Bible Commentaries
Matthew 28

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  1. To Mary Magdalene, John 20:14; Mark 16:9.
  2. To the other women, Matthew 28:9.
  3. To Peter, 1 Corinthians 15:5; Luke 24:34.
  4. To two disciples as they were going to Emmaus, Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-32.
  5. The same day, at evening, to the apostles, in the absence of Thomas, 1 Corinthians 15:5; Mark 16:14; Luke 24:36; John 20:19, John 20:24.
  6. To the apostles when Thomas was present, John 20:24-29.
  7. In Galilee, at the Sea of Tiberias, to Peter, Thomas, Nathaniel, James and John, and two others, John 21:1-14. This is said to be the third time that he showed himself to the disciples - that is, to the apostles when they were assembled together, John 21:14.
  8. To the disciples on a mountain in Galilee, Matthew 28:16.
  9. To more than 500 brethren at once, 1 Corinthians 15:6.
  10. To James, one of the apostles, 1 Corinthians 15:7.
  11. To all the apostles assembled together, 1 Corinthians 15:7. He was seen by them forty days after he rose - probably conversing with them familiarly.
  12. To the apostles at his ascension, Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:9-10.
  13. To Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:8; Acts 9:3-5; Acts 22:6-10.

III. The Ascension

  1. It was forty days after his resurrection Acts 1:3.
  2. He ascended from the Mount of Olives, near Bethany, Luke 24:50; Acts 1:12.
  3. It was in the presence of all the apostles, Luke 24:50; Acts 1:9-10.
  4. He was received into a cloud, and ascended to heaven, Acts 1:9, Acts 1:11; Luke 24:51; Ephesians 1:20-22.

Verse 1

In the end of the sabbath - The word “end” here means the same as “after” the Sabbath - that is, after the Sabbath was fully completed or finished, and may be expressed in this manner: “In the night following the Sabbath, for the Sabbath closed at sunset, as it began to dawn,” etc.

As it began to dawn toward the first day of the week - The word “dawn” is not of necessity in the original. The word there properly means as the first day “approached,” or drew on, without specifying the precise time. Mark says Mark 16:1-2 that it was after “the sabbath was past, and very early in the morning, at the rising of the sun” - that is, not that the sun “was risen,” but that it was about to rise, or at the early break of day. Luke says Luke 24:1 that it was “very early in the morning;” in the Greek text, “deep twilight,” or when there was scarcely any light. John John 20:1 says it was “very early, while it was yet dark” - that is, it was not yet full daylight, or the sun had not yet risen. The time when they came, therefore, was at the break of day, when the sun was about to rise, but while it was yet so dark as to render objects obscure, or not distinctly visible.

The first day of the week - The day which is observed by Christians as the Sabbath. The Jews observed the seventh day of the week, or our Saturday. During that day our Saviour was in the grave. As he rose on the morning of the first day, that day has always been observed in commemoration of so glorious an event.

Came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary - From Mary Magdalene Christ had cast out seven devils. Grateful for his great mercy, she was one of his firmest and most faithful followers, and was first at the sepulchre, and was first permitted to see her risen Lord. The “other Mary” was not the mother of Jesus, but the mother of James and Joses (Mark). Mark says that “Salome” attended them. Salome was the wife of Zebedee, and the mother of James and John. From Luke Luke 24:10 it appears that Joanna, wife of Chusa, Herod’s steward (see Luke 8:3), was with them. These four women, Mark says Mark 16:1, having bought sweet spices, came to anoint him. They had prepared a part of them on the evening before the Sabbath, Luke 23:56. They now, according to Mark, completed the preparation and bought more; or the meaning in Mark may be merely that, “having bought” sweet spices, without specifying the time when, they came now to embalm him. John mentions only Mary Magdalene. He does this, probably, because his object was to give a particular account of her interview with the risen Saviour. There is no contradiction among the evangelists; for while one mentions only the names of a part of those who were there, he does not deny that “others” were present also. It is an old maxim, that “he who mentions a few does not deny that there are more.”

To see the sepulchre - To see whether was as it had been left on the evening when he was laid there. To see if the stone was still there, by which they would know that he had not been removed. Mark and Luke say that the design of their coming was to anoint him with the sweet spices which they had prepared. Matthew does not mention that, but he does not “deny” that that was the ultimate design of their coming. It is not improbable that they might have known the manner in which he was buried, with a large quantity of myrrh and aloes; but that was done in haste - it was done by depositing the myrrh and aloes, without mixture or preparation, in the grave-clothes. They came that they might embalm his body more deliberately, or at least that they might “anoint the bandages” and complete the work of embalming.

Verse 2

There was a great earthquake - Rather there “had been.” It does not mean that this was while they were there, or while they were going, but that there “had been” so violent a commotion as to remove the stone. The word rendered here as “earthquake” does not of necessity mean that the convulsion extended to the earth, but only that there had been such a concussion as to remove the stone.

And sat upon it - Sat upon it when the keepers saw him, Matthew 28:4. It is not said that he was sitting when he appeared to the women. From Luke it would rather appear that he was standing.

Verse 3

His countenance - In our language the word “countenance” refers to the “face only;” in the original it refers to his “whole person.” His “general aspect, or the appearance of the angel himself,” was, etc.

Like lightning - Peculiarly bright and shining.

His raiment white as snow - Celestial beings are usually represented as clothed in white, Acts 1:10; Daniel 7:9; Revelation 3:4-5; Revelation 4:4; Revelation 7:13-14. White, among the Jews, was the symbol of “purity or innocence.”

Verse 4

The keepers did shake - It was night. The appearance was sudden and unexpected, and to them terrific. The stone was probably suddenly removed. At the noise, the light, the suddenness of the appearance, they were affrighted.

And became as dead men - Probably by terror they fainted, or were thrown into a swoon. At this time it is probable that the Lord Jesus arose, and hence he was not seen by them when he came forth. At what precise time of the night this was we are not certainly informed. The narrative, however, leads us to suppose that it was not long before the women came to the sepulchre, or near the break of day.

Verse 5

And the angel answered and said ... - This was not on the outside of the tomb, for Matthew does not say that the angel appeared to the “women” there, but only to the keepers. Mark says, “entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment” Mark 16:5. Luke says Luke 24:3, “they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus; and as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments.” Seeing the stone rolled away and the sepulchre open, they of course anxiously entered into it, to see if the body was there. They did not find it, and there they saw the vision of the angels, who gave them information respecting his resurrection. Infidels have objected that there are three inconsistencies in the accounts by Mark and Luke:

1. That Mark says the angel was sitting, and Luke says they were standing. Answer: The word in Luke does not of necessity mean that they “stood,” but only that they were “present.” Or it may be that the one that Mark mentions was sitting when they entered, and then arose.

2. It is objected that Luke mentions two, but Mark and Matthew one. Answer: Mark mentions the one who spoke; for it cannot be supposed they both spake the same thing. He does not deny that another was present with him. Luke affirms that there was. This way of speaking is not unfrequent. Thus, Mark and Luke mention only one demoniac who was cured at Gadara. Matthew mentions two. In like manner Mark and Luke speak of only one blind man who was cured at Jericho, while from Matthew it is certain that two were. The fact that but one is mentioned, where it is not denied that there were others, does not prove that there could not be others.

3. Matthew calls this an “angel.” Mark and Luke say “a man.” Answer: Angels, in the Scriptures, from “appearing” in the form of human beings, are often called as they “appear,” and are mentioned as men. See Genesis 18:2, Genesis 18:16, Genesis 18:22; Genesis 19:1, Genesis 19:5. “Fear not ye.” That is, “Be not agitated, or troubled, that you do not find the body of the Saviour. I know that ye seek him, and are troubled that he is removed; but you need not fear that he has been stolen. You will see him again in Galilee.”

Verse 6

He has risen, as he said - Jesus had often predicted that he would rise, but the disciples did not understand it, and consequently did not expect it, Matthew 16:21; Matthew 20:19.

The place where the Lord lay - The place where a body was deposited in a sepulchre was commonly a niche cut in the wall of the sepulchre. The sepulchre was usually large; that of David was mere than 100 feet in length, cut out of solid rock under ground, and separated into various apartments. All round the sides of those apartments were niches for the dead; or they were ranged around the sides, in places cut in the solid rock just large enough to contain the body. In such a place, probably, our Lord lay.

Verse 7

Tell his disciples - Mark adds particularly, “tell Peter.” This was a kind message to Peter, who had so recently denied his Lord. It would serve to cheer him in his despondency, and to assure him that his sin had been forgiven; and it shows the tender love and remembrance of Jesus, even for his unfaithful friends.

Verse 8

And they departed quickly - Joyful at the “news,” and wishing to impart it to all, they fled to find the disciples, and to tell them that the Lord was risen.

With fear and great joy - Fear because of:

1.The wonderful scenes which they had witnessed the stone rolled away, and the presence of an angel;

2.A confused state of mind, apprehensive, perhaps, that it might not, after all, be true.

The news was too good to be credited at once, yet they had sufficient faith in it to fill them with great and unexpected joy. Perhaps no language could better express the state of their minds - the mingled awe and rejoicing - than that which is used here.

And did run ... - They ran to announce what they had seen to the disciples. The city, where the disciples were, was half a mile or more from the place.

Verse 9

And as they went ... Jesus met them - This was when they left the sepulchre the “second” time. Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene when alone, John 20:14. “Afterward” he appeared to the other women, as related by Matthew. See the accounts of the resurrection harmonized at the end of this chapter.

All hail - This is a term of salutation. The word all has been supplied by the translators. It is not in the original. The meaning of the word “hail,” here, is rejoice;” a term of salutation connected with the idea of joy at his resurrection, and at meeting them again.

Held him by the feet - Or threw themselves prostrate before him. This was the usual posture of supplication. See 2 Kings 4:37. It does not mean that they took hold of his feet, but only that they cast themselves down before him.

And worshipped him - See the notes at Matthew 8:2. In this place the word “worship” seems to denote the homage due to the Messiah risen from the dead; regarded by them now in a proper light, and entitled to the honor which was due to God, agreeably to John 5:23.

Verse 10

Be not afraid - The ancients, when in the presence of a heavenly being - an angel, or one who was supposed to be possessed of divine power were commonly struck with great “fear,” as well as a great sense of their unworthiness. See Luke 5:8; Judges 6:22-23; Judges 13:21-22. These women were in like manner alarmed when they saw Jesus, believing him now especially to be a Divine Being; seeing him returning from the regions of the dead, and doubtless impressed with a new consciousness that they were unworthy of being in his presence. Jesus comforted them. He was the “same Jesus” with whom they had been before his death, and they had no reason now to fear him.

Go tell my brethren - There is something exceedingly tender in the appellation used here - “my brethren.” Though he was risen from the dead, though about to be exalted to heaven, yet he did not disdain to call his disciples his brethren. This was calculated still further to silence the fears of the women and to inspire them with confidence.

Into Galilee - Galilee was the northern part of the land. There the Saviour commenced his ministry; and there, away from the noise and confusion of the city, he purposed again to meet them, in retirement and quietness, to satisfy them of his resurrection, and to commission them to go forth and preach the everlasting gospel.

Verse 11

When they were going - Or when they had gone from the tomb.

Some of the watch - Some of the guard that had been set around the tomb to keep it safe. Probably the leaders or officers came to give a true account of what had happened.

Showed unto the chief priests - To Annas and Caiaphas.

Verse 12

And when they were assembled ... - They deemed the matter of so much importance as to justify the calling together of the great council of the nation. Notwithstanding all their caution, it was plain that the body of Jesus was gone. It was further plain that the disciples would affirm that he was restored to life again. It was not improbable that Jesus would himself appear, and convince multitudes that he was the Messiah, and that the guilt of putting him to death would, after all their caution and cunning, be charged on them. They had been at great pains to procure his death. They had convinced Pilate that he was dead. They had placed a guard for the express purpose of preventing his being taken away. It would be in vain, after this, to pretend that he was not dead; that he was in a swoon; that he died in appearance only. They had shut themselves out from this, which would have been the most plausible plea, and, whatever course they might now adopt, they were obliged to proceed on the admission that he had been really dead, and that all proper measures had been taken to prevent his being stolen. They concluded, after consultation, that but one way was left - to bribe the soldiers - to induce them to tell a falsehood - and to attempt to convince the world that Jesus, in spite of themselves, and in the face of all probability, had been really stolen.

Large money - Much money. This was given to bribe them; to induce them to conceal the truth, and to affirm what they knew was false.

Verse 14

The governor’s ears - To Pilate. If it is reported to him that Jesus was stolen while you slept.

We will persuade him - We will convince or satisfy him, so that he shall not punish you. This they might promise with safety; for,

  1. They knew from the character of Pilate that he could be easily bribed.
  2. Pilate, after the feast of the Passover, was accustomed to return to Caesarea.
  3. He had not been inclined at all to interfere in anything concerning the Saviour until it was urged upon him by the Jews.

He would not be disposed, “of himself,” to take any further trouble about the matter. He would feel that all that could be demanded of him had been done, and would not be disposed further to interfere, unless the Sanhedrin should demand it. This, of course, they would not do.

Verse 15

This saying is commonly reported - This account of the disappearance of the body of Jesus from the sepulchre is commonly given.

Until this day - The time when Matthew wrote this gospel that is, about 30 years after the resurrection.

The resurrection of the Lord Jesus, of which an account is given in this chapter, is one of the most important doctrines of the Christian religion, and is attested by the strongest evidence that can be adduced in favor of any ancient fact. Let it be considered:

1. That he had often foretold his own death and resurrection. See Matthew 12:40; Matthew 16:21; Matthew 20:19.

2. There was no doubt that he was really dead. Of this the Jews. the Romans, and the disciples were all equally well satisfied.

3. Every proper precaution was taken to prevent his removal by stealth. A guard, usually consisting of sixty men, was placed there for the express purpose of keeping him, and the sepulchre was secured by a large stone and by a seal.

4. On the third day the body was missing. In this all were agreed. The high priests did not dare to call that in question. They labored, therefore, to account for it. The disciples affirmed that he was alive. The Jews hired the Roman soldiers to affirm that he was stolen while they slept, and succeeded in making many of the people believe it.

This account of the Jews is attended with the following difficulties and absurdities:

  1. The Roman guard was composed usually of 60 men, and they were stationed there for the express purpose of guarding the body of Jesus.
  2. The punishment of “sleeping” while on guard in the Roman army was “death,” and it is perfectly incredible that those soldiers should expose themselves in this manner to death.
  3. The disciples were few in number, unarmed, weak, and timid. They had just fled before those who took Jesus in the garden, and how can it be believed that in so short a time they would dare to attempt to take away from a Roman guard of armed men what they were expressly set to defend?
  4. How could the disciples presume that they would find the Roman soldiers asleep? or, if they should, how was it possible to remove the stone and the body without awaking even “one” of their number?
  5. The “regularity and order” of the grave-clothes John 20:6-7 show that the body had not been stolen. When men rob graves of the bodies of the dead, they do not wait coolly to fold up the grave-clothes and lay them carefully by themselves.
  6. If the soldiers were “asleep,” how did they, or how could they know that the disciples stole the body away? If they were “awake,” why did they suffer it?

The whole account, therefore, was intrinsically absurd. On the other hand, the account given by the disciples is perfectly natural and credible.

1. They account for the reason why the soldiers did not see the Saviour when he rose. Terrified at the vision of an angel, they became as dead men.

2. They affirmed that they saw him. All the apostles affirmed this, and many others.

3. They affirmed it in Jerusalem, in the presence of the Jews, before the high priests and the people. See the Acts of the Apostles. If the Jews really believed the account which they themselves had given, why did they not apprehend the apostles, and prove them guilty of the theft and of falsehood? - things which they never attempted, and which show, therefore, that they did not credit their own report.

4. In regard to the Saviour they could not be deceived. They had been with him three years. They knew him as a friend. They again ate and drank with him; they put their fingers into his hands and side; they conversed with him; they were with him 40 days. There were enough of them to bear witness. Law commonly requires not more than one or two competent witnesses, but here were eleven plain, honest men, who affirmed in all places and at all times that they had seen him. Can it be possible that they could be deceived Then all faith in testimony must be given up.

5. They gave every possible evidence of their sincerity. They were persecuted, ridiculed, scourged, and put to death for affirming this. Yet not one of them ever expressed the least doubt of its truth. They bore everything rather than to deny that they had seen him. They had no motive in doing this but the love of truth. They obtained no wealth by it, no honor, no pleasure. They gave themselves up to great and unparalleled sufferings - going from land to land; crossing almost every sea; enduring the dangers, toils, and privations of almost every clime - for the simple object of affirming everywhere that a Saviour died and rose. If they knew this was an imposition - and if it had been they would have known it - in what way is this remarkable conduct to be accounted for? Do men conduct in this way for nothing? and especially in a plain case, where all that can be required is the testimony of the senses?

6. The world believed them. Three thousand of the Jews themselves believed in the risen Saviour on the day of Pentecost, but 50 days after his resurrection, Acts 2:41. Multitudes of other Jews believed during the lives of the apostles. Thousands of Gentiles believed also, and in 300 years the belief that Jesus rose had spread over and changed the whole Roman empire. If the apostles had been deceivers, that was the age in which they could most easily have been detected. Yet that was the age when converts were most rapidly multiplied, and God affixed His seal to their testimony that it was true.

Verse 16

Then the eleven disciples - Judas was dead, leaving but eleven of the original number of the apostles.

Into a mountain where Jesus lead appointed them - This “appointment” is recorded in Matthew 26:32. On what particular mountain this was is not known. It is probable that Jesus, when he made the appointment, specified the place, which has been omitted by the evangelists. Matthew has omitted many appearances which Jesus made to his disciples which have been recorded by Luke, John, and Paul. See the harmony of the resurrection at the end of the chapter.

Verse 17

They worshipped him - Paid him honour as the Messiah.

But some doubted - As, for example, Thomas, John 20:25. The disciples had not expected his resurrection; they were therefore slow to believe. The mention of their doubting shows that they were honest men that they were not easily imposed on that they had not previously agreed to affirm that he had risen - that they were convinced only by the strength of the evidence. Their caution in examining the evidence; their slowness to believe; their firm conviction after all their doubts; and their willingness to show their conviction even by their “death,” is most conclusive proof that they were “not” deceived in regard to the fact of his resurrection.

Verse 18

All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth - The “Son of God,” as “Creator,” had an original right to all things, to control them and dispose of them. See John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:8. But the universe is put under him more particularly as Mediator, that he might redeem his people; that he might gather a church; that he might defend his chosen; that he might subdue all their enemies, and bring them off conquerors and more than conquerors, Ephesians 1:20-23; 1 Corinthians 15:25-27; John 5:22-23; Philippians 2:6-11. It is in reference to this, doubtless, that he speaks here power or authority committed to him over all things, that he might redeem, defend, and save the church purchased with his own blood. His mediatorial government extends, therefore, over the material world, over angels, over devils, over wicked men, and over his own people.

Verse 19

Go ye therefore - “Because” all power is mine, go! I can defend you. The world is placed under my control. It is redeemed. It is given me in promise by my Father, as the purchase of my death. Though you are weak, yet I am strong! Though you will encounter many troubles and dangers, yet I can defend you! Though you die, yet I live, and the work shall be accomplished!

Teach all nations - The word rendered “teach,” here, is not the one that is usually so translated in the New Testament. This word properly means “to disciple, or to make disciples of.” This was to be done, however, by teaching, and by administering baptism.

All nations - This gracious commission was the foundation of their authority to go to the Gentiles. The Jews had expected that the offers of life under the Messiah would be confined to their own nation. Jesus broke down the partition wall, and commissioned his disciples to go everywhere, and bring the “world” to the knowledge of himself.

Baptizing them - as an emblem of the purifying influences of the Christian religion through the Holy Spirit, and solemnly devoting them to God.

In the name ... - This phrase does not mean, here, “by the authority” of the Father, etc. To be baptized in the name of the Father, etc., is the same as to be baptized “unto” the Father; as to believe on the “name” of Christ is the same as to believe “on Christ,” John 1:12; John 2:23; John 3:18; 1 Corinthians 1:13. To be baptized “unto” anyone is publicly to receive and adopt him as a religious teacher or lawgiver; to receive his system of religion. Thus, the Jews were baptized “unto Moses,” 1 Corinthians 10:2. That is, they received the system that he taught; they acknowledged him as their lawgiver and teacher. So Paul asks 1 Corinthians 1:13, “Were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” - that is, Were you devoted to Paul by this rite? Did you bind yourselves to “him,” and give yourselves away to “him,” or to God? So to be baptized in the name of the Father, or unto the Father, means publicly, by a significant rite, to receive his system of religion; to bind the soul to obey his laws; to be devoted to him; to receive, as the guide and comforter of the life, his instructions, and to trust to his promises. To be baptized unto the Son, in like manner, is to receive him as the Messiah - our Prophet, Priest, and King - to submit to his laws, and to receive him as a Saviour. To be baptized unto the Holy Spirit is to receive him publicly as the Sanctifier, Comforter, and Guide of the soul. The meaning, then, may be thus expressed: Baptizing them unto the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit by a solemn profession of the only true religion, and by a solemn consecration to the service of the sacred Trinity.

The union of these three names in the form of baptism proves that the Son and Holy Spirit are equal with the Father. Nothing would be more absurd or blasphemous than to unite the name of a creature - a man or an angel - with the name of the ever-living God in this solemn rite. If Jesus was a mere man or an angel, as is held by many who deny his divinity, and if the Holy Spirit was a mere “attribute” of God, then it would have been the height of absurdity to use a form like this, or to direct the apostles to baptize people under them. How absurd would be the direction - nay, how blasphemous - to have said, “Baptize them unto God, and unto Paul, and unto the “wisdom or power” of God!” Can we believe that our Saviour would have given a direction so absurd as this? Yet, unless he himself is divine, and the Holy Spirit is divine, Jesus gave a direction substantially the same as this. The form of baptism, therefore, has been always regarded as an unbreakable argument for the doctrine of the Trinity, or that the Son and Holy Spirit are equal with the Father.

Verse 20

Lo, I am with you - That is, by my Spirit, my providence, my attending counsel and guidance. I will strengthen, assist, and direct you. This also proves that Christ is divine. If he is a mere man, or a creature, though of the highest order, how could he promise to be “with” his disciples “always,” or at all? They would be scattered far and wide. His disciples would greatly increase. If he was “with them” always, he was God; for no finite creature could thus be present with many people scattered in different parts of the world.

Unto the end of the world - The word rendered “world,” here, sometimes means “age or state” and by some it has been supposed to mean, I will be with you until the end of this “age,” or during the continuance of the Jewish state, to the destruction of Jerusalem. But as the presence of Christ was no less necessary after that than before, there seems to be no propriety in limiting the promise to his own age. It may therefore be considered as a gracious assurance that he would aid, strengthen, guide, and defend all his disciples, but more especially his ministers, to the end of time.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Matthew 28". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.