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  • ADAM CLARKE'S BIBLE COMMENTARY -
    MATTHEW 28

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    CHAPTER XXVIII

    The resurrection of Christ declared by an angel to the two Marys at the sepulchre, 1-6. They are commissioned to announce this to the disciples, 7. They go, and are met by Christ himself who promises to meet the disciples in Galilee, 8-10. The watch go into the city, and report to the chief priests what had taken place, 11. They give them money, to say that his disciples had stolen the body by night, while they slept, 12-15. Christ meets the eleven disciples in a mountain of Galilee, 16, 17. He gives them a commission to preach the Gospel throughout the earth; to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; and promises to be with them to the end of the world, 18-20.

    NOTES ON CHAP. XXVIII

    Verse 1. "In the end of the Sabbath" - oye de sabbatwn. After the end of the week: this is the translation given by several eminent critics; and in this way the word oye is used by the most eminent Greek writers.

    Thucydides, lib. iv. chap. 93, thv hmerav oye hn-the day was ended.

    "Plutarch, oye twn basilewv cronwn" - after the times of the king.

    Philostratus oye twn troikwn-after the Trojan war. See Rosenmuller. In general the Jews divided their natural day, which consisted of twenty-four hours, into day and night. Their artificial day began at the rising and ended at the setting of the sun; all the rest of the time, from the setting to the rising of the sun, they termed night: hence the same word, in Hebrew, signifies both evening and night. Gen. i. 5; Mark vi. 47. Matthew has employed the word in this extensive sense here, pointing out the latter part of the Jewish night, that which immediately preceded the rising of the sun, and not that first part which we call the evening. The transaction mentioned here evidently took place early on the morning of the third day after our Lord's crucifixion; what is called our Sunday morning, or first day of the next week.

    "Came-to see the sepulchre." - That is, they set out at this time in order to visit the tomb of our Lord, and also to weep there, John xi. 31, and to embalm the body of our Lord, Luke xxiv. 1. St. Matthew omits Mary Salome, mentioned by Mark; and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, mentioned by Luke. The other Mary was the wife of Cleopas, and mother of James and Joses, mentioned before, chap. xxvii. 56. Were not Mary and Salome two distinct persons?

    Verse 2. "A great earthquake" - seismov, a shaking or commotion of any kind: probably the word means no more than the confusion caused among the guards by the angel's appearance. All this had taken place before the women reached the sepulchre.

    "The angel of the Lord descended from heaven" - Matthew is very particular in this, to show that the word angel is not to be taken in the sense of an ordinary messenger, who might have come from Joseph of Arimathea, or from any other; but in the sense of an extraordinary messenger, who descended from GOD, out of heaven, for this very purpose. It is likely that the angel had descended, rolled away the stone, and was sitting on it, before the women reached the tomb.

    Verse 3. "His countenance" - His appearance, h idea autou; or, his face, for so the word is used in some of the best Greek writers. It seems, from Mark xvi. 5, that this angel had assumed the appearance of a young man.

    "Like lightning" - Coruscations of glory continually flaming from his face.

    This might produce the confusion mentioned ver. 2.

    "His raiment white as snow" - He was clothed in garments emblematical of the glad tidings which he came to announce. It would have been inconsistent with the message he brought, had the angel appeared in black robes, such as those preposterously wear who call themselves his successors in the ministry of a once suffering, but now risen and highly exalted, saviour. But the world is as full of nonsense as of sin; and who can correct and bring it to reason and piety?

    Verse 4. "The keepers-became as dead men." - God can, by one and the same means, comfort his servants, and terrify his enemies. The resurrection of Christ is a subject of terror to the servants of sin, and a subject of consolation to the sons of God; because it is a proof of the resurrection of both, the one to shame and everlasting contempt-the other to eternal glory and joy.

    Verse 5. "I know that ye seek Jesus" - Speaking after the manner of men, these women deserved to be the first witnesses of the resurrection of Christ: during life they ministered to him, and in death they were not divided. They attended him to the CROSS, notwithstanding their attachment to him exposed them to the most imminent danger; and now they come to watch and weep at his TOMB. The common opinion is, that women are more fickle and less courageous than men. The reverse of this I believe to be the truth, in those who are thoroughly converted to God; and who, previously to conversion, whether man or woman, can be trusted in any case?

    Verse 6. "Come, see the place" - The tomb in which our Lord was laid was no doubt like the rest of the Jewish burying places, a receptacle for the several dead of a whole family, divided into separate niches, where each had his place. Come and see the place-was tantamount to, Come and see the niche in which he was laid-it is now empty; nor was there any other body in the place, for the tomb was a new one, in which no man had ever been laid, John xix. 41; so there could be no deception in the case.

    Verse 7. "Go quickly and tell his disciples" - Thus these faithful women proclaim the Gospel to those who were afterwards to be the teachers of the whole human race! Behold what honour God puts upon those who persevere in his truth, and continue to acknowledge him before men! That he is risen from the dead] There is a remarkable saying of R. Judah Hakkodesh, which some critics quote on this subject: "After THREE DAYS the SOUL of the Messiah shall RETURN to its body, and he shall GO OUT of that STONE in which he shall be BURIED." Goeth before you into Galilee] As himself promised, chap. xxvi. 32.

    Verse 8. "They departed quickly from the sepulchre" - At the desire of the angel they went into the tomb, to have the fullest certainty of the resurrection.

    Fear and great joy] Fear, produced by the appearance of this glorious messenger of God; and great joy occasioned by the glad tidings of the resurrection of their Lord and Master. At the mention of unexpected good news, fear and joy are generally intermingled.- Vix sum apud me, ita animus commotus est metu, Spe, gaudio, mirando hoc tanto, tam repentino bono TERANT. Andr. v. 945 "I am almost beside myself, my mind is so agitated with fear, hope, and joy, at this unexpected good news."

    Verse 9. "And as they went to tell his disciples" - This clause is wanting in the Codex Vatican, and Codex Bezae, and in twenty others, and in most of the versions. The omission is approved by Mill, Bengel, and Schmid.

    Griesbach leaves it in the text with a note of doubtfulness. It appears to be superfluous. To connect this with the next clause, the particle kai, and, is obliged to be suppressed in all the translations. I think the verse should begin with, And behold he goeth, &c., and the former clause be suppressed. Probabiliter delenda, says Professor White, in his Crisews Griesbachianae, speaking of the preceding words.

    Jesus met them] Christ bestows his graces and consolations by degrees, first by his angels, and then by himself. He does not reveal himself to incredulous and disobedient souls; he appears not even to these women till he has tried their faith and obedience by his ministering angels.

    "All hail." - Anglo-Saxon, , Health be to you! cairete, Be ye safe, rejoice.

    "And they held him by the feet, and worshipped him." - This kind of reverence is in daily use among the Hindoos: when a disciple meets his religious guide in the public streets, he prostrates himself before him, and, taking the dust from his teacher's feet, rubs it on his forehead, breast, &c. See WARD'S CUSTOMS.

    Verse 10. "Be not afraid" - They were seized with fear at the sight of the angel; and this was now renewed by this unexpected appearance of Christ. See the note on ver. 8.

    "Go, tell my brethren" - This is the first time our Lord called his disciples by this endearing name: they no doubt thought that their Lord would reproach them with their past cowardice and infidelity; but, in speaking thus, he gives them a full assurance, in the most tender terms, that all that was passed was as buried for ever.

    Verse 11. "Some of the watch" - Or guards. Probably the rest still remained at the tomb, waiting for orders to depart, and had sent these to intimate to their employers the things that had taken place.

    Verse 12. "With the elders" - That is, the senators of the great Sanhedrin or Jewish council of state, elsewhere called the elders of the people; they could now meet, as the Sabbath was over.

    Verse 13. "His disciples came by night" - This was as absurd as it was false. On one hand, the terror of the disciples, the smallness of their number (only eleven;) and their almost total want of faith; on the other, the great danger of such a bold enterprise, the number of armed men who guarded the tomb, the authority of Pilate and of the Sanhedrin, must render such an imposture as this utterly devoid of credit.

    "Stole him away while we slept." - Here is a whole heap of absurdities. 1st.

    Is it likely that so many men would all fall asleep, in the open air, at once? 2dly. Is it at all probable that a Roman guard should be found off their watch, much less asleep, when it was instant death, according to the Roman military laws, to be found in this state? 3dly. Could they be so sound asleep as not to awake with all the noise which must be necessarily made by removing the great stone, and taking away the body? 4thly. Is it at all likely that these disciples could have had time sufficient to do all this, and to come and return, without being perceived by any person? And 5thly. If they were asleep, how could they possibly know that it was the disciples that stole him, or indeed that any person or persons stole him?-for, being asleep, they could see no person. From their own testimony, therefore, the resurrection may be as fully proved as the theft.

    Verse 14. "If this came to the governor's ears" - Pilate-we will persuade him that it is for his own interest and honour to join in the deception; and we will render you secure-we will take care that you shalt not suffer that punishment for this pretended breach of duty which otherwise you might expect.

    Verse 15. "Until this day." - That is to say, the time in which Matthew wrote his Gospel; which is supposed by some to have been eight, by others eighteen, and by others thirty years after our Lord's resurrection.

    Verse 16. "Then the eleven disciples went" - When the women went and told them that they had seen the Lord, and that he had promised to meet them in Galilee. From the eleventh to the fifteenth verse inclusive, should be read in a parenthesis, as the sixteenth verse is the continuation of the subject mentioned in the tenth.

    Verse 17. "But some doubted." - That is, Thomas only at first doubted.

    The expression simply intimates, that they did not all believe at that time. See the same form noticed on chap. xxvi. 8, and chap. xxvii. 44.

    Verse 18. "And Jesus came and spake unto them" - It is supposed by some that the reason why any doubted was, that when they saw Jesus at first, he was at a distance; but when he came up, drew near to them, they were fully persuaded of the identity of his person.

    "All power is given unto me" - Or, All authority in heaven and upon earth is given unto me. One fruit of the sufferings and resurrection of Christ is represented to be, his having authority or right in heaven to send down the Holy Spirit-to raise up his followers thither-and to crown them in the kingdom of an endless glory: in earth, to convert sinners; to sanctify, protect, and perfect his Church; to subdue all nations to himself; and, finally, to judge all mankind. If Jesus Christ were not equal with the Father, could he have claimed this equality of power, without being guilty of impiety and blasphemy? Surely not; and does he not, in the fullest manner, assert his Godhead, and his equality with the Father, by claiming and possessing all the authority in heaven and earth?-i.e. all the power and authority by which both empires are governed?

    Verse 19. "Go ye therefore" - Because I have the authority aforesaid, and can send whomsoever I will to do whatsoever I please:-teach, maqhteusate, make disciples of all nations, bring them to an acquaintance with God who bought them, and then baptize them in the name of the Father. It is natural to suppose that adults were the first subjects of baptism; for as the Gospel was, in a peculiar manner, sent to the Gentiles, they must hear and receive it, before they could be expected to renounce their old prejudices and idolatries, and come into the bonds of the Christian covenant. But, certainly, no argument can be drawn from this concession against the baptism of children. When the Gentiles and Jews had received the faith and blessings of the Gospel, it is natural enough to suppose they should wish to get their children incorporated with the visible Church of Christ; especially if, as many pious and learned men have believed, baptism succeeded to circumcision, which I think has never yet been disproved. The apostles knew well that the Jews not only circumcised the children of proselytes, but also baptized them; and as they now received a commission to teach and proselyte all the nations, and baptize them in the name of the holy Trinity, they must necessarily understand that infants were included: nor could they, the custom of their country being considered, have understood our Lord differently, unless he had, in the most express terms, said that they were not to baptize children, which neither he nor his apostles ever did. And as to the objection, that the baptized were obliged to profess their faith, and that, therefore, only adults should be baptized, there is no weight at all in it; because what is spoken of such refers to those who, only at that period of life, heard the Gospel, and were not born of parents who had been Christians; therefore they could not have been baptized into the Christian faith, forasmuch as no such faith was at their infancy preached in the world. That the children and even infants, of proselytes, were baptized among the Jews, and reputed, in consequence, clean, and partakers of the blessings of the covenant, see proved at large by Wetstein, in his note on chap. iii. 16.- See the note on chap. iii. 6, and particularly on Mark xvi. 16.

    "In the name of the Father, &c." - Baptism, properly speaking, whether administered by dipping or sprinkling, signifies a full and eternal consecration of the person to the service and honour of that Being in whose name it is administered; but this consecration can never be made to a creature; therefore the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, are not creatures. Again, baptism is not made in the name of a quality or attribute of the Divine nature; therefore the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, are not qualities or attributes of the Divine nature. The orthodox, as they are termed, have generally considered this text as a decisive proof of the doctrine of the holy Trinity: and what else can they draw from it? Is it possible for words to convey a plainer sense than these do? And do they not direct every reader to consider the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as three distinct persons? "But this I can never believe." I cannot help that-you shall not be persecuted by me for differing from my opinion. I cannot go over to you; I must abide by what I believe to be the meaning of the Scriptures. Dr. Lightfoot has some good thoughts on this commission given to the apostles:-" I. Christ commands them to go and baptize the nations: but how much time was past before such a journey was taken! And when the time was now come that this work should be begun, Peter doth not enter upon it without a previous admonition given him from heaven. And this was occasioned hereby, that, according to the command of Christ, the Gospel was first to be preached to Judea, Samaria, and Galilee.

    "II. He commands them to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; but among the Jews, they baptized only in the name of Jesus. See Acts ii. 38; viii. 16; xix. 5. For this reason, that thus the baptizers might assert, and the baptized confess, Jesus to be the true Messias; which was chiefly controverted by the Jews. Of the same nature is that apostolic blessing, Grace and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ. Where then is the Holy Ghost? He is not excluded, however he be not named. The Jews did more easily consent to the Spirit of the Messias, which they very much celebrate, than to the person of the Messias. Above all others they deny and abjure Jesus of Nazareth. It belonged to the apostles, therefore, the more earnestly to assert Jesus (to be the Messias) by how much the more vehemently they opposed him: which being once cleared, the acknowledging of the Spirit of Christ would be introduced without delay or scruple. Moses, (in Exod. vi. 14,) going about to reckon up all the tribes of Israel, goes no farther than the tribe of Levi; and takes up with that to which his business and story at that present related. In like manner, the apostles, for the present, baptize in the name of Jesus, and bless in the name of the Father and of Jesus, that thereby they might more firmly establish the doctrine of Jesus, which met with such sharp and virulent opposition; which doctrine being established among them, they would soon agree about the Holy Ghost.

    "III. Among the Jews, the controversy was about the true Messias; among the Gentiles, about the true God. It was therefore proper among the Jews to baptize in the name of Jesus, that he might be vindicated to be the true Messias. Among the Gentiles, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, that they might be hereby instructed in the doctrine of the true God.-Let this be particularly noted.

    "IV. The Jews baptized proselytes into the name of the Father, that is, into the profession of God, whom they called by the name of Father. The apostles baptize the Jews into the name of Jesus the Son, and the Gentiles, into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

    "V. The Father hath revealed himself in the old covenant; the Son in the new; in human flesh by his miracles, doctrine, resurrection and ascension; the Holy Ghost in his gifts and miracles. Thus the doctrine of the ever blessed Trinity grew by degrees to full maturity. For the arriving to the acknowledgment of which, it was incumbent upon all who professed the true God to be three in one to be baptized into his name." LIGHTFOOT'S Works, vol. ii. p. 274.

    Verse 20. "Teaching them to observe all things" - Men are ignorant of Divine things, and must be taught. Only those can be considered as proper teachers of the ignorant who are thoroughly instructed in whatsoever Christ has commanded. Persons who are entrusted with the public ministry of the word should take care that they teach not human creeds and confessions of faith, in place of the Sacred Writings; but those things, and those only, which Jesus has commanded.

    "And, lo, I am with you alway" - kai idou egw mequmwn eimi pasav tav hmerav-literally, Behold, I am with you every day. A minister of Christ should consider, that while his soul simply and uniformly follows Jesus, he shall be made a constant instrument of bringing many sons and daughters to glory. The dark, it is true, must be enlightened, the ignorant instructed, the profligate reclaimed, the guilty justified, and the unholy sanctified; and who is sufficient for this work? He with whom the Son of God is EVERY DAY, and none other.

    "Unto the end of the world." - Some translate, ewv thv sunteleiav tou aiwnov, to the end of this age; meaning the apostolic age, or Jewish dispensation; and then they refer the promise of Christ's presence to the working of miracles, and explain this by Mark xvi. 17-19. By my name they shall cast out demons, &c., &c. But though the words are used in this sense in several places, see chap. xiii. 39, 40, Matt. xiii. 49; xxiv. 3, yet it is certain they were repeatedly used among the primitive ecclesiastical writers to denote the consummation of all things; and it is likely that this is the sense in which they are used here, which the Anglo-Saxon has happily expressed: -And I, be with you all days, until world ending; and this is indispensably necessary, because the presence and influence of Jesus Christ are essentially requisite in every age of the world, to enlighten, instruct, and save the lost. The promise takes in not only the primitive apostles, but also all their successors in the Christian ministry, as long as the earth shall endure.

    Amen.] This word is omitted by some of the oldest and most authentic MSS., and by some versions and fathers. When it is considered that the word amen simply means so be it! we may at once perceive that it could not be added by our Lord. For our Lord could not pray that his own will might be done, or his own promise fulfilled. The word is, therefore, utterly impertinent as a part of the sacred text, and could neither have been added by our Lord, nor by the evangelist. The amens at the end of the sacred books have no other authority than what they derive from the transcribers of copies; and, at best, are only to be considered as the pious wish of the writer, or of the Church, that the promises contained in the sacred volume may be accomplished. Indeed, it seems often to have no other meaning than our finis at the end of our books.

    In the MSS. and versions there are various subscriptions, or epigraphs, to this Gospel: the following are the principal:-" The Gospel according to Matthew-written by him in Jerusalem- in Palestine-in the east-in the Hebrew dialect-in Hebrew- eight years after the ascension of Christ-interpreted by John-by James the brother of the Lord." The subscription in some copies of the Arabic version is very full: "The end of the copy of the Gospel of Matthew the Apostle. He wrote it in the land of Palestine, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in the Hebrew tongue, eight years after the bodily ascension of Jesus the Messiah into heaven, in the first year of the reign of Claudius Caesar, king of Rome." These are sufficient to show how little credit should be attached to the subscriptions found at the end of the sacred books, either in the MSS., or in the versions.

    1. IN concluding my notes on this evangelist, I cannot express myself better than in the words of the late Mr. Wakefield, to whom this commentary has been in many instances indebted. "I have now finished my observations on the Gospel of Matthew: a piece of history, it must be acknowledged, the most singular in its composition, the most wonderful in its contents, and the most important in its object, that was ever exhibited to the notice of mankind. For simplicity of narrative, and an artless relation of facts, without any applause or censure, or digressive remarks, on the part of the historian, upon the characters introduced in it; without any intermixture of his own opinion, upon any subject whatsoever; and for a multiplicity of internal marks of credibility, this Gospel certainly has no parallel among human productions." 2. One thing the pious and intelligent reader has, no doubt, already noticed: there is not one truth, or doctrine, in the whole oracles of God, which is not taught in this evangelist. The outlines of the whole spiritual system are here correctly laid down: even Paul himself has added nothing; he has amplified and illustrated the truths contained in this Gospel; but, even under the direct inspiration of the Holy Ghost, neither he nor any other of the apostles have brought to light any one truth, the prototype of which has not been found in the words or acts of our blessed Lord, as related by Matthew, in the work which has already passed under review. The Gospel by St. Matthew is the grand text-book of Christianity; the other Gospels are collateral evidences of its truth, and the apostolic epistles are comments on the text. In the commencement of this work, I stated my wish, "to assist my fellow labourers in the vineyard to lead men to HIM who is the fountain of all excellence, goodness, truth, and happiness;-to magnify his LAW, and make it honourable;-to show the wonderful provision made in his GOSPEL for the recovery and salvation of a sinful world;-to prove that God's great design is to make his creatures HAPPY; and that such a salvation as it becomes God to give, and such as man needs to receive, is within the grasp of every human soul."--General Preface, before Genesis. And having thus far done what I could, in reference to these great and important purposes, here I register my thanks to the ever-blessed God, Father, Word, and Holy Spirit, that he has permitted me to cast my mite into this sacred treasury, to add my feeble testimony to his Eternal Truth; and has spared me, in the midst of many infirmities and oppressive labours, to see the conclusion of this Gospel, a consummation which I had long devoutly wished, but which I had scarcely hoped ever to see realized.

    May the Divine Author of this sacred book give the reader a heart-felt experience of all the truths it contains; make and keep him wise unto salvation; build him up in this most holy faith; and give him an inheritance among the blessed, through Christ Jesus, the Friend of mankind, and the saviour of sinners, who is the object and end of this glorious system of truth! And to Him, with the Father and Eternal Spirit, be glory and dominion, thanksgiving and obedience, for ever and ever, Amen and amen!

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