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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 28

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

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Verses 1-20

Chapter 28

In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn towards the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. And his countenance was like lightning, and his raiment was as white as snow: and for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not: for know that you seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, and see the place where the Lord lay. And then go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goes before you into Galilee; and there shall you see him: lo, I have told you. And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them [that is His disciples], saying, All hail. And they came and they held him by the feet, and worshipped him ( Matthew 28:1-9 ).

Boy I imagine the excitement. Imagine the joy of this morning. Now how is it that they held him by the feet and worshipped Him, when early He said to Mary," don't touch me, I've not yet ascended to my Father"? It lies in the Greek, where Jesus said, "don't touch me", or is translated "don't touch me", literal from the Greek it is, "don't cling to me". Mary, no doubt, got a death grip around His neck, like a person who is drowning. You got away from me once; you'll never get away from me again. And so He said "Mary, don't cling to me. You've got a job to do; go tell the disciples I am risen." But here they come and they are clinging, they are holding Him by the feet, as they worship Him.

Then Jesus said unto them, Be not afraid: go and tell my brothers that they go into Galilee, and there they will see me. Now when they were going, behold, some of the guards came into the city, and they showed the chief priests all of the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, they had taken counsel, and they gave them large sums of money, saying, You say that his disciples came by night, and stole him while we slept. And if the word of this comes to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and take care of you. So they took the money, and they did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day. Then when the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in eaRuth ( Matthew 28:10-18 ).

Can you imagine how much power that must be? "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth."

Go therefore ( Matthew 28:19 ),

Interesting, He said, "all power is given to me, you go". But then He said I will be with you as you go to proclaim God's love to a needy world. The Lord is with you, and backing you up with all of the power that exists in the universe. Oh, what power is ours, as we go out to proclaim the risen Savior to the lost world.

"All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth, go ye therefore",

and teach all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost ( Matthew 28:19 ):

Not in the name. There is a group called, "Jesus only". And they say, "In the name", and the name is Jesus. So you should only baptize in Jesus name only. But in the Greek it is, "unto the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost". So it sort of blows their little theory.

Teaching them ( Matthew 28:20 ),

Notice the command is to "go and to teach". The real ministry of the church should be that of teaching God's truth to man.

Teaching them to observe all of the things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of this age ( Matthew 28:20 ).

Not, you know, if you go to Africa or you go to the South Pole, but even to the end of the age, to the consummation of the age, or down to our present time. As you go He is with you, even to the end of this age.

Now some of the early church fathers, Usiphias, Iranias, and Justin Myrder, declared that Pilate wrote an account to the Roman government concerning the crucifixion of Jesus, and those things that happened around the crucifixion. There is a document that was found in the Vatican library, that purported to be the letter that Pilate sent to Caesar, as he explained to him his part and the place of Rome in the crucifixion of Jesus. The letter is called the "Actipalate", and it is an interesting letter. However, the authenticity is something that cannot be fully attested to, but it does make very interesting reading. I have a book called the Archaeological and Historic Writings of the Sanhedrin, and Talmud of the Jews, and in this book there is a copy of the Actipalate. I like to just read a couple of those segments out of it to you.

"To Tiberas Caesar the emperor of Rome, noble sovereign greeting,

"The events of the last few days in my province have been of such character, that I will give the details in full as they have occurred, as I should not be surprised if in the course of time they may change the destiny of our nation. For it seems oblate that all the gods have ceased to be populous. I am almost ready to say, 'Cursed be the day that I succeeded Dalarias Fascias, in the government of Judea', for since then my life has been one of continual uneasiness and distress".

And he goes on and tells of some of the problems that he had as he took over as the governor there in Israel. He said:

"I granted unto Jesus unlimited freedom. It was true that Jesus was severe on the rich and the powerful. And this was a political reason, in my opinion, for not restraining the liberty of the Nazarene. The scribes and the Pharisees, He would say to them, 'You are a race of vipers. You resemble painted sepulchres. You appear well unto men, but you have death within you.'

"At other times He would sneer at the alms of the rich and the proud, telling them that the mite of a poor was more precious in the sight of God. And new complaints were daily made at the praetorium against the insolence of Jesus. I was even informed that some misfortune would befall Him, and that it would not be the first time that Jerusalem had stoned those that called themselves prophets. And if the praetorium refuse justice an appeal would be made to Caesar.

"However my conduct was approved by the senate, and I was promised reinforcement after the termination of the Partian War. Being too weak to suppress the sedition, I resolved on adopting a measure that promised to establish the tranquility of the city, without subjecting the praetorium to the humiliating concession. I wrote to Jesus requesting an interview with Him at the praetorium. He came. You know that in my veins there flows Spanish, mixed with Roman blood is incapable of fear; it is a peril emotion.

"But when the Nazarene made His appearance, I was walking in my baselic, and my feet seemed fastened with an iron hand to the marble pavement, and I trembled in every limb as a guilty colberet, for He was calm. The Nazarene was as calm as innocence itself. When He came up to me, He stooped, and by a signal sign He seemed to say to me, 'I am here', though He spoke not a word. For some time I contemplated with admiration and awe. This extraordinary type of man, a type of man unknown to our numerous painters, who have given form and figures to all the gods and the heroes. There was nothing about Him that was repelling in His character, yet I felt odd and tremulous to approach Him.

"'Jesus" said I unto Him at last, and my tongue faltered. "Jesus of Nazareth I have granted you for the last three years ample freedom of speech, nor do I regret it. Your words are those of a sage. I know not whether you have read Socrates or Plato, but this I know there is in your discourses a majestic simplicity that elevates you far above these philosophers. The Emperor is informed of it and I as his humble representative in his country, I am glad of having allowed you that liberty of which you are so worthy.

'"However, I must not conceal from you that your discourses have raised up against you powerful enemies, and neither is this surprising. Socrates had his enemies, and he fell victim to their hatred. Yours are doubly incensed against you, on account of your discourses being so severe against their conduct, against me, on account of the liberty I have afforded you. They even accused me of being indirectly leagued with you, for the purpose of depriving the Hebrews of the little civil power the Rome has left them. My request, and I do not say, 'my order', is that you be more circumspect and moderate in your discourses in the future, and more tender toward them, lest you arouse the pride of your enemies and they rise against you, this stupid populous, and compel me to employ the instruments of law.'

"The Nazarene commonly replied, 'Prince of the earth, your words proceed not from true wisdom. Say to the torrent, stop in the midst of the mountain gorge, it will uproot the trees of the valley. The torrent will answer you that it obeys the laws of nature, and the Creator, God, alone knows whither flows the water of the torrent.

'"Verily I say unto you, before the rose of Sharon blossoms, the blood of the just shall be spilt.'

"'Your blood will not be spilt,' said I with deep emotions. 'You are more precious in my estimation, on account of your wisdom, than all of the turbulent and proud Pharisees who abused the freedom granted them by the Romans. They conspire against Caesar and convert his bounty into fear and pressing the unlearned, that Caesar is a tyrant, and seeks their ruin. Insolent wretches they are not aware that the wolf of the tiger sometimes clothes themselves with the skin of sheep to accomplish the wicked ends"'.

And he goes on with his conversation there. And then the interesting part I feel is concerning the resurrection. Talking of the crucifixion he said, "I returned to the praetorium, was pensive on ascending the stair, the steps of which was still stained with the blood of the Nazarene. I perceived an old man in a sibilant posture, and behind him several Romans in tears. He threw himself at my feet and he wept most bitterly. It is painful to see an old man weep.

"And my heart already overcharged with grief, wept, though strangers, mutually wept together. And in truth it seemed that the tears lay very shallow that day on many whom I perceived out of the vast concourse of people. I never saw such a complete division of feeling. Both on the extreme, those that betrayed and sold Him, those that testified against Him. Those that said, 'crucify Him; we will have His blood'. All slunk off like cowardly cures, and washed their teeth with vinegar. As I am told that Jesus taught a resurrection and separation after death, if such should be the fact I am sure it commenced in this vast crowd.

"'Father', I said to him, after gaining control of my feelings, 'who are you, and what is your request?' 'I am Joseph of Arimathaea', he replied, 'and I have come to beg of you upon my knees the permission to bury Jesus of Nazareth'.

"'Your prayer is granted', I said to him. And at the same time ordered Manleous to take some soldiers with him to superintend the Interment, lest it should be profaned. A few days after the sepulchre was found empty, His disciples published all over the country that Jesus had risen from the dead, as He had foretold. This last report created more excitement than the first. As to its truth I cannot say for certain, but I have made some investigation in the matter. So you can examine it for yourself and see if I am at fault as Herod represents me.

"Joseph buried Jesus in his own tomb. Whether he contemplated the resurrection, or calculated to cut himself another, I cannot tell. The next day after He was buried, one of the priests came to the praetorium and said that they were apprehensive that the disciples intended to steal the body of Jesus and hide it, and then to make it appear that He had risen from the dead, as He had foretold, in which they were perfectly convinced.

"I sent him to the captain of the royal guard, Malcus, to take Him, the Jewish soldiers, and placed as many around the sepulchre as were needed. And then if anything should happen, they would blame themselves, and not the Romans. And when the great excitement arose about the sepulchre being found empty, I felt deeper solicitude than ever. I sent for Malcus who told me, he had placed his Lieutenant Benishim with one hundred soldiers around the sepulchre. He told me Benishim and the soldiers were very much alarmed at what had occurred there that morning.

"I sent for this man Benishim, who related to me as near as I can remember the following circumstances. He said that about the beginning of the fourth watch, they saw His soft and beautiful light over the sepulchre. He had first thought that the women had come to embalm the body of Jesus, as was their custom. They could not see how they gotten through the guards. And while these reflections were passing through his mind, behold the whole place lighted up, and there seemed to be crowds of the dead in their grave clothes. All seemed to be shouting and filled with ecstasy, while all around and above was the most beautiful music he had ever heard. And the whole air seemed to be filled with voices praising God.

"And at this time there seemed to be a reeling and a swimming of the earth, that he turned so sick and faint, that he could not stand on his feet. And he said, 'the earth seemed to swim from under him and his senses left him', so he did not know what did occur. I asked him in what condition he was when he came to himself. He said he was lying on the ground with his face down. I asked him if he could not have been mistaken as to the light. Was it not maybe the day coming in the east? He said at first he thought of that, but only as stones cast away, it was exceedingly dark, and then he remembered it was too early for day.

"I asked him if his dizziness might not have come from being awakened, and getting up to suddenly. For sometimes it has that effect. He said he was not, and had he had not been asleep all night, as the penalty was death for him to sleep on duty. He said he had let some of the soldiers sleep at the time, and some were asleep then. I asked him how long the scene lasted. He said he did not know, but he thought nearly an hour. He said it was hide by the light of day. And I asked him if he went to the sepulchre after he had come to himself. He said 'no', because he was afraid, that just as soon as relief came, they all went to their quarters.

"I asked him if he had been interrogated by the priest. He said he had, they wanted him to say that it was an earthquake, and to say that they were asleep, and offered him money to tell that the disciples had come and stolen the body. But he saw no disciples. He did not know that the body was gone until he was told so. I asked him what was his private opinion of the priest that conversed with him. He said some of them thought that Jesus was no man, that He was not a human being, that He was not the son of Mary, that He was not the same that was born of the virgin in Bethlehem. That the same person had been on earth before, with Abraham and Lot, and at many times and places.

"It seems to me if the Jewish theory be true, these conclusions would be correct. For to sum up His life, it would be in accord with this man's life, as is known and testified by both friends and foes. For the elements were no more in His hands than clay in the hands of a potter. He could convert water into wine. He could change death into life, diseases into health. He could calm the seas. Still the storms. Call up fish with a silver coin in its mouth. Now I say if He could do all these things which He did, and many more as the Jews all testified, and it was doing these things that created this enmity against Him. He was not charged with criminal offenses, nor was He charged with violating any law, nor of wronging any individual in person. All of the facts are known to thousands, as well as by His foes and His friends. So I am almost ready to say, as did Manilas at the cross, truly this was the Son of God."

So that is the Actepolati. There are sources in here that try to attest to its authenticity. We do not know. As I say, the early church fathers did say that Pilate wrote this letter to the Roman government to explain the circumstances. Iranias refers to it, they said, and Justin Marter, and the early church historian Usiveus.

So interesting to say the least. And whether or not that is true, I do know that the story that we read out of Matthew is true. That Jesus indeed is risen from the dead, has ascended into heaven, and is coming again to receive us unto Himself, and to establish His kingdom, and His reign over the earth. And whether or not you are a part of His kingdom depends upon your decision of what you will do with Jesus. Will you crown Him as the King and the Lord of your life? If so, then you've become a citizen of His eternal kingdom and you will share in the glory of that kingdom. For surely the Father will answer that prayer. "Father, I would that these that have been with me, should see me in the glory that I have with you, before the world ever existed." And God affirmed it and said, "I have glorified thee, and will glorify thee again."

Oh glorious day. And as I look around the world today and I see the misery and the suffering, and the strife, and the problems, as they seem to be mounting and multiplying, with John at the end of the book of Revelation when Jesus said, "behold I come quickly." He responded, "even so, come quickly Lord Jesus".

So we come to the end of Matthew's gospel and next week we begin another account. These are known as the synoptic gospels, and that they all of them cover pretty much the same period of the history of the life of Jesus; Matthew, Mark and Luke. When we get into John's gospel, John concentrates mainly in the latter part of the ministry of Christ, and does not follow the same accounts or record all of the same events as do Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

Shall we pray?

Father, we thank you for Your Word. We thank you for the death of Jesus Christ, the suffering that He endured that we might be redeemed from all of our sins. Father, we pray that tonight Thy Holy Spirit will make the things of Jesus Christ very real to us. And as we stand in the place of Pilate, and as we make our own determination concerning Jesus, help us Lord not to give into the pressures of the world around us; but may we yield to that still small voice of Thy spirit within as we obey our own conscious, our own heart as you bear witness to what is right and what is true.

And may we then Lord just surrender our lives wholly, completely, unreservedly to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. In His name we pray, Amen. "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Matthew 28". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/matthew-28.html. 2014.
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