Thursday, June 1st, 2023
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Preacher's Homiletical
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Matthew 28". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ phc/ matthew-28.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Matthew 28". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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The peculiarities of Matthew’s last chapter are largely due to the purpose of his Gospel. Throughout it has been the record of the Galilean ministry, the picture of the King of Israel, and of His treatment by those who should have been His subjects. This chapter establishes the fact of His resurrection; but, passing by the Jerusalem appearances of the risen Lord, as being granted to individuals, and having less bearing on His royalty, emphasises two points: His rejection by the representatives of the nation, whose lie is endorsed by popular acceptance; and the solemn assumption, in the Galilee so familiar to the reader, of universal dominion, with the world-wide commission in which the kingdom bursts the narrow national limits and becomes co-extensive with humanity. It is better to learn the meaning of Matthew’s selection of his incidents, than to wipe out instructive peculiarities in the vain attempt after harmony.—A. Maclaren, D.D.
Matthew 28:1. In the end of the Sabbath.—Late on the Sabbath day (R.V.).—We must assume, with Meyer, Lange, and Alford, that Matthew here follows the natural division of the day from sunrise to sunrise, which seems to be favoured by the following definition of time: “As it began to dawn,” etc.… It is certain and agreed on all hands that Matthew means the time after the close of the Jewish Sabbath, the time before daybreak on the first day, of the week, or the Christian Sunday (Schaff). Cf. Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1. The other Mary.—The mother of James and Joses (Matthew 27:56).
Matthew 28:2. From the door.—Omitted, on good authority, in the R.V.
Matthew 28:3. Countenance.—Appearance, R.V. Like lightning.—As regards the intensity of effulgence or radiance (Morison).
Matthew 28:5. Fear not ye.—The “ye” here is emphatic, to contrast their case with that of the guards.
Matthew 28:7. Into Galilee.—To which these women belonged (Matthew 27:55).
Matthew 28:9. As they went to tell His disciples.—Omitted in best MSS. and in R.V. All hail!—Lit., Rejoice! The Greek salutation, both on meeting and on parting (Carr).
Matthew 28:10. My brethren.—The general view is that the Lord referred to His brethren by spiritual relationship. See Matthew 12:49; cf. John 20:17; Hebrews 2:11.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Matthew 28:1-10
A double dawn.—Three successive and well-defined stages mark the literal dawn: that greatest darkness which concludes the night; the “scattering” of that darkness which we call the twilight; the sunrise itself. In the figurative sunrise of the passage before us, three similar steps may be noted. There is utter darkness, in the first place; waning darkness, in the second place; unshadowed light, in the last.
1. Utter darkness.—What else, on the one hand, do we read of here, as things were at first, in the way of expectation? The “women” spoken of in verse I have evidently been, for some time, in a condition of waiting. They had seen the Saviour placed in the sepulchre just before the sunset beginning of the first day of the week. After that, the sanctity of the Sabbath and the darkness of night had prevented them from returning to see it. But now, at the first opportunity, they are coming to do so; starting for the place, in all probability (John 20:1), before the darkness had gone. So much are their hearts set on the object in view! And yet how sorrowful, on the other hand, is the object in view! What are they looking for except to see the “place,” and perhaps the face, of the “dead” (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:3)? And what are they hoping to do, at the best, except that which is usually done for the “dead” (Mark 16:1)? Of the presence of “life,” of any hope of it, they have not a thought. Much the same is true, next, in the way of experience. It seems most natural to suppose of what is told us next, in Matthew 28:2-4, that the descent of the angel and removal of the stone were over before the women arrived at the place, and that what they beheld (and afterwards described to the disciples) was the form of the angel seated on the stone, and the effect of his presence as manifested so terribly in the fainting forms of the guard (Mark 16:4; Luke 24:2; John 20:1). Most probably, also, they were near enough to the place to have felt something of that accompanying “earthquake” of which we are told (Matthew 28:2). Altogether, therefore, there must have been everything to fill them, at first, with the very direst alarm. What with the terror of the earthquake (and nothing physical is said to be worse); and the greater terror of the supernatural; and the almost irresistible terror of seeing the terror of courage itself (Matthew 28:4),—awful indeed in this respect must their condition have been, even banishing the thought, for the moment, of that exceedingly sorrowful comfort in hope of which they had come. Could any “darkness” be worse?
II. Waning darkness.—This we find brought about entirely by what the angel here says to the women (Matthew 28:5-7). By what he says to them, first, in regard to the present. How encouraging his words on this point! “Fear not”—be not afraid; things are not so bad as they seem. How discriminating also! How clear and direct! “Fear not ye”—ye, to whom I am speaking. Be assured that ye have no cause for alarm. How full, again, of sympathy and approval (end of Matthew 28:5)! Your object is mine as well. Ye honour Jesus. So do I too. Infallibly and sensibly would the inward darkness of these trembling women begin to lessen under words such as these! And that, of course, all the more, because of the quarter they came from! Nothing is more assuring than the assurances of authority! Nothing more gracious than the graciousness of the great! The angel’s language, next, with regard to the past. See how his opening words on this point prepare the way for the rest! “He is not here” where you saw Him laid. Something has happened meanwhile of vast importance. How his next words follow this up! That which has happened is this; “He has risen again.” How the words that then follow fortify these! This is only what He Himself used to tell you. Remember how often He said so. How the angel’s yet further words do this still more! How they give actual proof, in part, of the truth of his language! “See the place where the Lord lay.” See, therefore, that He is certainly gone, as I said. In these successive utterances there would be a still further lessening of the gloom of these women. Most surprising, no doubt, was the purport of these utterances. Hardly less so would be their utter falseness. With such assurances, and such recollections, and such tangible proofs, they might begin to believe. The angel’s language, lastly, with regard to the future. How it confirms what he has told them before! It is all so sure—so he tells them now—that they may safely tell it in turn. So joyful, also, that they cannot do it too soon (beginning of Matthew 28:7). How it supplements what he has told them before! The Saviour is not only risen, He is still upon earth; He is going to where they have often seen Him before, and where also, before long, they shall see Him again (middle of Matthew 28:7). How his language, finally, seals all he has told them before. They have his full authority for all they have heard. His having uttered it once, he reminds them, is sufficient. It would not only be foolish, it would be wrong, to doubt him. Let the last remnant of unbelief cease at that thought (end of Matthew 28:7).
III. Unshadowed light.—This, first of all, in their faith. There is still about them, very naturally, a certain awe and solemnity; but there is no shadow of doubt now to interfere with their “joy,” or to make them hesitate about making it known (Matthew 28:8). Oh! what tidings they feel, rather, they have to communicate! Oh! for wings to reach those they desire! Oh! for breath to tell all! Similar “light,” in the next place, in their experience. Suddenly, as they fly, they are standing transfixed. Can it be? Yes, it must be. It is the Master Himself! His own aspect! His own voice! His own greeting once more (beginning of Matthew 28:9)! And yet, withal, is He quite the same as He had been to them of old? Why, if so, do we behold them now “worshipping” Him on their faces? Why embracing His “feet” (end of Matthew 28:9; contrast Matthew 26:7)? Evidently, with no less affection, there is even deeper awe than before. The reason seems plain. Not only now are they seeing the Saviour. They are seeing the “risen” Saviour as well. All that they used to admire in Him is there still. All the old consideration for those to whom He is speaking. “Be not afraid” (cf. Matthew 14:27; Mark 5:36). All the old gentleness to the fallen and weak. “Go, tell my brethren (see Matthew 26:56; and Mark 3:34-35). What they see further is what has been added thereto. This, at last, is fulness of light!
In this story of these first witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus there is much which is characteristic of the gospel:—
1. In the persons selected.—Not the world at large, as represented by the heathen guard. Nor yet the general body of believers, as represented by the disciples. But those faithful women who were both last and first at the sepulchre of Jesus (cf. Luke 24:22-24; also Acts 10:40-41). It was not necessary, neither was it ever meant, that the risen Saviour should appear to more than a few. If any have seen Him, that is proof enough to the rest (cf. John 20:29).
2. In the method pursued.—Cf. Mark 8:22-25; Mark 4:33; John 16:12; Proverbs 4:18.
HOMILIES ON THE VERSES
Matthew 28:1-10. Christ’s resurrection.—
I. The place.
II. The time.—The day is important, for it was the first Easter Sunday, and the event of that morning has caused Sunday to be observed as a holy day throughout the Christian world.
III. The visitors.—What motive led them to this act? It was love, the mightiest power in the universe.
IV. The messenger.—We know but little concerning angels, but their mission is stated in Hebrews 1:14. Never did celestial messenger bring more joyful news than fell from the lips of the angel on that morning!
V. The meeting.—A few moments before Jesus had appeared to Mary Magdalene; now He appears to the other women.—
1. A living Saviour, not the ghost of a dead man.
2. A comforting, encouraging Saviour. “Be not afraid.”
3. A brotherly Saviour (Matthew 28:10).—J. L. Hurlbut, D.D.
The resurrection: the victory won.—
I. The seeming defeat.—
1. Jesus dead.
2. Jesus buried.
III. Victory proclaimed.—
1. By the angels.
2. By the disciples.
IV. The results of Christ’s victory.—
1. It is a proof of His being the Son of God (Romans 1:4).
2. It is a pledge that salvation is finished (Romans 4:25).
3. It is a pattern for our changed lives (Romans 6:4; Romans 6:13).
4. It is a promise that our bodies will rise too (1 Corinthians 15:20; 1 Corinthians 15:49).—I. L. Trotter.
Matthew 28:1-6. The women at the sepulchre.—
I. Great courage where least expected.
II. Heavenly light breaking on earthly gloom.—Anon.
Matthew 28:5-6. The angel’s comforting words.—
1. By the same means the Lord can terrify His adversaries, and comfort His people; those He suffereth to lie still in their terror, these He comforteth.
2. Such as are seeking after Jesus may take comfort, whatsoever come; for upon this ground the angel saith, “Fear not, I know ye are seeking Jesus.”
3. We have no reason to be ashamed of Christ’s cross, when the angels avow Christ crucified to be the Lord.
4. If God should use kings and emperors to be preachers of Christ’s cross and resurrection, it should be no disparagement to their high place, for this message is worthy of such an angel as this to be messenger, and even the angels do not so much honour the message as they are honoured by it; and who is he who thinketh himself too good to be a preacher of the gospel?
5. Christ’s body after His resurrection retaineth the natural properties of a body; it is in one place and not in another; the Scripture knoweth no ubiquity of His body. “He is not here; He is risen.”
6. No rest for our faith save in our Lord’s word; if it be once received, then other things serve to confirm faith; for first, “He is risen, as He said,” saith the angel, and then biddeth them “Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”
7. It is a sufficient argument to prove that Christ’s body is not present in a place, if sense perceive it not present, for the angel proveth that Christ is not in the sepulchre by this reason, “Come, see the place where the Lord lay; He is not here.”—David Dickson.
Matthew 28:6. The place where the Lord lay.—The angel here appeals to the senses of those who stand about the tomb to attest the truth of Christ’s actual resurrection from the dead.
I. The empty tomb at once proclaimed the actual resurrection of the Saviour.—The resurrection is proclaimed to be a fact—
1. By the testimony of human witnesses. The disciples were men of probity, and had no worldly advantage to acquire from the publication of such a circumstance, but quite the opposite. They had known Christ, surely, long enough to recognise Him again when He appeared amongst them; and with one concurrent voice they testify, “He is risen from the dead.”
2. This is strengthened by the testimony of angels, and by their various appearances as bearers of the news.
3. The resurrection of Christ was not denied, even by His enemies, but was covertly recognised and admitted, even while the Jews agreed to a traditional falsehood to conceal from their posterity that which they knew to be a fact.
4. The Apostles constantly attested the fact, as also did the Fathers of the primitive Christian Church—Ignatius, Polycarp, and the other venerable custodians of the truth.
5. Christ rose, likewise, in precise accordance with Scriptural types and predictions, and with the same body as that in which He had lived and died.
II. The language of the text expresses the great humiliation of Jesus Christ.—“Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”
III. We cannot meditate beside the place where the Lord lay without learning something of the infinite love of God.
IV. Neither can we look upon His empty tomb without being convinced of the Divine faithfulness.—Faithfulness as to promises, types, shadows, and predictions.
V. This visit to the place where the Lord lay must bring with it, too, a striking evidence of His Divine sovereignty.—“I have power to lay down My life, and I have power to take it again.” And if He thus held in His sovereign hand the issues and the destinies of His own career, He can, in like manner, overrule and control the destinies of His people.
VI. Is not this vacant tomb an almost satirical evidence of His triumph over His enemies and ours?
VII. “Come, see the place where the Lord lay,” that you may behold in it the certain and the glorious pledge of a perfected salvation.—A. Mursell.
The resurrection of Christ and the inspiration of the Bible.—
I. The resurrection of Christ is an historical fact, and, as such, it can be proved like any other fact in history.
II. The resurrection of Christ, once established, carries with it other great truths, such as His divinity and the infallibility of His teaching.
III. Having established His divinity and the infallibility of His teaching, we have a short and easy method to prove that the Bible is the Word of God, and the expression of the will of God. Christ, possessing Divine wisdom and never erring in a single statement, declares that the Old Testament prophets spoke by the Holy Ghost, or that God spoke through them. He quoted “the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms”—which included the whole Old Testament as we now have it—as the Word of God. This stamps the whole Old Testament with Divine authority. He also promised to guide the Apostles in what they were to record (John 14:26; John 16:13). As a matter of fact, this promise was fulfilled when they received the baptism of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost, and “spake with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” The fulfilment of this promise, confirmed as it was by signs and miracles, stamps the teaching of the Apostles with the imprimatur of God. Thus we see that in dealing with doubt and difficulty respecting doctrine and belief, the first thing to be done is to satisfy the intellect about the historical Christ and the great facts of His life. Once establish the resurrection of Christ as an historical fact, and you have also established His divinity and the inspiration of the Bible.—S. Macnaughton, M.A.
Matthew 28:7. The risen Christ in Galilee.—Why did Christ make an appointment with His disciples in Galilee? Why did He make that distant place the scene of the main evidence of His resurrection? Why not here in Jerusalem? Whether they were consciously aimed at or not, certain results were secured that could not have been gained had His appearance been confined to Jerusalem.
I. His resurrection was thus separated from all those superstitions known as ghosts or apparitions.—These, men have always believed in; but they are an indirect, left-handed witness to a consciousness in man that he is more than he seems to be, and that death is not what it appears to be. The ghost haunts its former scenes; it is seen where the body was buried. The action of the mind in this respect is singular, and is governed by a sort of logic; it feels that the other life lies close to this, and that the two lives of men cannot be far divorced from each other. But these beliefs are superstitions, and they were rife at the time of Christ. The one thing to be feared in connection with the resurrection was that it would be regarded as an ordinary ghost story. It has been so interpreted in later days—as a part of a great, common superstition. But, as if to meet in advance this interpretation, and to separate it in the minds of the disciples from everything of the sort, it is made under conditions utterly unlike those of apparitions.
II. This appointment in Galilee was a testing lesson in faith.—Is it, after all—we can imagine them saying—worth the while to make the journey to Galilee? Can He who died on the cross, whose feet were pierced with nails, journey thither? That He should appear here is possible; we have heard the like before; but will He appear in Galilee? So their minds may have acted; and as they made the journey, every step and every hour must have tended to throw them out of their belief and hope. For there is nothing that so tests our faith in an event difficult of belief as to get out of the atmosphere of it. The wonder lessens as we go away from it. But if this experience of the disciples was a trial of their faith, it also strengthened it. For faith is not hurt by doubt until it yields to it. The very weakness and faltering of faith may be turned into strength by pressing on in its path, fighting doubt, and resisting the appeals of the world. This journey of simple trust and stout adherence to hope was a fine preparation for harder experiences soon to follow. There would come times when not merely the faltering of their own hearts was against them, but all the powers of the world; times when their only refuge would be their faith in the risen and ascended Lord. Then the memory of this experience, crowned by actual sight of their Master, would come to their rescue.
III. We find another explanation of this meeting in Galilee in the fact that Christ saw fit to give them their great commission on the scene of their common labours.—For it was in Galilee that they had been called and set to their work. It was in Galilee that the great sermon had been spoken which lay at the bottom of the gospel; and here His mighty works were chiefly done. His presence in Jerusalem was incidental to His life, and not the main field of it. Nor did Jerusalem so well represent the world that was to be discipled as the northern province. It is not improbable, also, that He thus intended to convey to the disciples some further and closer conception of the nature of their work. “Go ye, and make disciples of all nations.” “How?” they may have asked. “As I have done in these fields and villages before your eyes. There I turned water into wine: go, turning the common and dull things of earth into glorious and inspiring realities. There I fed the multitude: go, taking the Bread of life to the multitudes of earth—Bread that shall also become literal bread to all the poor and starving of the world. There I stilled the storm: go, carrying the all-conquering peace of God to the stormy and warring nations. On that hillside and by those shores I preached the gospel to the poor: go, carry everywhere the same gospel of consolation. In all these villages I cured the sick and the lame and the blind in answer to their faith. Take My words to them again, and tell them that by faith in Me they will be delivered from all their groaning miseries. Teach them that there is a Divine, delivering power at work in the world; that God is the Father, and that He has sent His Son into the world to save it, and to restore to Him all who believe on Me.” More vividly still He was able to impress upon their minds His comforting assurance: “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” “I was with you as we trod all these paths from city to city; I never failed you; I taught and cheered and inspired you by My constant presence. So it will be to the end.” These things are for us also. We have a Leader who is also a sharer in our life.—T. T. Munger, D.D.
Matthew 28:8. Believing and testifying.—
1. Such as know what a heart grieved for want of Christ meaneth, will be very ready to comfort such as are in such a grief, as these holy women are glad to carry good news to the heart-broken disciples.
2. Mixed affections, fear and joy, at one time, may well consist in the heart of a believer. One may tremble at the majesty of God, and rejoice in His friendship, manifested by any means which He pleaseth, for thus are these godly souls affected.
3. It is a choice good disposition to believe the Lord’s word, and diligently to go about the obedience of it, in fear and trembling, such as here is to be seen in these women; having believed the glad tidings, they run quickly, with fear and joy, to bring the disciples word.—David Dickson.
Woman witnessing to Christ’s resurrection.—I. The false message which brought sin into the world, and all our woe, was given first to woman, and by her was communicated to the man. The resurrection of the Lord, the healing of that early death-wound, was communicated in the same way. From an angel to woman, and from woman to man, and from man to the world, came death. From an evil angel, through the link of woman to mankind, the evil tidings spread and covered the earth. From a good angel to woman, and from women to men, and from men to the world came life, the life of the world.
II. It is not much preaching we get from angels’ lips; but there is a little here, and that little very precious. The angel gave their spirits the cordial before he imposed the race upon their limbs. The angel knew his part well, for the whole theory of missions is here.
III. “They did run to bring the disciples word.”—It was the word within them that impelled them to hasten; it was the word in their heart that made them run with the word on their lips. I detect a grand key-note here. It is not only the message, carefully learned and correctly told; it is not only the faithful witness-bearing, whatever danger may be incurred. Over and above all this there are an eagerness, an enthusiasm, and a haste, in bearing the message of redemption, which are in keeping with the case, and mark the conduct of true disciples in all places and at all times.—W. Arnot, D.D.
Matthew 28:9-10. Meeting Jesus.—
1. Such as obey the directions of God’s servants, and do use prescribed means that they may meet with Christ, shall find Him ere they be aware. These women meet Christ before they looked for Him; as they went on His errand, Jesus met them.
2. Joyful is the meeting which a soul hath with Christ.
3. A humble sinner may be homely with Christ.
4. Such as believe God’s word in the mouth of His messengers shall find confirmation of it by Christ Himself; for here the Lord bids them do the same things which the angel had commanded before—to carry news to the Apostles.
5. For all that can be said unto us, our faith is still mixed with some doubtings, which breed fear, and Christ only can remove them; therefore saith He here, “Be not afraid.”
6. The weakest of believers are much beloved and esteemed by Christ. “Go, tell My brethren.”
7. The place wherein Christ is most welcome to preach shall be most honoured by His presence. “In Galilee shall they see Me.”
8. Howsoever our Lord be purposed to give sensible satisfaction to His people in due time, yet doth He ever require some belief of His word in the mouth of His servants, and some obedience of faith to go before it; therefore saith He, “Tell them that they go to Galilee,” and addeth, “There shall they see Me.”—David Dickson.
Matthew 28:13. Say ye, etc.—In addition to all the judgments of impotency, embarrassment, and rejection, they are now subjected to the judgment of stupidity (Lange). Let the critic say what better expedient they could have thought of, before he assigns its poverty as a reason for discrediting the story. That St. Matthew, and he alone, records it, is sufficiently accounted for by the fact that, his being the first written Gospel, and, moreover, the Gospel for the Jew, it behoved him to deal with a saying “commonly reported among the Jews until this day”; while its being recorded by him was a sufficient reason why no further notice should be taken of it, when there was so much of greater importance to tell (Gibson).
Matthew 28:14. If this come to the governor’s ears.—See R.V. marg. “If this come before the governor”—i.e., not in the way of mere report, but for judicial investigation (Brown). Persuade.—The word meant more than it would have been quite polite to have expressed (Morison). “They say that gifts persuade even gods” (Euripides, Medea, 964). Secure you.—Rid you of care (R.V.). The only other place where the word occurs in the New Testament is 1 Corinthians 7:32.
Matthew 28:15. This saying is commonly reported, etc.—See R.V. “Until this day”—to the date of the publication of this Gospel. Justin Martyr, who flourished about A.D. 170, says in his “Dialogue with Trypho the Jew,” that the Jews dispersed the story by means of special messengers sent to every country (Brown).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Matthew 28:11-15
Unwilling witnesses.—In the earlier verses of this chapter we have a brief account of the first effects of the resurrection of Christ on His friends. The present verses describe the same in regard to His foes. They show us how dire was the consequent perplexity, and how utterly desperate the ultimate decisions of those who had been chiefly instrumental in effecting His death.
I. Dire perplexity.—We find this, on the one hand, on the part of the guard. When the angel had gone, and the catastrophe was over, and they at last had recovered, they would dare to look round. We know what they would see—the seal broken, the stone removed, the sepulchre open, its Inmate gone! What were they to do? Some, it would appear, were too perplexed to do anything but stand still. Others among them—a portion only—went their way to the priests (Matthew 28:11). Probably they thought that these would certainly hear something of what had occurred, and that it would be best, on the whole, for the story of it to be told by themselves. In any case, what they had to say would reflect much on themselves. In any case, it would seem to those who heard it very hard of belief. It was hard to say, therefore, whether telling it in person would be of any avail.
Yet, what else could be done? The point is one which divides them in an irreconcilable way. Evidently, as a body, they were at their wits’ end as to what ought to be done. We find similar perplexity, on the other hand, on the part of the priests. It is very observable that they never seem to have thought for a moment of asking for the punishment of the guard. It seems evident, therefore, that they did not doubt their story so far as it went. We may well believe, indeed, that there was something in the still terrified looks of these men, and in the very tone and manner of their speech in telling their story, which vouched irresistibly, so far, for its truth. And we can well understand, also, how that story, if believed in, would shut out the idea above named. Even Roman soldiers could not be expected to fight against supernatural force. On that side, therefore, and in that way, there was clearly nothing to be done. Could anything be done, in any way, on the other side of the case? Could anything be done in the direction of explaining away the undoubted facts of the case? To answer this question—early in the day as it was, and many as had been their recent assemblings—they call another one yet (Matthew 28:12); an assembly of their whole body, so the words (Matthew 28:11-12) seem to imply; an assembly also (see Matthew 28:12-13) having the soldiers still within call. Any advice from any one opposed to Jesus would be welcome to them in that emergency. What a picture, again, of a set of men at their very wits’ end!
II. Desperate decisions.—What these many counsellors finally resolve on is of a twofold description. The soldiers are never to repeat again the story told by them that day. They are to say, instead, that the disciples of Jesus had come by night and stolen Him away while they slept (Matthew 28:13). How desperate a plan this was felt to be, on the one hand, may be seen from what we are told of the conduct of all the parties concerned. The conduct of the “soldiers.” Unless “large money” is given to them they will not consent to adopt it. Better, even, to be reported to the governor for not discharging their trust. The conduct of the authorities, in willingly consenting, with all their notorious covetousness (Matthew 23:14, etc.), to hand over the “large” amount demanded of them, and in being ready, also, to spend more still (so some consider to be implied in their language in Matthew 28:14) if required. Anything was better to them, than that what they had heard should be heard by others as well. Equally desperate will the plan appear when looked at in itself. See what it assumed, on the one hand, about the disciples of Jesus. First, that they were the kind of men to think of so daring a deed, and that in spite of the precautions taken to prevent such an attempt (Matthew 27:63-66). Next, that they were more faithful to the body of Jesus than they had been to Himself. Lastly, that such courage as was possessed by them had been increased by His death! Assumptions all, which none who knew them would find easy to believe. See, also, what this plan assumed on the part of the guard. First, that such sentinels as they were—amongst the best in the world—should have been asleep at their posts! And, next, that they should know, being so, what was done during their sleep! The whole explanation, in short, is more difficult far than what it sought to explain. In itself, there is no difficulty in believing that these men had been overpowered by a greater power than their own. There is every difficulty in believing that they had allowed a far inferior and greatly discouraged power to bring about the very thing which they had undertaken to prevent; and so, to do that of which the priests had thought previously that, in such circumstances, it could never be done. To go and say now of this that it had been done was to declare themselves equally foolish and false. And yet to say this was all—be it observed lastly—that could be said then on that side. Years afterwards (end of Matthew 28:15) those who denied the resurrection of Jesus had found nothing better to say. They could only explain, even then, what was undoubtedly true by what was impossible to believe!
1. How striking a proof, therefore, we have here, in the first place, of the truth of Christ’s resurrection! It is the testimony of enemies. Of enemies driven to bay. Of enemies doing their worst. We account for what the soldiers have seen, for the empty sepulchre, for the absent body of Jesus, by saying that He has risen again. All that His cotemporary enemies can offer to us instead of this is that which, on the face of it, is self-contradictory. At least, therefore, they leave the field clear for our view of the subject. Better, in such circumstances, to consider the miraculous than to accept the absurd. This is saying the least.
2. How cogent a proof we have, in the next place. Cogent, because it does not stand by itself, but follows up that already furnished us in the earlier part of this chapter. Difficult to dispute in itself, it is still more difficult to dispose of with that other evidence by its side. Cogent, also, because the evidence it is thus combined with is of so widely different a description. That other was negative. This is positive. That was from friends. This, from enemies. The first, through those afraid to believe. This, by those who longed to dispute. The two, therefore, are as independent of each other as they could very well be. The two in combination, therefore, are about as strong as they could very well be. It would be a miracle, indeed, if two such sets of opponents had invented the same myth!
HOMILIES ON THE VERSES
Matthew 28:11-15. The resurrection of Christ; an argument drawn from the explanation of enemies.—There are three impossibilities developed in this narrative, which go a great way to show the impossibility of denying the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
I. It was impossible for these enemies to deny that Christ had, by some means or other, left the grave.
II. It was impossible for them to give any other explanation than that which they now invented.—Their grand object was to deny that He rose Himself from the dead; and how could they explain His absence from the grave in any other way than they did?
III. It was impossible for this, the only explanation they could give, to be credited.—D. Thomas, D.D.
Matthew 28:12. Bearing down the truth.—
1. Christ’s malicious enemies are of the devil’s nature; they will never cease to oppose Him, though they know Him to be the Son of God.
2. The madness of malicious adversaries of the gospel and the slavery of Satan’s captives are wonderful, as here is seen; for after they are assembled, they resolve to corrupt the witnesses against the light of their conscience.
3. Money is a great blot in the world. The priests and elders think it may overbalance the most precious truth, and are confident for gain to make the soldiers tell a lie against the resurrection of the known Messiah.
4. The more men be engaged in a sin, they are the more forward to go on in it, and will spare no cost to gain their point. These priests and elders gave but thirty pieces of silver to have Christ crucified, but here they gave large money to keep down the report of His resurrection.—David Dickson.
Matthew 28:12-15. Judicial blindness.—This last appearance of the rulers in the Gospel is full of tragic significance, and is especially important to Matthew, whose narrative deals especially with Jesus as the King and Messiah of Israel. This is the end of centuries of prophecy and patience! This is what all God’s culture of His vineyard has come to! The husbandmen cast the heir out of the vineyard, and slew him. There was a deeper depth than even that. They would not be persuaded when He rose again from the dead.
They entrenched themselves in a lie, which only showed that they had a glimmering of the truth and hated it. And the lie was willingly swallowed by the mass of the nation, who thereby showed that they were of the same stuff as they who made it. A conspiracy or falsehood, which knew itself to be such, was the last form of that august council of Israel. It is an awful lesson of the penalties of unfaithfulness to the light possessed, an awful instance of “judicial blindness.” So sets the sun of Israel. And therefore our Gospel turns away from the apostate nation, which has rejected its King, to tell, in its last words, of His assumption of universal dominion, and of the passage of the glad news from Israel to the world.—A. Maclaren, D.D.
Matthew 28:13-15. Bribing the soldiers.—
1. Calumnies and lies devised by Christ’s adversaries are the special engine which they use against the gospel. When all other devices do fail, they make service to Satan by this means.
2. They who are entered in service of ungodly masters can hardly win out; still new and worse employment is furnished unto them.
3. The wicked care not what shame they do put upon themselves, and one upon another, to gain their point.
4. Such as do tempt unto sin, labour to make the sinner secure from worldly inconveniences, but cannot secure him against God’s justice. The priests here do undertake to secure the soldiers at the governor’s hands, but no further.
5. A profane person will make sale of conscience and tongue, and all for money.
6. Such as can be content to be silent, and to keep up truth for any earthly gain, will yield also to speak contrary to known truth for gain.
7. Such as do not apprehend any wrath from God for sin, do seek no guard against it, but do think it sufficient to be secure at men’s hands.
8. He that taketh the bait of sin, will also swallow the hook; for so soon as these men took the money they did as they were taught.
9. Where truth is rejected, a lie will be received, were it never so incredible.—David Dickson.
Matthew 28:16. Then.—But (R.V.). Certainly not before the second week after the resurrection, and probably somewhat later (Brown). The eleven disciples.—They come forward here as the representatives of the entire band of disciples, and not as the select apostolic college of the Twelve, which makes its first appearance after the selection of Matthias. This distinction is to be found in the remark that “some doubted,” which cannot apply to the Eleven. Reference is made to many witnesses in 1 Corinthians 15:6 (Lange). A mountain.—The (R.V.). As Galilee was the most convenient place for a large public gathering of disciples, so a mountain was the most convenient spot, not only because of its seclusion, but because it would give the best opportunity for all to see and hear. What mountain it was we can only conjecture (Gibson).
Matthew 28:17. Some doubted.—“Certainly,” says Dr. Brown, “none of the Eleven, after what took place at previous interviews in Jerusalem. But if the five hundred were now present, we may well believe this of some of them.” See also Lange’s note above (Matthew 28:16). But Dr. Plumptre’s remarks are important: “The narrative of John 21:4 throws some light upon it. There was something mysterious and supernatural in the manifestation of the glorified body—outlines, at first indistinct and scarcely recognised, and then the whole form seen as it had been seen in life. The more devoted and loving disciples were probably, here as before, the first to recognise their Lord.”
Matthew 28:18. Came.—To them (R.V.). I.e., up to them, near to them.
Matthew 28:19. In the name.—Into the name (R.V.). The difference is considerable. “In the name” might imply that baptism was to be administered by church ministers acting in the name of the Almighty. “Into the name” means that converts are pledged by baptism to a faith which has for its object the Being designated by that name, and which brings them into union with Him. The word “name” has a wide and deep meaning; it implies a living reality, a power, and in Scripture, when applied to God, is equivalent to the Godhead (F. C. Cook). Of the Father … Holy Ghost.—The twofold truth in the doctrine of the Trinity is thus distinctly stated—
(1) Identity in essence. The Three have one Name; no Being, however glorious, not being God, could be included in one Name;
(2) The order is equally clear; first, He from Whom all proceeded; second, He through Whom all proceedeth; third, He by Whom all proceedeth. Co-ordination as to essence and name, subordination as to mutual relation and office (ibid.).
Matthew 28:20. To observe.—Then our Lord’s precepts given in the Sermon on the Mount, and through the whole course of His ministry, were not simply to be admired, but to be kept. The end of the world.—See R.V. marg. Amen.—Omitted in the leading MSS. and in the R.V.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Matthew 28:16-20
An abiding work.—The resurrection of Christ being now an established fact, what are, and what are to be, its effects? A brief summary of the answer to these questions is given us here. According to a promise of which we have heard before more than once (Matthew 28:7; Matthew 26:32), on a “mountain” in “Galilee,” which also appears (see R.V. “the mountain”) to have been previously specified by name, and in a manner, therefore, of special solemnity and significance, the risen Saviour here meets His (now) “eleven disciples” (Matthew 28:16). The Evangelist’s account of that meeting will be found very instructive on both the points named. It shows that the resurrection of Christ had already brought about a great change in Himself. It shows, also, that that change involved corresponding changes of great moment in His disciples.
I. In the Saviour Himself.—In His appearance, to begin. Evidently, He is not quite now what He had been before. Evidently, all the same, He is not wholly different from what He had been before. Some recognise Him, if others do not. Even of these others, also, it is only said that they “doubt” (Matthew 28:17). They do not therefore deny. What they ask is, Can this really be He? Evidently, also, we can here trace the direction in which His appearance has been altered. It is in the direction of greater majesty—of more visible glory, more outshining of light. Can this, they think, be that suffering Jesus with whom we were acquainted so long? Can this, yet—so they seem to say afterwards—be any one else? With all His present glory, is there not yet in His looks the same sympathy, the same tenderness, the same unparalleled love as before? Alike, therefore, by their knowledge and doubt, alike by their recollections and their experience, they are brought, as we read here, to His feet (Matthew 28:17 again; see also Matthew 28:9). On the one hand, there is so little change that they are drawn to Him in love. On the other, there is so much change that they come to Him in awe. It is a dazzlingly brighter—not a different—sun. There is an equal change now, in the second place, in the position of the Saviour. Of this He now assures them Himself; both by His presence and speech (beginning of Matthew 28:18). He “comes” Himself and tells them of what is true now of Himself. Vast is the difference, in this respect, between the present and past. Before then, He had been with them, if not exactly in weakness (cf. Acts 10:38), yet in subjection and shame. As He had said Himself, and as all His history then had made plain, He had come “not to be ministered unto, but to minister,” and even to be subject to others so far as “to give His life, a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). But now that He has “risen again” from the dead, there is a perpetual end of that condition of things. That marvellous reversal of death has proved incontestably that the ransom for sin which He had offered by dying, had been accepted in full (1 Corinthians 15:14-20, etc.). Now, therefore, He is not to stand as a “servant,” but as a crowned Ruler and Judge. This is the point which He wishes them now to understand to the full. Everything requisite for this truly commanding position—everything, both above and below, has been laid now on His “shoulder” (Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 22:22). “All authority has been given unto Me in heaven and in earth.” This is the result—the natural result—of My “rising again” (cf. Romans 1:4; Acts 17:31; Revelation 1:8; 1 Peter 3:21-22).
II. In the Saviour’s disciples.—Great was the consequent change, in the first place, in their position. They are to be the messengers now—“Apostles” indeed—rather than the companions of Christ. Therefore it is that they are not now invited to come—not told only to wait—but commanded to “go.” Also, they are to do this and be thus because of the “authority” now vested in Him. “Go ye, therefore”—because of this change in Myself (Matthew 28:19). So it is I now employ this my fuller authority. I solemnly send you out in My Name! There was to be a corresponding change, in the next place, in the character of their message. It was to be a message communicating much more than before. They are to tell now of His rising again (Acts 1:22); and of all that that means (Acts 4:33; Acts 5:30-32; Acts 13:34-39). It was to be a message, also, demanding much more than before. It was to claim men as His “disciples,” to bring them into His net (Matthew 4:19; Matthew 13:47)—to do this among all men (Matthew 28:19), and to gather for Him in this way out of “all” the “nations,” a “nation” of His own (cf. Acts 15:14). Lastly, there was to be yet another change, a change in the character of their plans. What are the messengers sent forth in these new circumstances, to teach men to believe? The answer is equally simple and deep, and corresponds accurately, if somewhat mysteriously, with the new position of the Sender. They are to “baptize” men “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” In other words, only those are to be enrolled as “disciples” who accept the truths enshrined in these words (end of Matthew 28:19). That is the epitome of their faith. What are these messengers, in the next place, to teach men to observe? The answer, again, accords admirably with the new position of Christ. “Teach men to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” In other words, the “disciples” of Christ are to rule themselves by the precepts of Christ. That is the compendium of their duty. Lastly, what are these, thus engaged in “making disciples of” others, to expect for those others and for themselves? In the exceedingly arduous and, not impossibly, exceeding protracted endeavour before them, it is clear, on the one hand, that they cannot reckon on the visible presence of Christ. That very word “go,” before adverted to, implies this of itself. Yet, for all this, they may expect His effectual presence to be with them throughout. To be with them, in fact, till His glorious visible presence shall be with them again. So He expressly declares. “Lo, I am with you always, even to the consummation of the age.” That is the summary of their hopes.
1. How fit a close this is, therefore, on the one hand, to the earthly story of Christ!—All that we have read about Him before—about the circumstances and mystery and significance of His birth; about His solemn call to His work; about the authority and power, the wisdom and mercy, the forbearance and faithfulness which marked His course as a Teacher; and about the final mystery of His awful passion and death—are here, as it were, brought to a point. Now we see fully, in this re-appearance of Jesus, what they all of them meant. Now, in consequence, we see Him at last as He is shown to us here—the perfected Saviour, the abounding Life (John 10:10), the supreme Ruler of all. “Finis coronet opus.” Never was that true saying visibly truer than here!
2. How fit a prelude this is, on the other hand, to the earthly history of His church!—What those listening “eleven” were commissioned to do; what they began to do in person not very long after; what has been done since by the successive generations of disciples who have risen up through their labours and in their stead;—how in this way there has been perpetually gathered out and kept together a people to His name, and how this has been evidently effected among and by them, with their many failures and drawbacks, by the continual and never withdrawn presence among them of greater Help than their own, is here shown us, as it were, as the prophetic foreshortening of this farewell decree. It is, in short, but a fulfilment of that of which He had Himself spoken before. When the “nobleman” of the Parable of the Pounds is going away, he is described by the Saviour Himself as saying to those whom he leaves, “Occupy till I come” (Luke 19:13). Just so it is that the risen Jesus here says in effect, “Occupy till I come.” Do this for Me while I am away from you, and yet with you as well. Do this for Me until I return to you in even greater glory than now. What a charge! What a privilege! What a prospect!
HOMILIES ON THE VERSES
Matthew 28:16-17. Christ meeting His disciples.—
1. Let the Lord show Himself to us as He pleaseth, it is our duty to attend and keep what means and meetings He hath appointed.
2. Christ loveth the assembly of His saints, and doth not disappoint the expectation of those that wait upon Him in the appointed means.
3. The faith of believers is not always alike vigorous and active, neither in comparison one of another, nor in comparison of a man with himself at divers times.
4. As faith is clear and vigorous, so doth it see Christ to be God, and bringeth the soul down before Him to worship.—David Dickson.
Matthew 28:17. Early doubters.—As there were honest doubters then, so it is now. It is right that we should try to meet such difficulties as these. The first step, doubtless, towards meeting them is to show how irrefragable is the literary proof that His disciples believed in Christ’s resurrection; and how ample were the opportunities they had of judging of the reality of that resurrection; and how cautious some at least were in accepting the evidence offered to them! I propose to go a step farther and to consider some of the difficulties inherent in the narrative itself, as it has come down to us.
I. The manifestations were fragmentary and partial.—We are tempted to ask, How was it that Christ did not show more of Himself after that Easter day? If for the forty days which elapsed between the resurrection and ascension Christ had manifested Himself openly, would not the proof of His divinity have been placed beyond doubt? Yet how different was the course Christ actually pursued! His intercourse was not of the old familiar kind; the time He stayed was brief; the words He spoke were few; and it was only in private places like the upper room with its closed doors, or in lonely spots like the Galilean mountains or the lake side, that He appeared at all. We need not be surprised if a consideration of these facts has caused perplexity to many. And yet, a little further thought will remove much of this perplexity. If the facts of the resurrection are contrary to what one would naturally have expected, that is only in keeping with the rest of revelation. The first advent of Christ took place in a manner quite contrary to all previous expectation, though that expectation was based on authentic prophecies. The redemption of man, again, through Christ’s death on the cross, took place in a manner which man could never have conceived or dreamt of as possible. Nor is it as certain as it seems at first that belief, even intellectual belief, would have followed Christ’s public appearance in the streets of Jerusalem after His resurrection. Do not let us forget that some had already been restored from the dead. There was Jairus’ daughter, the widow’s son at Nain, and Lazarus. Yet the great majority of the people remained unbelieving. But even suppose Christ’s enemies had believed that Christ had died and risen again, what would such belief have been worth? It would have produced on them a shock of surprise and wonder, and there it would have ended, and it would have had no more moral significance than would a shock of galvanism. Of course God could have forced upon them overwhelming evidence, and so have compelled an intellectual faith. But, in the first place, God never does, and never will, force faith on any man; and, secondly, we cannot too often remind ourselves that a mere intellectual faith is absolutely valueless—the devils believe and tremble. Remember, these men had had every opportunity of hearing the truth. If the teaching of Christ, which appealed to their moral nature, did not move them, His resurrection certainly would not.
II. Christ’s appearances were vague and mysterious.—It was the same Christ, and yet not the same. Before we decide that this does introduce an element of doubt, let us pause and think what shape our own hopes of the life beyond the grave are accustomed to take. If we do this we shall find how exquisitely these recorded appearances of our Lord fit in with all our aspirations and longings. Man hopes for two things beyond the grave which are humanly incompatible and irreconcilable. First, he hopes to preserve his human identity and personality; he wishes to believe in the resurrection of the body, he wishes to believe that he will be able in the future state to identify those whom he has loved and lost on earth; he trusts that the conditions of the world to come will not be so utterly changed as to render useless all the training and experience so painfully acquired in this life. And yet, on the other hand, he feels with St. Paul that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; he feels that it is necessary to throw off the limitations of this life; he feels that it would be an intolerable burden to be shackled again with the weaknesses, and pains, and disfigurements which form part of our mortal body on earth. How are these two sets of desires to be reconciled? We see them reconciled in the body of the risen Christ.
In conclusion, note how Christ dealt with these doubters. “Some doubted. And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore,” etc. Yes, that is the way to solve all difficulties: let us put our hands to some work for Christ, and doubts will soon melt away, like mists before the sun. If any man will do the works, he shall know of the doctrine.—A. M. Mackay, B.A.
Scepticism.—There are three kinds of scepticism:—
I. The scepticism of indolence.—Thousands of men say they doubt, who have never thought. Their doubt is but a mental yawn.
II. The scepticism of perversity.—They dislike religious subjects so far as they know them, and they wish them to be untrue.
III. The scepticism of inquiry.—This scepticism is wholesome; it is the condition of all true progress.—Homilist.
“But some doubted.”—These words—
1. Illustrate the scrupulous truthfulness of the writers of the Holy Scriptures.
2. Prove that the earlier witnesses to Christianity were not men of great credulity, but men who were really slow of heart to believe.
3. Illustrate our Lord’s tenderness, compassion, and long-suffering towards doubting souls.
4. Remind us that the most honest doubts as to the truth of Christianity are unwarranted, and should not be encouraged.
5. Should lead us to reduce Christianity to the test of personal experience and consciousness (John 7:17; 1 John 5:10).—J. Stock, LL.D.
Matthew 28:18-20. Our Lord’s glorious commission.—This glorious commission embraces two primary departments, the Missionary and the Pastoral, with two sublime and comprehensive encouragements to undertake and go through with them.
I. The missionary department.—“Go, make disciples of all nations.” In the corresponding passage of Mark (Mark 16:15), it is “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” The only difference is, that in this passage the sphere, in its worldwide compass and its universality of objects, is more fully and definitely expressed; while in the former the great aim and certain result is delightfully expressed in the command to “make disciples of all nations.”
II. The pastoral department.—“Teach them to observe all things,” etc. What must have been the feelings which such a commission awakened! “We conquer the world for Thee, Lord, who have scarce conquered our own misgivings—we, fishermen of Galilee, with no letters, no means, no influence over the humblest creature? Nay, Lord, do not mock us.”
III. The encouragements to undertake and go through with this work.—These are two: one in the van, the other in the rear of the commission itself.
1. “All power in heaven”—the whole power of Heaven’s love and wisdom and strength, “and all power in earth”—power over all persons, all passions, all principles, all movements—to bend them to this one high object, the evangelisation of the world: all this “is given unto Me,” as the risen Lord of all, to be by Me placed at your command. “Go ye therefore.”
2. “And lo! I am with you all the days”—not only to perpetuity, but without one day’s interruption, “even to the end of the world.”—D. Brown, D.D.
Matthew 28:18. Christ’s universal claim.—Consider:—
I. The universal claim of Christ.—It includes—
1. Authority over all the forces of nature as well as over all spiritual powers.
2. All power of Revelation 3:0. The power of absolutely forgiving sin when repented of.
4. Power over death.
5. All power of judgment.
6. Power over things be yond the natural sphere.
II. Let us try and ascertain how far the claim has been verified.—
1. See what Christ has accomplished in the world.
2. Think of the many good institutions and useful works which have had their beginnings in love of Him who was the Good Samaritan of our race.
3. The stimulus given to human thinkings by the advent of Christianity.
4. The great inventions which have been subordinated to the spread of Christ’s truth and power.
5. See how the operations and events intended to check the spread or subvert the power of Christ’s kingdom have been made to tell on its advance and establishment.
6. In the present power of Christianity.
7. A great future opens out for Christ’s truth.—“Tertius.”
Authority in heaven.—
I. Here is the mystery of the mediatorial kingdom.—Christ, the God-man, Lord of heaven and earth, to the glory of the Father. All power is given unto Him in heaven.
II. Jesus has all power in heaven, in order that the church on earth should constantly and steadfastly look away from all that is human and temporal, and know of no other mediation, strength, guidance, and comfort, but the power and love, the wisdom and faithfulness of her one only Master and Head.
III. Behold Him, the Son of man, seated at the right hand of the Father, and in His majestic rest and peaceful dignity behold the perfect assurance of our acceptance and of our blessedness.
IV. Behold Jesus in heaven, and remember that in Him Divine omnipotence is united with the tender sympathy of perfect humanity.
V. Behold Jesus in heaven, to bless His people.—The Father Himself loveth us, but it is in and through Christ that the love of the Father rests on believers.
VI. Behold Jesus in heaven, and seek the things which are above.—From Him descend all healthful influences, all spiritual gifts, all quickening and renewing power, all true and ever lasting consolation.
VII. Behold Jesus in heaven, and be of good comfort.—He presents unto the Father all the petitions and thanksgivings, all the labours and sufferings, all the words and works of His people, and they are accepted and well-pleasing in His sight.—A. Saphir, D.D.
Matthew 28:19. Missions.—
I. Heathen nations need the gospel of Christ.—
1. In all heathen lands dreadful sins prevail.
2. In many heathen countries cruelty to children is very common.
3. Wars are common.
4. Slavery in many places.
5. Ignorance, hopelessness in death, and unsoothed sorrow, prevail.
II. It is possible to send the gospel to all nations.—
1. Thousands of men and women are waiting to go.
2. In a few weeks the most distant countries can be reached by steamer—India, Africa, China, Japan, South Sea Islands, etc.
3. Only £2,000,000 per year is spent on missions, though £12,000,000 is spent on amusements, £11,000,000 on tobacco smoking, and £140,000,000 on strong drink, in Great Britain alone.
III. We ought to send the gospel to all nations.—
1. Christ commands it.
2. It belongs to them.
3. They are ready to listen to it.
4. We shall be condemned if we keep it back from them.—R. Brewin.
Heathenism.—I. With regard to the times of ignorance, there are three elements which modify the dense darkness which covers the earth.—
1. There is the reminiscence of the primeval Revelation 2:0. “There are the unwritten laws of Heaven in the hearts of men, which are not of to-day or yesterday, whose birth-tide is not known to any man” (Sophocles).
3. God, by the Holy Spirit, who bloweth where He listeth, had His work among the Gentile nations (Melchizedek, Job, the men of Nineveh).
II. We must not regard the judgments that are denounced in Scripture against heathenism and the nations that forget God as unjust and hard.—Nothing in the Bible is harsh and severe. The light in which heathenism is revealed in Scripture, although it is truthful, is also affectionate. Whatever there is pure, and lovely, and ideal among the heathen nations, think not that it is our interest, or that it is the spirit of Christianity and Scripture, to ignore it or make little of it. God is the God of all, and there is nothing good or beautiful but it has its origin in God’s Spirit.
III. When we think of heathenism we are overwhelmed and appalled.—
1. Think of its antiquity.
2. Think of the extent of its territory.
3. Think of the wonderful minds which have been captivated and enslaved by heathenism.
4. Think of the evil of idolatry.
5. Think of the wretchedness and misery of the heathen. It is a very superficial view of antiquity when people talk of the bright days of sunshine and joy in ancient Hellas. There were brightness and beauty; that people were gifted with a marvellous sense of the beautiful; but those who are well acquainted with antiquity know the deep-seated melancholy, the gloom, the cloud of darkness, which was only temporarily and superficially dispersed.
IV. Let us remember the only antidote of idolatry; it is to “know God, and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent.”—A. Saphir, D.D.
The trinal unity of the Godhead.—Consider:—
I. The doctrine of the Trinity as it appears to have been part of the earliest revelations which were given to the world.—Though not revealed distinctly and dogmatically, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is conveyed in the Old Testament by implication and inference. Thus, the very first sentence in the Book of Genesis runs, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” That which is implied, though it cannot be shown in the translation, is that while the Agent is plural in this passage, the verb with which it is connected is in the singular number. And this strange form of expression is used by Moses about five hundred times, when speaking of God, and it is so used by none else. And Jewish writers confess that this frequently recurring phrase is indicative of some mystery in the Divine Being, though they do not attempt to define its nature. But the Jews are not our only witnesses to the fact of this great doctrine being a part of God’s earliest communications to the human family. The truth, in some disguised and distorted form, will be found to have entered into almost all the fabulous theologies of the world, and this the more distinctly the more remote their antiquity.
II. The doctrine of the Trinity forms the subject of controversy in the earliest ages of the Christian church.
III. To the humble Christian this doctrine is embraced for the peace and salvation of his so ul.—In all its searchless mystery the doctrine of Three Persons sharing equally and alike the attributes of underived and inherent Godhead, and yet these Three all One in nature, One in essence, One in purpose and mind and will, is the only doctrine which meets the necessities of our lapsed race, or provides for our being brought back to a state of innocence and peace.—D. Moore, M.A.
Matthew 28:20.The new obedience.—
I. There is a twofold element in the law.—Condemnation and the promise, type and instalment of redemption. Both elements were given in love; in both the purpose was one of mercy. But when the primary object of the law had failed, when men remained proud, self-satisfied, cherishing and excusing sin without humility and repentance, men failed also to see and enjoy the comfort of this promise, the meaning and substance of the type. Thus they who walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless were the very Israelites who waited for the redemption in Jerusalem; they honoured the law, and therefore longed for the gospel.
II. Christ is come, and now, instead of condemnation behold grace.—Instead of shadow and type, behold perfection and fulfilment, that is, truth.
1. Let us remember that in Christ only the law of God found its realisation and fulfilment. It had hitherto been only an idea seeking embodiment, a problem awaiting its solution, an outline looking for substance and life.
2. All men are under the law, till through the death of Christ they are freed from it. Love is the fulfilment of the law. And as the law could not attain it, so the love which our Lord gives us is something higher and deeper than the law demanded or foreshadowed.
3. The commandments of Christ may be summed up according to the various aspects of the inner and outer life. If we look at the heart, the source and root of life and action, all Christ’s commandments are contained in His most touching appeal, “Abide in Me.” If we look, again, at the manifestations of life, all Christ’s commandments are summed up in His simple words, “Follow Me.” If we look at our relation to God, prayer, meditation, and communion, Jesus’ commandments may be summed up in one word—in secret. “Enter into thy closet, and shut the door.” If we consider our relation to the world, the commandments of Christ are summed up in one word—mission. If we look, again, at the aim and purpose of our energies and lives, it is summed up in one word—heaven. “Set your affection on things that are above.”—A. Saphir, D.D.
The friendship of the living Christ—
I. Can mature the inner life of the soul.
II. Can Christianise every action of man’s life.
III. Can hallow the discipline of trouble.
IV. Unites the present with the future world.—E. L. Hull, B.A.
The real presence.—I. Jesus is with us as individuals.—Here is our strength. Jesus is with us:—
1. In the days of prosperity and joy.
2. In our affliction.
3. When the soul feels deserted.
4. When we are slow of heart and cannot believe that He is risen, and when we walk in sadness. If Jesus is with us, then
(1) We have all things;
(2) We can do all things;
(3) This is the secret of our influence;
(4) Heaven itself is begun, for to be with the Lord is eternal life and blessedness. Jesus shall throughout all eternity be our All.
II. The words of the Lord refer also and primarily to the whole church.—A. Saphir, D.D.
Matthew 28:16-20. The evidential value of the incident.—The words of the Lord on this last occasion are worthy of all that has gone before. Let all doubters ponder well the significance of this. Suppose for a moment that the story of the resurrection had been only “the passion of a hallucinated woman,” as Renan puts it, and then consider the position. No one, of course, denies that, up to the moment of death, there was a veritable Jesus, whose sayings and doings supplied the material for the history; but, now that the Hero is dead and gone, where are the materials? The fishermen and publicans are on their own resources now. They have to make everything out of nothing. Surely, therefore, there must be now a swift descent; no more of those noble utterances to which we have been accustomed hitherto—only inventions of the poor publican now. No more breadth of view—only Jewish narrowness now. It was about this very time that the disciples asked, “Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Suppose, then, these men obliged themselves to invent a Great Commission, how narrow and provincial will it be! Is there, then, such a swift descent? Are not the reported words of the risen Lord—not in this Gospel merely, but in all the Gospels—as noble, as impressive, as Divine, as any that have been preserved to us from the years of His life in the flesh? Search through this Gospel, and say if there can be found anywhere an utterance that has more of the King in it, that is more absolutely free from all Jewish narrowness and from all human feebleness, than this great commission which forms its magnificent close. It is very plain that these simple artists have their subject still before them. Manifestly they are not drawing from imagination, but telling what they heard and saw.—J. M. Gibson, D.D.
Why no record of the Ascension?—Why is it that St. Matthew gives no record of the ascension, and does not even hint what became of the risen Christ after this last recorded interview with His disciples? It seems to us that a sufficient reason is found in the object which St. Matthew had in view, which was to set forth the establishment of the kingdom of Christ upon earth as foretold by the prophets and expected by the saints of old; and inasmuch as it is Christ’s kingdom on earth which he has mainly in view, he does not call special attention to His return to heaven, but rather to that earthly fact which was the glorious result of it, viz., His abiding presence with His people on the earth. Had he finished his Gospel with the ascension, the last impression left on the reader’s mind would have been of Christ in heaven at the right hand of God—a glorious thought, indeed, but not the one it was his special aim and object to convey. But, concluding as he does, the last impression on the reader’s mind is of Christ abiding on the earth, and with all His people, even to the end of the world—a most cheering, comforting, and stimulating thought. To the devout reader of this Gospel, it is as if his Lord had never left the earth at all, but had suddenly clothed Himself with omnipresence, so that, however far apart His disciples might be scattered in His service, each one of them might at any moment see His face, hear His voice of cheer, feel His touch of sympathy, and draw on His reserve of power. Thus was it made quite plain, how they could keep in closest touch with Him to whom was given all authority in heaven and on earth.—Ibid.