They might not doubt; they had heard the great truth from an angel's lips.
II. THE RISEN LORD.
1. The women on their way. They went at once, they ran. Their hearts were filled with mingled feelings. There was fear,—they could not look upon that form, bright as the lightning flash, without something of dread; but there was a great joy which overcame their fear. The Lord was risen. The thought was too great for them; it