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Ver. 1. In the end of the sabbath , etc.] This clause is by some joined to the last verse of the preceding chapter, but stands better here, as appears from ( Mark 16:1), and intends not what the Jews call the sabbath eve, for that began the sabbath; but what they call tbç yaxwm , “the goings out of the sabbath”; and as Mark says, ( Mark 16:1), “when the sabbath was past”: that is, when the sun was set, and any stars appeared. The Vulgate Latin, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions, and Munster’s Hebrew Gospel render it, “the evening of the sabbath”; and the Persic version, “the night of the sabbath”; but must mean, not the evening and night, which preceded the sabbath, and was a part of it, but what followed it, and belonged to the first day. As it began to dawn ; not the day, but the night; a way of speaking used by the Jews, who call the night, rwa , “light”: thus they say f1735 , rç[ h[bral rwa , “on the light, or night of the fourteenth” (of the month Nisan) “they search for leavened bread”, etc. And so the word is used, in ( Luke 23:54), of the eve of the sabbath, or the beginning of it, as here of the going out of it; towards the first day of the week , or “sabbaths”; so the Jews used to call the days of the week, the first day of the sabbath, the second day of the sabbath, etc. take an instance or two f1736 “The stationary men fast four days in the week, from the second day to the fifth day; and they do not fast on the sabbath eve (so they sometimes call the sixth day), because of the glory of the sabbath; nor tbçb djab , “on the first day of the sabbath”, or week, that they may not go from rest and delight, to labour and fasting, and die.”
On which the Gemara has these words f1737 ; “the stationary men go into the synagogue, and sit four fastings; tbçb ynçb , “on the second of the sabbath”, or “week”: on the third, and on the fourth, and on the fifth.” Came Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary , the wife of Cleophas, and mother of James and Joses, with whom also was Salome, the mother of Zebedee’s children, ( Mark 16:1). There seems to be some difference between the evangelists about the time of the women’s coming to the sepulchre. Matthew says, it was “at the end of the sabbath, when it began to dawn; towards the first day of the week”. John says, that “Mary Magdalene” came “when it was yet dark”, ( John 20:1), and yet Mark says, that they came “at the rising of the sun”, ( Mark 16:2). Though they all agree it was early in the morning: all they say is no doubt true, and may be reconciled thus. As soon as the sabbath was ended, the women set out on their journey, and as they went, bought spices and ointment to anoint the body with: they passed through the gates of the city before they were shut, and might stay some time in the suburbs; when Mary Magdalene, eager to be at the sepulchre, set out first, whilst it was dark, and came back and reported to Peter what she had seen, and returned again by such time the other women came, which was at sunrising. From all the accounts it is clear, that he rose, as is expressly said, ( Mark 16:9), on the first day of the week, and which was the third from his death: on the sixth day, which was Friday, he was crucified, and buried that evening; he lay in the grave all sabbath day, or Saturday; and rose early on the first day of the week, before the women got to the sepulchre; who came thither, as it is here said, to see the sepulchre : not merely to see it, for they had seen it before, and where, and how the body of Christ was laid in it; but to see whether they could enter into it, and anoint the body with the spices and ointments, which they had prepared and brought with them for that purpose.
Ver. 2. And behold there was a great earthquake , etc.] Or “there had been one”; which, how far it reached, and whether further than the spot of ground in which the sepulchre was, is not certain: it was an emblem of the shaking of the earth by the preaching of the Gospel, the sound of which was now to go after Christ’s resurrection to the ends of the world; and a prelude of the general resurrection, when the earth shall be shaken, and the graves opened, and the dead come forth; and was a symbol and token of the presence and majesty of Christ, at whose rising, as at his death, the earth shook and trembled. Think whether the watch could now be asleep, as they afterwards gave out, ( Matthew 28:13). The Persic version renders it very wrongly; “and there was great consternation and fear”; which was the consequence of the earthquake, and the descent of the angel, and was so great that it was not possible for the keepers to sleep, if ever so much inclined: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven ; perhaps Gabriel, who brought the news of the conception of Christ to the virgin, and of his incarnation to the shepherds, and might be the same angel that strengthened him in the garden: nor is this any contradiction to the other evangelists, which speak of two angels, ( Luke 24:4) ( John 20:12), for Matthew does not say there were no more than one, though he makes mention but of one. And came and rolled back the stone from the door ; of the sepulchre, which by Joseph, or his orders, was put there, and was sealed by the Jews. This might be done, that way might be made for the risen body of Christ to pass out of the sepulchre; for to suppose, as some do, that he penetrated through this stone with his risen body, is not to be credited: it is true, he could have caused the stone to have given way, or removed it himself, and put it in the place again; as he caused the doors of the house in which the disciples were, to open and shut so quick, that they could not discern it when he appeared in the midst of them, ( John 20:19); (see Acts 12:10), but he might choose to do it by the ministry of an angel, which is no ways derogatory to his power and majesty, but rather agreeable.
Moreover, this might be done, that the women might have access to the sepulchre, and enter into it, which was the thing they were concerned about by the way, who should roll away the stone for them. Besides, this the angel did, as a token that Christ was risen, and to let the guard know as much, who, if they thought fit, might come and see what was done; but chiefly the stone was rolled away by the angel, as an emblem of the acquittance and discharge of Christ, as the surety of his people. He had taken upon him their sins; he had bore them in his body on the tree; he had suffered and died for them, and was laid as a prisoner in the grave; and now full satisfaction being made, an angel is sent from heaven to roll away the stone; thereby signifying, that the debt was fully paid, and he was now legally discharged. It is added, and sat upon it ; thereby showing who it was that rolled it away; that it was done by him, not by the earthquake, nor by any human power: he sat there defying the guard of soldiers to come nigh; and waiting for the coming of the women, to tell them the good news, that their Lord was risen; and as the keeper of the sepulchre, that no corpse might be brought and laid in the room of Christ, and it be said that he was not risen. This posture of the angel does not contradict what other evangelists say of this, and the other angel, that they stood by the women, and also were sitting in the sepulchre, ( Mark 16:5 Luke 24:4 John 20:12), for each was true: when the women first came, the angel sat upon the stone; after that, with the other, stood by them; when having invited them to the grave, placed themselves, sitting the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Christ had lain.
Ver. 3. His countenance was like lightning , etc.] There was such a lustre and brightness in his face, that it glittered like lightning: such a description is in ( Daniel 10:6), and his raiment white as snow : the word “white” is left out in the Vulgate Latin, and in Munster’s Hebrew Gospel: the angel appeared clad in white, as a token of the purity and innocence of his nature; and because of the victory and triumph of Christ over death and the grave; and that he might be known and taken by the women for a good angel, it being a commonly received notion of the Jews, that ministering angels were clothed in white f1738 . “Said R. Ame to R. Levi, show me the Persians; he said to him, they are like to the mighty men of the house of David: show me the Chaberin, (another nation near the Persians,) they are like to destroying angels: show me the Ishmaelites, they are like to devils of the house of Hacsa: show me the disciples of the wise men in Babylon, they are like to the ministering angels.”
Upon which the gloss says, ““to the devils”, because they are clothed in black, and are like to devils; to “the ministering angels”, µynbl yçwbl , “they are clothed in white”, and veiled like the ministering angels; as it is written in ( Ezekiel 9:2), “and the man was clothed with linen”: and it is said of R. Judah, that he was veiled, and sat in fine linen fringed, and was like to an angel of the Lord of hosts: and elsewhere it is said, who are the ministering angels? the Rabbins: and why are they called ministering angels? because they are fringed, as the ministering angels, in beautiful garments.”
Ver. 4. And for fear of him the keepers did shake , etc.] Though they were soldiers, Roman soldiers and veterans, who had been used to terrible sights in the field of battle; were men of courage, and fearless of danger; and yet were seized with a panic, and every limb of them shook and trembled at the sight of the angel, for fear he was come as an executioner of divine vengeance upon them; who had been concerned in the crucifixion of Christ, had watched him as he hung upon the cross, and now his body in the sepulchre: and even supposing no consciousness of guilt in them, or dread of punishment from him; yet such was the glory and majesty in which he appeared, of which they had never seen the like before, that it had this effect upon them: and became as dead men : they turned pale, as dead men, and had scarce any life, or spirit, left in them.
Ver. 5. And the angel answered and said unto the women , etc.] Who being come up, were also affrighted at the sight of the angel. The Arabic version leaves out the first part, “and the angel answered”: which is a Jewish way of speaking, when nothing goes before, to which it is a reply; and renders the other part thus, “and said to the two women”: but from the other evangelists it appears, that there were more women than two; (see Mark 16:1 Luke 24:10), fear not ye ; some put an emphasis upon the word “ye”, as if used in opposition to the keepers, who had reason to be afraid, but not these good women. It was very common with gracious persons to be filled with fear at the sight of an angel, as Zacharias, and the shepherds; but without reason; they are their friends, their fellow servants, and ministering spirits to them.
The Persic version adds, “but come near before, for ye are his familiars”: the reason alleged, by the angel, why they had no reason to fear, is, for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified : the knowledge which angels have of saints is very considerable, and which arises from their frequent embassies to them, care and guardianship of them, the good offices they perform, and their several ministrations to them; and the knowledge which the angel had of these good women, might not be from immediate revelation, but from the observations he had made of them: they had followed Jesus from Galilee, they had attended him all the while he was on the cross, and were now come to his grave to anoint him; and from their words and gestures, the angel might know that they were the disciples of Christ, and now sought him; and therefore had no reason to fear, as those who were his adversaries: and indeed, such as seek a crucified Christ, and life and salvation by him, have no reason to be afraid of any thing; not of sin, and its damning power, since Christ saves, his blood cleanses, and his righteousness justifies from all sin; nor of the law, its menaces, curses, and condemnation, for Christ has redeemed them from it; nor of Satan, and his principalities and powers, who are spoiled by Christ, and out of whose hands he has ransomed his people; nor of the world, since Christ has overcome it, and delivered his people from it; nor of death, whose sting is taken away, and that abolished as a penal evil; nor of hell, and wrath to come, from which he has saved them; and much less of good angels, who are kindly disposed to them: and such are they that seek a crucified Christ, whom Christ has first sought, and looked up, and found in redemption and the effectual calling; who are made sensible of their lost and dangerous state by nature, to whom Christ has been manifested; and who see both their need of him, and his worth and value: these seek to him in the first place, and with all their hearts, for cleansing, pardon, righteousness, rest, food, salvation, and eternal life: they seek for him where he is, and is revealed, in the Scriptures, in the Gospel, in the ordinances, and at the Father’s right hand.
Ver. 6. He is not here , etc.] In the grave, where he was laid, and these women saw him laid: he was dead, but is now alive; he was laid in the grave, but God would not leave him there, nor suffer him to see corruption: for he is risen, as he said ; not stolen away, as the chief priests hired the soldiers to say he was; nor removed to another place, as Mary Magdalene first thought, when she found him gone; but he was risen from the dead, by the power of his Father, and by his own power, as he had before said he should. In one of Beza’s exemplars it is added, “to you”; for the words that Christ said in Galilee, that he should be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and rise again, the third day, were said in the presence and hearing of these women, and to them, as well as to the disciples; (see Luke 24:6-8). This clause is left out in the Persic version: it follows, come see the place where the Lord lay ; the Lord both of angels and men: the Syriac and Persic versions read, “our Lord”. The Arabic and Ethiopic versions leave out the word “Lord”, and only read “he”. Christ, as the Son of God, lay in the bosom of his Father, and in the arms of his love, from all eternity; as mediator, he lay in the womb of God’s purposes and decrees, being his elect, in whom his soul delighted; as man, he lay in the womb of the virgin; and, as an example to his people, he lay, when baptized, in the waters of Jordan; and as the language of the ordinance of the Lord’s supper is, “come see my hands, and my feet”; that of baptism is, “come see the place where the Lord lay”: but here it regards the grave, in which the body of Christ had been laid; and the women are invited by the angel to go along with him, into the sepulchre, to see the place where he had lain; to assure them the more of the truth of his resurrection, that they might, with their own eyes, see that he was gone, who before had beheld where, and how he was laid; as also to affect them with the condescending grace of Christ, in making his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; as well as to strengthen their faith in their discharge from sin and condemnation by Christ, who was risen for their justification; as also to let them see that the grave was perfumed and sanctified by him; and he was risen as the first fruits and pledge of them that slept.
Ver. 7. And go quickly and tell his disciples , etc.] Who were mourning and weeping for the death of Christ; despairing of his resurrection, of which, at least, they had but little hope, nor indeed much thought, though Christ had so often told them of it; and therefore a quick dispatch was necessary to remove their sorrow, revive their faith, and relieve their souls, to which the errand these women were sent upon, and the news they were to bring, had a tendency; namely, that he is risen from the dead : than which nothing could be more joyful news unto them, as it is to all believers; for on this depend the justification and salvation of God’s elect; their security from condemnation, and their resurrection from the dead. This news was first brought to the apostles by women, who were greatly honoured hereby; that as the woman was first in the transgression, and the cause of death, so the first news of the resurrection of Christ to life, and of life and immortality being by him, who was first showed the path of life, were brought by women; and to a woman it was that Christ first appeared after his resurrection, ( Mark 16:9). The Vulgate Latin only reads, “that he is risen”, as in the former verse. And behold he goeth before you into Galilee . These are still the words of the angel to the women, telling them what they should say to the apostles, that he should go before them into Galilee; and which might serve to confirm the resurrection to them, and to give the greater credit to the report of the women, since this very thing Christ had promised them before; (see Matthew 26:32), though it was also true, that he should go before these women into Galilee, and who also should see him there: for the next words, there shall ye see him ; though they may chiefly design the apostles, who should have a sight of Christ in Galilee, yet may include these women also: lo! I have told you ; I “Gabriel”, who am an angel of the Lord, sent by him to inform you of these things; and you may depend upon the truth of them, that Jesus is risen, and that he is about, in a very little time, to go before his disciples into Galilee, where they shall see him with their bodily eyes, and have a free and familiar conversation with him. The reasons why this place was pitched upon for Christ and his apostles to meet in, were, because here he first preached, and chiefly conversed, and had the largest number of disciples there, to whom he meant to show himself, as he did, ( Corinthians 15:6), as well as to his apostles: moreover, the apostles were of Galilee, and so were these women; and to go into their own country, and there meet with Jesus, must be very agreeable; and besides, there they would be safer and freer from the molestations and persecutions of the Jews; and might follow their former calling, as they did, until the time they were to be further employed in preaching the Gospel.
Ver. 8. And they departed quickly from the sepulchre , etc.] Or “they went out from it”, as it may be rendered, and as it is in ( Mark 16:8), which shows, that they went into the sepulchre upon the invitation of the angel, and saw the place where the Lord lay; and here it was the angel gave them their instructions, and errand to the disciples; which as soon as they received, they quitted the sepulchre in all haste, partly in obedience to the angel’s orders, and partly through surprise and fear; for Mark says, “they fled from the sepulchre”, ( Mark 16:8), as persons terrified and affrighted: and it is added here, with fear and great joy : a mixture of both these; with fear and dread, because of the vision they had seen, and with joy at the news of Christ’s resurrection; and yet in this their faith might not be so confirmed, as to have no doubt about it: they might fear the body was taken away, and removed to some other place, and that this they had seen might be a deception and a delusion. However, between both joy and fear, they set out, and did run to bring his disciples word ; as Mary Magdalene ran to Peter, ( John 20:2), nor is running unusual for women, or unbecoming them on certain occasions; (see Genesis 24:20,28 29:12). Their fright, as well as their joy, and their regard to the angel’s order, might cause them to run, and make the quicker dispatch.
Ver. 9. And as they went to tell his disciples , etc.] This clause is wanting in the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions, and in Beza’s most ancient copy; but it stands in the Ethiopic version, and in Munster’s Hebrew Gospel, behold, Jesus met them : that they might be confirmed in what the angel had told them, and their fear might be removed, and their joy increased; and also be capable of reporting to the disciples not only what they had heard from the angel, but what they had seen themselves; they being now eyewitnesses, as well as earwitnesses of his resurrection: so souls in the way of their duty, as these women were, oftentimes meet with Jesus, and he with them, as they may expect, and indeed not otherwise: saying, all hail ; all health of soul and body, all happiness and prosperity, both temporal, spiritual, and eternal, attend you. The Syriac and Persic versions, and Munster’s Hebrew Gospel render it, “peace be to you”; which, it is highly probable, was the phrase used by Christ, since it was the common form of salutation among the Jews, and what Christ made use of at other times; (see John 20:19,26), and they came ; near unto him, being encouraged by the above salutation, and knowing who he was by his voice, habit, and gesture: and held him by the feet ; they threw themselves prostrate at his feet, in token of reverence and humility; and they laid hold on his feet, that they might know, and be assured that he was really risen, and that it was not a spirit, or a mere phantom and appearance; and they held him in affection to him, and as desirous of his continuance with them: and worshipped him : with divine adoration, expressing their love to him; their faith and hope in him, owning him to be their Lord and God; he being, by his resurrection from the dead, declared to be the Son of God, with power; and so the proper object of religious worship.
Ver. 10. Then said Jesus unto them, be not afraid , etc.] Of me, or what you have seen; or lest there should be any deception in the case. In other respects the saints are subject to fears; as lest they should have no share in the love of God, nor interest in Christ, or the work of God is not begun in their hearts; and by reason of sin, lest that should get the ascendant over them, and they perish by it, and so fall short of eternal glory; when it is the will of Christ to have these fears removed, by shedding abroad his love in their hearts, by affording his gracious presence, views of interest in him, and promises of his grace, by sending his Spirit, word, and ministers to comfort them, by discovering and applying pardoning grace to them, and showing his power to keep them. Go tell my brethren ; meaning not his kinsmen according to the flesh, but his disciples, who were in this relation to him, as all the elect of God are; not only through his incarnation, he being their “Goel”, their near kinsman, and Redeemer, and of the same nature, flesh, and blood with them, and like unto them in all things, excepting sin; but on account of their divine adoption, to which they were predestinated, and which they received through his redemption, and under the witnessings of the Spirit: he that is his God being theirs; and he that is his Father being theirs also: and which was made manifest in their regeneration, by their faith in him; and obedience to him, and his Father; (see Matthew 12:49,50). A very considerable relation this is, that the disciples stood in to Christ, who is the eternal Son of God, and heir of all things; and wonderful grace and condescension it was in Christ to own the relation, when they had so lately forsaken him; and now he was raised from the dead, and had glory given him: that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me : he does not say they should not see him before: for they saw him, all but Thomas, that very evening, and all of them eight days after; and both times were before they went into Galilee: but this he said, to put them in mind of what he had promised them, ( Matthew 26:32), and to confirm the words of the angel; and which might serve for a confirmation of the truth of these things, both to the women, and to the disciples, when they observed the exact agreement between the words of Christ, and of the angel. Moreover, it may be remarked, that wherever Christ has appointed to meet his people, they may expect, and be sure to see him at one time or another; as in his house and ordinances, where they are sometimes indulged with a sight of him by faith, which is an appropriating, assimilating, soul rejoicing, and satisfying one; when with pleasure they behold the glory of his divine person, and of his offices, the transcendent excellencies and perfections of his nature, his love and his loveliness, the beauty and amiableness of him, the fulness of grace, life, and righteousness in him, and so the suitableness of him as their Saviour and Redeemer; and when they are favoured with communion with him, and the joys of his salvation.
Ver. 11. Now when they were going , etc.] Or were gone from the sepulchre: that is, the women, Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, and their companions, when they were going, or gone, and before they could come to the disciples, to inform them of what they had seen and heard, and deliver the message both of the angel, and of Christ, unto them: behold, some of the watch came unto the city : that is, “of Jerusalem”. The word “behold” is left out in the Syriac, Persic, and Ethiopic versions; but ought to be retained as expressive of what is wonderful, and worthy of observation and attention; that the very persons who were placed to prevent every thing, that might be the foundation of a report, that Christ was risen, should be the first persons that should relate it to the chief priests and elders, that employed them: not all the watch, for some still stayed behind, till they had orders to come away; but some of them, the principal of them, or who were deputed by the rest, came. The Persic version, rather commenting than translating, has these words: “moreover, the rulers and governors, who watched the sepulchre, coming to themselves, returned to the city with a pale and frightened countenance.” And showed unto the chief priests all the things that were done ; how that there had been a very great earthquake, and a very surprising appearance; one like a young man descended from the clouds, whose countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow, which filled them with astonishment and dread; that he rolled away the stone from the sepulchre, and then sat upon it; and that some women coming to the sepulchre, were shown by him where the body had been laid, but was now gone; and how, that after they had recovered themselves from the fright, they had themselves examined the sepulchre, and the body was certainly gone; and sure they were that the women did not carry it away, nor any other: all which they thought proper to relate to the chief priests; partly on their own account, to clear themselves from the charge of bribery and corruption, and sloth and negligence; and partly that the chief priests might consider what was proper to be done at such a juncture.
Ver. 12. And when they were assembled with the elders , etc.] Upon this the grand sanhedrim was convened together, which consisted of the chief priests, Scribes, and elders; and had taken counsel among themselves what steps to take to stifle this matter, that it might not spread and be believed by the people; they agreed upon this, as the best expedient, to bribe the soldiers to give a false account of it, as they did: they gave large money unto the soldiers , or “sufficient money”; they gave large sums of money, as were enough to satisfy the soldiers; they gave them whatever they would have; for though these men were very covetous, yet upon this occasion gave liberally; and that perhaps which were for the sacrifices, or for the repair of the temple, or for the supply of the poor.
Ver. 13. Saying, say ye his disciples came by night , etc.] They charged them to tell every one that should ask them about this affair; and even publish it every where, that the disciples of Christ came in the dead of the night, and stole him away while we slept : which was a very unlikely thing, and a foolish scheme this, for such a body of men to form. There is no show of probability in it, that the disciples, who were intimidated by the taking and putting Christ to death, and were now shut up in a house, for fear of the Jews, that these should venture out in the night, to take away the body of Christ, which was decently and honourably interred in a garden of one of his disciples: and when they knew it was guarded by a company of Roman soldiers; and who besides had no notion of his resurrection from the dead, nor never thought of it till he was risen, and therefore would never attempt any thing of this kind, in order to give out such a report. Moreover, had they took it away by stealth, it is not reasonable to think that they would afterwards have reported such a lie every where, that he was risen from the dead, when they were sure to obtain nothing by it, but reproach, afflictions, persecutions, and death: add to this, that this was never objected to them by their worst enemies, when they most strongly asserted his resurrection: nor was it a feasible account, or well put together, with respect to the watch. It can hardly be thought that they should be all of them asleep at once; and if they were, it is much they were not awaked by the coming up of the disciples, and the rolling away of the stone, and the bustle there must be in taking up the body, and carrying it away; and besides, if they were asleep, and continued so, what is their evidence good for? for how could they know that his disciples came and took him away? if they awaked, though too late, and saw them at a distance, why did not they pursue them, who might easily have been overtaken with such a burden? at least, why did not they search their houses for the body? and take up both the women and the disciples, and prosecute them for it? and yet nothing of this was done. Besides, how came the linen clothes to be left behind? why did they take the napkin from his head, and give themselves all that trouble to unwrap the body, and carry it away naked? It is clear the chief priests themselves were convinced in their own minds, that he was truly risen, or they would have punished the soldiers severely for their sleep and negligence, and would never have given them money to spread such a story.
Ver. 14. And if this come to the governor’s ears , etc.] Not the governor of the watch, but Pontius Pilate the governor of Judea: if this should be told him, and should be heard by him; or this matter should come before him, and be under his examination, and there should be any danger of punishment; for to sleep on the watch was severely punished by the Romans: we will, persuade him ; that this is the true state of the case, and intercede with him, and make use of all our interest, not to punish for it: or will persuade him, that though this is a false account, yet it will be much better that it should go in this way, for his own peace, and the peace of the nation, and the security of the Roman government; since, should it spread among the people, that this person was really raised from the dead, they would, one and all, believe he was the true Messiah, and would set him up as a king, and seize upon the government in favour of him: and will secure you ; indemnify you, bear you harmless, keep you from punishment; so that you need not be under any care, or concern on this account.
Ver. 15. So they took the money, and did as they were taught , etc.] Though they had been just now in the greatest fright and consternation imaginable, at the sight of the angel, and knew what was done; yet being men of no religion or conscience, were tempted with the money, and took it, and reported every where what had been put into their mouths by the chief priests and elders. And this saying is commonly reported among the Jews unto this day ; to the time that Matthew wrote this Gospel; which according to the subscriptions to a most ancient copy of Beza’s, and the Syriac and Arabic versions of De Dieu, was in the “eighth” year after our Lord’s ascension; though others make it to be the “ninth”; and others the “fifteenth”. The sense is, not that this narrative the evangelist gives, that the sanhedrim bribed the soldiers to give out such a lying story, was known to the Jews, and commonly reported by them; though some take this to be the sense; but that it was reported and believed among the Jews in common, to that time, that the disciples of Christ did really come in the night, and steal away the body of Christ, while the watch slept: to such judicial blindness, and hardness of heart, were they given up, as to believe a lie, and which had no appearance of truth in it. They have since contrived a more monstrous and ridiculous story than this. They say f1741 , that Judas, seeing where the body was laid, and the disciples sitting upon the tomb, and mourning over it, in the middle of the night, took his opportunity to take away the body, and buried it in his own garden, under a current of water; having first turned the water another way, and then put it in the same course as before; and which he afterwards discovered to the Jews; and the body was taken up and exposed, and insulted in the most ignominious manner: but alas! Judas had hanged himself some days before; and had he been living, would not have been capable of doing what they ascribe unto him.
Ver. 16. Then the eleven disciples , etc.] For Judas was not only gone from them, but was dead; so that there were now but eleven of them: went away into Galilee : not directly, as soon as the women had delivered their message; for Christ appeared to them the same day at Jerusalem; and so he did at the same place that week; (see John 20:19,26), but some time, after this they went together into Galilee, according to Christ’s direction both before and after his resurrection, ( Matthew 26:32 28:10), into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them ; either before his death, or since he was risen; and very likely at one of the above interviews he had with them. This is generally thought to be Mount Tabor; but of this there is no proof, nor certainty: it might be the mountain near Capernaum, on which he taught, ( Matthew 5:1), or that, if not the same with the other, near the sea of Galilee, where Christ fed four thousand with seven loaves, and a few fishes, ( Matthew 15:29). A mountain was appointed for this meeting, both for solitariness and for sight; for here it was he was seen by above five hundred brethren at once, ( 1 Corinthians 15:6).
Ver. 17. And when, they saw him, they worshipped him , etc.] With divine adoration, as the eternal Son of God; for so he was now declared to be by his resurrection from the dead, ( Romans 1:4), but some doubted ; or “some of them”, as the Syriac and Arabic versions render it; that is, some of the eleven disciples: not that they doubted now that Christ was risen from the dead; since he had appeared several times to them before this, and had given them all the proofs of the truth of his resurrection they could desire; but they, who worshipped him now in Galilee, had doubted before in Jerusalem; not only Thomas, but all of them: they looked upon the words of the women as idle tales; nor did the rest believe the two disciples, with whom Christ travelled to Emmaus: wherefore he upbraids them for their unbelief, ( Luke 24:11 Mark 16:11,13,14), or else the sense is, that some of them, though they believed Christ was risen from the dead, of which they had had the strongest assurance; yet they doubted whether what they then saw on the mountain was he, or whether it was not a spirit, or a mere phantom; and therefore, as in the next verse, he “came” nearer to them, when they knew him: or else this may be understood of some of the seventy disciples, or of the five hundred brethren, who saw him at this time, and at first had some doubts of his resurrection, but were afterwards fully satisfied.
Ver. 18. And Jesus came and spake unto them , etc.] To the eleven disciples and apostles; for though there might be so large a number as before observed, yet the following words were only spoken to the apostles: saying, all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth ; which is to be understood of him, not as God, who has the same original and underived power and authority over all creatures, and things in heaven and earth, as the Father has; but as mediator, to whom all things are delivered by the Father; and not of a power of doing this, or the other thing, or of omnipotence, being the Almighty; nor of doing miracles, and forgiving sins, which he had, and exercised before his death and resurrection, but of governing: he was king before, but his kingdom was not with observation; but now he was declared, and made manifest, to be both Lord and Christ; he had “all” power and authority for the settling the affairs of his church and kingdom, to appoint offices and officers in it, and, to bestow gifts upon men, to qualify them for the same, and to institute ordinances to be observed till his second coming: and this power of his reached to things in heaven; he having the angels in heaven subject to him, as ministering spirits to be sent forth by him at his pleasure; and all the gifts of the Spirit to dispose of as he thought good; and to things on earth, not only to the saints, whose King he is, and who are made willing to serve him; but to all flesh, to kings and princes, who rule and reign by him; and even to all the wicked of the world, who in some shape or another are made to subserve the ends of his mediatorial kingdom and government: and this is not usurped power, but what is given him, and what he has a right to exercise; having finished sin, abolished death, overcome the world, and destroyed the devil; and must reign till all enemies are subject to him: and this he says, and it was necessary to say it at this time, partly on account of his late sufferings and death, which were attended with weakness and reproach; and partly on account of the following commission he gives to his disciples, that it might be seen and believed, he had power and authority sufficient to give them such an one; as also to animate and encourage them under all the weakness, contempt, and persecution that should attend them in their ministry. The Syriac and Persic versions add, “as the Father hath sent me, even so I send you”, as in ( John 20:21), from whence these words seem to be taken.
Ver. 19. Go ye therefore , etc.] Into all the world; some into one place, and some into another; since his power and authority, and so now the commission he gave them, reached every where: before it was confined to Judea, but now it is extended to all the nations of the world; (see Matthew 10:6,7 Mark 16:15), and teach all nations ; Jews and Gentiles, first the one, and then the other, the doctrines of the Gospel, and the ordinances of it; whatever they had learned from Christ, or were ordered by him, or “disciple all nations”: make them disciples by teaching them; or, as the Persic version, by way of explanation, adds, “bring them to my religion and faith”: not that they were able to do this of themselves, but they were to teach men externally, or outwardly minister the word, whilst the Spirit of God internally applied it, and taught, and made men true disciples of Christ: and they are such, who have learned to know themselves, their sin, and lost estate by nature; to deny themselves, both sinful and righteous self; who have learnt to know Christ, and the way of righteousness, peace, pardon, life, and salvation by him; and who are taught and enabled to part with all for Christ, and to bear all for his sake, and to believe in him, and give up themselves to him, and follow him whithersoever he goes: baptizing them ; not all nations, for the antecedent to the relative “them”, cannot be “all nations”; since panta ta eynh , the words for “all nations”, are of the neuter gender, whereas autouv , “them”, is of the masculine: nor can it be thought that it should be the mind of Christ, that all the individuals of all nations should be baptized, as Heathens, Turks, and Jews; but mayeutav , “disciples”, supposed and contained in the word mayeteusate , “teach”, or “make disciples”; such as are taught, and made disciples by teaching, or under the ministry of the word by the Spirit of God: Christ’s orders are to “baptize”: wlbj , “dip” them, as Munster’s Hebrew Gospel renders it; that is, in water, which, though not expressed, is implied; for with no other baptism could the apostles baptize: not with the Holy Ghost, and with fire; for this was Christ’s peculiar prerogative; but with water, which they in obedience to this commission practised, ( Acts 8:36,38 10:47), and which was to be done in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost ; by the authority of these three divine persons, who all appeared, and testified their approbation of the administration of this ordinance, at the baptism of Christ: and as they are to be invocated in it, so the persons baptized not only profess faith in each divine person, but are devoted to their service, and worship, and are laid under obligation to obedience to them, Hence a confirmation of the doctrine of the Trinity, there are three persons, but one name, but one God, into which believers are baptized; and a proof of the true deity both of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; and that Christ, as the Son of God, is God; since baptism is administered equally in the name of all three, as a religious ordinance, a part of divine instituted worship, which would never be in the name of a creature. This is the first, and indeed the only, place in which the Trinity of persons is expressed in this order, and in the selfsame words. Galatinus pretends, that the ancient Jews used the same way of speaking. It would be well if proof could be made of it: he asserts it to be in Zohar on ( Deuteronomy 6:4), and in the Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel on ( Isaiah 6:3). In the former he says, it is expressed thus, “hear, O Israel; the Lord”, he is called “the Father; our God”, he is called the Son; “is one Lord”, this is “the Holy Ghost”, who proceeds from both; and again, by the same R. Simeon, it is said, “holy”, this is ba , “the Father”; “holy”, this is ˆb , “the Son”; “holy”, this is çdqh jwr , “the Holy Ghost”: and in the latter after this manner, “Holy Father, Holy Son, and Holy Holy Ghost”; but no such words are now to be found in either of these places. He affirms, that he himself saw a copy of Jonathan’s Targum that had these words. The Jews often speak of the Tetragrammaton, or name of four letters, the name Jehovah, which they say is not lawful to be pronounced; and also of the name of twelve letters, which the above writer makes to be “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”; and of forty two letters, which from a book called Gale Razia, he says is, “Father God, Son God, Holy Ghost God, three in one, and one in three;” which in the Hebrew language make up so many letters; but this wants better authority.
Ver 20. Teaching them to observe all things , etc.] All ordinances, not only baptism, but the Lord’s supper; all positive institutions, and moral duties; all obligations, both to God and men; all relative duties that respect the world, or one another, those that are without, and those that are within; and these are to be taught them, and therefore to be insisted on in the ministry of the word; and not merely in order that they may know them, and have the theory of them, but that the may put them into practice: whatsoever I have commanded you ; every thing that Christ has commanded, be it what it will, and nothing else; for Christ’s ministers are not to teach for doctrines the commandments of men; or enjoin that on the churches, which is of their own, or other men’s devising, and was never ordered by Christ; and for their encouragement he adds, and lo! I am with you always, even unto the end of the world : meaning, not merely to the end of their lives, which would be the end of the world to them; nor to the end of the Jewish world, or state, which was not a great way off, though this is sometimes the sense of this phrase; but to the end of the world to come, the Gospel church state, which now took place; or to the end of the present world, the universe: not that the apostles should live to the end of it; but that whereas Christ would have a church and people to the end of the world, and the Gospel and the ordinances of it should be administered so long, and there should be Gospel ministers till that time; Christ’s sense is, that he would grant his presence to them, his immediate disciples, and to all that should succeed them in future generations, to the end of time: and which is to be understood not of his corporeal presence, which they should not have till then, but of his spiritual presence; and that he would be with them, in a spiritual sense, to assist them in their work, to comfort them under all discouragements, to supply them with his grace, and to protect them from all enemies, and preserve from all evils; which is a great encouragement both to administer the word and ordinances, and attend on them.