Thursday, June 1st, 2023
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
The Pulpit Commentaries The Pulpit Commentaries
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Matthew 28". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ matthew-28.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Matthew 28". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
- Henry's Complete
- Clarke Commentary
- Bridgeway Bible Commentary
- Coffman's Commentaries
- Carroll's Biblical Interpretation
- Barnes' Notes
- Bullinger's Companion Notes
- Calvin's Commentary
- Bell's Commentary
- College Press
- Smith's Commentary
- Dummelow on the Bible
- Constable's Expository Notes
- Darby's Synopsis
- Ellicott's Commentary
- Expositor's Dictionary
- Hole's Commentary
- Meyer's Commentary
- Gaebelein's Annotated
- Morgan's Exposition
- Gill's Exposition
- Everett's Study Notes
- Geneva Study Bible
- Haydock's Catholic Commentary
- Commentary Critical
- Commentary Critical Unabridged
- Gray's Concise Commentary
- Parker's The People's Bible
- Sutcliffe's Commentary
- Trapp's Commentary
- Kretzmann's Commentary
- Lange's Commentary
- Grant's Commentary
- Wells of Living Water
- Henry's Complete
- Henry's Concise
- Poole's Annotations
- Pett's Commentary
- Peake's Commentary
- Preacher's Homiletical
- Poor Man's Commentary
- Benson's Commentary
- Sermon Bible Commentary
- Scofield's Notes
- The Biblical Illustrator
- Coke's Commentary
- The Expositor's Bible Commentary
- The Pulpit Commentaries
- Treasury of Scripture Knowledge
- Wesley's Notes
- Whedon's Commentary
- Henry's Complete
- AEK Concordant NT Commentary
- Abbott's NT
- Orchard's Catholic Commentary
- Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary
- Contending for the Faith
- Daily Study Bible
- Expositor's Greek Testament
- Family Bible NT
- Godbey's NT Commentary
- Alford's Greek Testament Commentary
- Meyer's Commentary
- Bible Study NT
- Bengel's Gnomon
- People's NT
- Robertson's Word Pictures
- Schaff's NT Commentary
- Burkitt's Expository Notes
- Daily Study Bible
- Brown's Commentary
- Golden Chain Commentary
- Lightfoot's Commentary
- McGarvey'S Commentaries
- Fourfold Gospel
- Gospels Compared
- Box on Selected Books
- Lapide's Commentary
- International Critical
- Ironside's Notes
- Broadus on Matthew
- Layman's Bible Commentary
- Restoration Commentary
- Watson's Expositions
- Utley Commentary
- Kelly Commentary
- Zerr's N.T. Commentary
Jesus rises from the dead, and appears to the holy women. (Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-10.) It is to be noted that there are great and important variations in the four (or, with St. Paul's, 1 Corinthians 15:1-58., the five) accounts of the events of the Resurrection, which have given welcome occasion to the sceptic to cast doubts upon the whole transaction. The divergences in the narratives are plainly to be ascribed to the facts that the writers did not depend upon one another, nor draw their accounts from one source; that each gives only an incomplete history, introducing those details with which he was familiar, or which it suited his plan to recount. On all main points the agreement is perfect, and every difference could be easily reconciled, if we knew the whole of the circumstances and the exact sequence of each word and act during this momentous period. Attempts at harmonizing the various accounts have been made with more or less success by writers from St. Augustine to the present time; but as they vary in many particulars, and have no authoritative basis, dependence cannot be placed upon them. The narrative in St. Matthew is brief and imperfect, and we shall chiefly confine our remarks to the exposition of the actual text before us, without importing much matter from the other evangelists.
In the end of the sabbath; ὀψετων: late on the sabbath; Vulgate, vespere sabbati. The expression is obscure. In the parallel passage of St. Mark we read, "When the sabbath was past." We must take it that St. Matthew is thinking of the sabbath as extending, not from evening to evening, but till the following morning. "So that it is not the accurate Jewish division of time, according to which the sabbath ended at six on Saturday evening, but the ordinary civil idea of a day, which extended from sunrise to sunrise (or at least adds the night to the preceding day)" (Lange). We have, then, now arrived at the commencement of the first Christian Easter Day. As it began to dawn toward the first day of the week; εἰς μιìαν σαββαìτων: in prima sabbati (Vulgate); literally, unto one day of sabbath; i.e. one day after the sabbath, the Jews reckoning their days in sequence from the sabbath, and Christians at first carrying on the same practice, as we see in Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2. Later Christians named the days of the week in sequence from the Sunday, which was the first day, Monday being the second day, feria secunda, and so on. Came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (see on Matthew 27:61) to see the sepulchre. Love cannot abandon its object, living or dead. There were probably other women with these two, or perhaps there were two separate bands of women who in this early morning visited the sepulchre. Among these Mary Magdalene stands prominently forward, first in love and first in care. She and the rest evidently knew nothing of the sealing of the stone or the posting of the guards. St. Matthew's expression, "to see (θεωρῆσαι, "to gaze upon," "contemplate") the sepulchre," conveys only a partial notice of the object of their visit. They came not only to take a view of the tomb, but also to embalm the Lord's body, for which necessary preparations had been made, the approach of the sabbath on the evening of the Crucifixion having cut short the arrangements. We know from St. Mark that they were perplexed about the difficulty of removing the stone, and St. Matthew may be referring to a preliminary inspection made in regard of this impediment. Our Gospel omits mention of the intention of embalming the corpse, as the Resurrection rendered it impracticable; and, indeed, the Lord's body had already been anointed for his burial by Mary of Bethany.
And, behold. A wonderful sight met their eyes. The following event took place before their arrival; they saw only the result. No mortal eye beheld, and no pen has recorded, the actual issuing of the Lord from the closed tomb. There was a great earthquake. St. Matthew does not attempt to give the exact sequence of events. Probably the shock, caused by the sudden advent and action of the angel, befell as the women were approaching the cemetery. Christ had risen before this occurrence, nothing being a barrier to his spiritual body. For the angel of the Lord … from the door. The narrator accounts for the phenomenon just mentioned. The words, "from the door," are omitted by the best manuscripts, the Vulgate, and modern editors, and seem to be a marginal interpolation. The angel rolled away the stone which Joseph had rolled up (Matthew 27:60), not in order to afford passage to the body of the Lord, who had already raised himself, but to give the women and others entrance to the empty tomb, and to strike terror into the heart of the soldiers. In the case of Lazarus the stone had to be removed to give exit to the resuscitated body—a natural body (John 11:39, John 11:41); in the case of Jesus such removal was not necessary, as his was a spiritual body, possessed of supernatural powers and qualities (John 20:19). And sat upon it. In triumph, and to show that it was not to be replaced; death had done its work, and now was vanquished. Angels' appearances had always accompanied the great events in the history of the chosen people; angels had shown themselves at Christ's birth, at his temptation, at his agony; now they guard his tomb, proving that he was well pleasing unto the Lord, and was raised from the grave by him. The narration of this awful incident was probably given by the soldiers, who alone witnessed it.
His countenance (ἰδεìα, appearance) was like lightning. The angel's aspect was as bright and startling as the flash of lightning (comp. Ezekiel 1:14; Daniel 10:6). His raiment white as snow. Pure and glistening, like the effect of the Transfiguration on the Lord (Matthew 18:2; comp. Acts 1:10; Revelation 10:1).
And for fear of him; but from the fear of him. From the fear inspired by this awful angel. It would seem, from this expression, that the soldiers were sensible, not only of the earthquake and the movement of the stone, but also of the presence of the heavenly messenger, in this respect differing from the companions of Daniel and St. Paul, who were only partially conscious of the visions beheld by the two saints (see Daniel 10:7; Acts 22:9). Did shake. The verb is cognate with the noun "earthquake;" they were shaken, convulsed with terror. If these were some of the company that had watched the Crucifixion, they were already possessed of some feeling respecting the unearthly nature of the Occupant of the tomb which they were guarding, and had a vague expectation of something that might happen. At any rate, they must have heard the late events discussed by their comrades, and were not without apprehension of a catastrophe. Became as dead men. They fell to the ground in deathlike faintness, and, when they recovered from the trance, fled in terror from the tomb into the city (verse 11).
The angel answered and said. The women arrived probably while the guards were lying unconscious on the ground. They saw them, and they saw the angel rotting on the stone, or, according to St. Mark, "a young man sitting on the right side, arrayed in a white robe;" St. Luke says that "two men stood by them in dazzling apparel," i.e. first one had shown himself, and then another. Doubtless innumerable angels were thronging around, and one or more became visible to certain persons as they were capable of receiving spiritual impressions, or as these spirits were directed to show themselves. The women spake not, were too affrighted to ask questions; hut their amazed look, their blank surprise, were themselves interrogative, and the angel replied to their inward emotion. Fear not ye (ὑμεῖς, emphatic). The soldiers have cause to fear; they are the enemies of the Lord; but ye are his friends, and need feel no alarm. Ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. Ye are seeking him, to do honour to his body; I know your pious intention, but it is useless. The angel shrinks not from the mention of Christ's shameful death, which is now his glory, "the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:23, 1 Corinthians 1:24). "It was the good pleasure of the Father through him to reconcile all things unto himself, having made peace through the blood of his cross … whether things upon the earth, or things in the heavens" (Colossians 1:19, Colossians 1:20). The crucifixion "was not simply a temporary incident in the life of Christ. It is an eternal principle in his kingdom" (Milligan).
He is not here. He is not in this tomb; his bodily presence is removed from this his whilom resting place. St. Matthew's account is greatly condensed, and omits many details which harmonists try to fit into our text. The attempt is not to be commended, for it really involves greater confusion, and, after all, is forced and only conjectural. For he is risen, as he said. If they had believed Christ's often-repeated announcement, they would not have come seeking the living among the dead. (For Christ's predictions concerning his resurrection, see Matthew 12:40; Matthew 16:21; Matthew 17:23; Matthew 20:19.) On this simple, but pregnant sentence, "He is risen," depends the phenomenon of Christianity, in its origin, existence, continuance, extension, and moral power. "Death began with woman; and to women the first announcement is made of resurrection" (Hilary, quoted by Wordsworth, in loc.). Come, see the place where the Lord lay. The angel invites them to satisfy themselves that Christ's body was no longer in its resting place. That Jesus was designated as "the Lord," ὁ Κυìριος, by the disciples is obvious (see John 20:18; John 21:7, etc.), but it is doubtful whether the words are genuine here, though they are found in many good manuscripts and in the Vulgate. They are omitted by א, B, 33, etc., and by Tischendorf and Westcott and Hort in their editions. Regarding them as genuine, Bengel calls them "gloriosa appellatio," which indeed it is, for it is equivalent to "Jehovah." Harmonists suppose that the angel was at first not seen by the women; that Mary Magdalene, observing the stone removed, at once hurried to the city to tell Peter and John; that, the rest of the women remaining, the angel made himself visible to them and bade them enter the sepulchre; and that, doing so, they beheld another angel sitting on the right side of the recess. Thus, it is conjectured, the accounts in Mark and John may be harmonized with that in our text. (See also Westcott on John 20:1-31., where is given a provisional arrangement of the facts of the first Easter Day.)
Go quickly, and tell his disciples. St. Mark significantly adds, "and Peter." The disciples were to believe without seeing. They had deserted Christ in his hour of need, had not stood by the cross, nor aided in his burial; so they were not to be honoured with the vision of angels or the first sight of the risen Lord. This was reserved for the faithful women, who thus received their mission to carry a message to the messengers—a foretaste of the ministry which they should perform in the Church of Christ. He goeth before you (προαìγει ὑμᾶς) into Galilee. The verb is noticeable. It is that used by our Lord himself on his way to the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:32), and it implies the act of a shepherd at the head of his flock, leading them to new pastures (comp. John 10:4). The good Shepherd had been smitten, and the sheep scattered; now under his guidance they were to be reunited. The apostolic band had been temporarily dissolved and disintegrated; the college was again to be reformed, and was to receive its renewed commission in seclusion and peace, that it might return to Jerusalem with unimpaired strength to commence its arduous labours. The place of meeting is in Galilee, where most of his mighty works were done, and where it was safer for the disciples to assemble than at Jerusalem. The majority of them came from this region, and thither they returned some ten days (John 20:26; John 21:1-4) after the Resurrection, to resume their ordinary occupations (verse 16). Thus they would realize that it was the same Jesus who met them there with whom, these three past years, they had held familiar intercourse. It was ordained, for some reason not expressly stated, that from Galilee should proceed Christ's spiritual kingdom which he came to establish—that "word which," as Peter said (Acts 10:37), "was published throughout all Judaea, beginning from Galilee." We read of only two appearances of Christ in Galilee—once at the lake, mentioned in the last chapter of St. John, and again in verse 17 of this chapter of St. Matthew. It is, however, possible that the appearance named by St. Paul (1 Corinthians 15:6), when he was seen by more than five hundred brethren at one time, may have occurred in Galilee. If this is the ease, it would be remarkable as the only public revelation of Christ after his resurrection, and the comparative seclusion of the northern district may have been one reason for its selection as the scene for this great demonstration. There was doubtless some moral fitness in the humble and despised Galilee being made the starting point of his Church who was despised and rejected of men whom it was contemptuously said, "Doth the Christ come out of Galilee?" (John 7:41). "As in all things God sets at naught the pride of mankind, and chooses persons, instruments, and places mean in the eves of the world, teaching us that in humbler and more retired abodes, secret from the world, we are to seek for the strength of God, who hideth himself" (I. Williams). Lo, I have told you. The angel thus solemnly confirms what he had just said. The Authorized Vulgate gives, Ecce, praedixi vobis, which is warranted by no existing Greek manuscripts, the uniform reading of the original being εἶπον or εἶμα
They departed (ἐξελθοῦσαι, better ἀπελθοῦσαι) quickly from the sepulchre. At the angel's invitation (Matthew 28:6), they, or some of them, had entered into the inner chamber of the tomb (Luke 24:3), and now came hurrying out. With fear and great joy. With a mixture of emotions—fear at the sight of the heavenly visitant, the supernatural presence, and joy at the assurance that their beloved Master had risen again, having burst the bonds of death. Did run. They did as they were bidden with all possible speed, acting as heralds of good tidings to the disconsolate disciples.
As they went to tell his disciples. This clause is omitted by the best manuscripts, and the Vulgate and other versions, and is rejected by modern editors. It is not quite in St. Matthew's style, and seems to be rightly regarded as a gloss There is. one advantage in its omission, in that the actual moment of this appearance of our Lord is left undecided, and we are at liberty to harmonize it, if so minded, with other details. Now the women, according to our history, receive the reward of their faith and love. Behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail! Χαιìρετε: literally, Rejoice ye! This is not the usual Eastern salutation, "Peace be unto you!" but one that came with peculiar significance on their lately sorrow-stricken hearts. So he had said to his apostles, "Your sorrow shall be turned into joy" (John 16:20), and now he made good his word. This is the only one of Christ's appearances in Jerusalem or its neighbourhood. that St. Matthew relates. They came and held him by the feet (took hold of his feet). As soon as they saw him, they went to him with glad surprise, and yet with such awe, that they could only fall down before him and tenderly clasp his feet. He had appeared before this to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9), but had not permitted her to touch him because he had not yet ascended to the Father (John 20:17), implying thereby either that she would have other opportunities of holding converse with him, as he was not going to leave the earth immediately, and she must not detain him now; or, more probably, that the spiritual body demanded, not the touch of earthly affection, but the attitude of awe and reverence, and that all future contact would be supernatural and spiritual, realizing his presence after a heavenly and supersensuous manner by faith. But these women clung to Christ with something higher than natural, earthly affection, acknowledging his superhumanity, and he allowed them, like Thomas, to assure themselves of his corporeity by touch as well as sight. Worshipped him. They remained at his feet in profound adoration.
Be not afraid. So he spake on other occasions when his acts had caused terror and amazement (comp. Matthew 14:27; Matthew 17:7). With all their joy and love, the women could not help feeling fear at his sudden appearance and at the nearness of this unearthly yet familiar form. Go, tell my brethren. He here for the first time calls his disciples his brethren, intending thereby to assure them of his love and good will in spite of their cowardly desertion, and to signify that he was in very truth the Man Christ Jesus, their Lord and their Master, whom they had known so long and so well. He had called them friends before his Passion (John 15:14, John 15:15); now he gives them a tenderer title; he is not ashamed to call them brethren (Hebrews 2:11). That they go into Galilee. The message is the same as that given by the angel (Matthew 28:7). It was meant to comfort them in the absence of daily intercourse with him. But they were not to set out immediately; some other incidents were first to befall them. And there shall they see me. Galilee was to be the scene of the most important revelation, though the Lord vouchsafed to individuals many proofs of his risen life before the promised great announcement. Why St. Matthew mentions none of these we may form conjectures, but we cannot determine (see on verse 16).
The Roman soldiers bribed by the Jewish rulers to give a false account of the Resurrection. (Peculiar to St. Matthew.)
When (while) they were going. Into the city, in order to find the disciples and to deliver to them their Lord's message. This account takes up the narrative of Matthew 27:63-66 and Matthew 27:4 of this chapter. As soon as they recovered from their swoon and had assured themselves that the tomb was empty, the soldiers hurried in affright to the Jewish rulers, under whose orders they had temporarily been placed, and told them all the things that were done. They could speak of the earthquake, of the appearing of the angel, of the removal of the stone, of the absence of the body which they were appointed to watch. Their task was done; the corpse was gone, they knew not how taken; they could not be expected to contend with supernatural visitants, or to guard against supernatural occurrences. St. Matthew seems to have introduced this incident in order to account for the prevalence of the lying rumour which he proceeds to mention, and which had been widely disseminated among his countrymen.
When they (i.e. the chief priests) were assembled with the elders. On hearing the report of the soldiers, the Sanhedrists held a hurried and informal meeting, to consult about this alarming matter. It would be fatal to their policy to let the real truth get wind. Such testimony from unprejudiced heathens would infallibly convince the people of the validity of Christ's claims, and produce the very effect which their unusual precautions had been intended to obviate. One course alone remained, and that was to prepare a circumstantial lie concerning one part of the story, and to deny or ignore utterly the supernatural details. The plainest evidence will not persuade against wilful blindness. These rulers acted according to Christ's sad foreboding on another occasion, "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead" (Luke 16:31). They gave large money (money enough) unto the soldiers. They bribed the soldiers with a sum of money sufficient to satisfy their cupidity. This they did personally, or more probably through some trusty agent. They never doubted the facts to which the guards bore witness; they never attempted to discredit their story by suggestion of error or superstitious invention. They accepted the tale, and took most dishonourable means to make it innocuous. They had bought the aid of the traitor Judas; they now buy the silence of these soldiers. It. is suggested by St. Jerome that in both cases they made use of the temple funds, thus employing against the cause of God that which was devoted to his service.
Say ye, etc. They put the lie into the soldiers' mouth, directing them to answer inquiries in this way. The last resource of an infatuated obstinacy! If they were asleep, how could they know that the disciples stole the body? St. Chrysostom comments well on the infamous transaction, "How did they steal him? O most foolish of all men! For because of the clearness and conspicuousness of the truth, they are not even able to make up a falsehood. For indeed, what they said was highly incredible, and the falsehood had not even speciousness. For how, I ask, did the disciples steal him, men poor and unlearned, and not venturing so much as to show themselves? What? was not a seal put upon it? What? were there not many watchmen and soldiers and Jews stationed round it? What? did not those men suspect this very thing, and take thought, and break their rest, and are in anxiety about it? And wherefore, moreover, did they steal it? That they might feign the doctrine of the resurrection? And how should it enter their minds to feign such a thing—men who were well content to be hidden and to live? And how could they remove the stone that was made sure? How could they have escaped the observation of so many? Nay, though they had despised death, they would not have attempted without purpose and fruitlessly to venture in defiance of so many who were on the watch. And that moreover they were timorous, what they had done before showed clearly: at least, when they saw him seized, all rushed away from him. If, then, at that time they did not dare so much as to stand their ground when they saw him alive, how when he was dead could they but have feared such a number of soldiers?" ('Hem.,' 90.).
And if this come to the governor's ears; if this be heard before the governor; i.e. if the matter be brought officially before the procurator. For a Roman soldier to sleep on his post was to incur the penalty of death. Pilate would not be likely to hear of what had taken place, as vulgar rumours were not encouraged by his stern and unsympathizing attitude towards the Jewish people, but it was just possible that some officious person might bring the report before him, and ask him to take measures to ascertain the truth, and, if necessary, to punish the delinquents. We (ἡμεῖς, emphatic) will persuade him. Such persuasion usually took the form of bribery, Roman officials being notoriously venal (comp. Acts 24:26); but perhaps the rulers intended to make him believe that the story was not true, but merely a ruse to keep the populace quiet. The soldiers must have fully believed in the Sanhedrists' assertion, or they would never have imperilled their lives by promulgating such a condemnatory tale. Secure you; rid you of care. They promise the guard indemnity and freedom from all penal consequences. Pilate, however, later learned the great fact of Christ's resurrection, and though, as far as we know, he took no steps towards punishing the guard (being probably convinced of its supernatural occurrence), yet, according to a fragment of Hegesippus, and Eusebius, 'Chronic.,' Matthew 2:2, he sent an account of the matter to Tiberius, who, in consequence, endeavoured to make the senate pass a decree enrolling Jesus in the list of Roman gods. This fact is attested by Tertullian ('Apolog.,' 5.).
This saying; viz. the theft of the body by the disciples. Is commonly reported (was spread abroad) among the Jews until this day; i.e. and continues to be reported until this day. This was true when St. Matthew wrote, and it is true at the present time, though thoughtful Jews of late years have adopted the idea that the apostles, in their excited state, were deceived by visions of Christ which they took for substantial realities (see on Matthew 27:64). In the passage of Justin Martyr we are told that the Jews sent emissaries in all directions to spread this false report. The evangelist shows the origin of this most improbable tale, and virtually challenges any other explanation of the miracle than the authentic one.
Our Lord appears to the disciples in Galilee, and gives them a commission to teach and baptize.
Then the eleven disciples. There is no note of time in the original, which gives merely, But the eleven, etc. The meeting here narrated took place on some day after the first Easter week. The number "eleven" shows the loss of one of the sacred college, whose complement was not filled up till just before Pentecost (Acts 1:15-26). Went away into Galilee. St. Matthew takes pains to show the exact fulfilment of Christ's very special injunction and promise concerning Galilee (see verses 7, 10, and notes there, and Matthew 26:32). The evangelist's object being to set forth Christ in his character as King and Lawgiver, he puts aside all other incidents in order to give prominence to this appearance, where Jesus announces his supreme authority (verse 18), gives the commission to his apostles, and promises his perpetual presence (verses 19, 20). Into a mountain (τοÌ ὀìρος, the mountain), where (οὗ instead of οἷ) Jesus had appointed them. We do not know the locality intended, though it must have been some spot familiar to the disciples, and was probably plainly designated at the time when Christ appointed the meeting. Some have fixed on Tabor as the scene of this revelation, others on the Mount of Beatitudes; but where nothing is stated it is best to lay aside conjecture and accept the designed indefiniteness. Many commentators have determined that this appearance on the Galilaean mountain was that mentioned by St. Paul (1 Corinthians 15:6), as manifested to five hundred brethren at once. This is a mere conjecture, probable, but not certain. If it was the case, we must consider that St. Matthew singles out the eleven apostles as the most eminent among the company, and those to whom the Lord specially addressed the commission which he mentions. Of the five hundred brethren, St. Paul, writing some twenty years or more after this time, testifies that the greater number were still alive, only some having "fallen asleep." There never was, indeed, any historical fact the authenticity of which was more remarkably and irrefragably certified than the resurrection of Christ.
They worshipped him. Evidently here they, or the majority of those present (for it is plain that others beside the apostles were there), adored him as God and Lord. This is the first time that this action of supreme worship is mentioned in connection with the disciples, though the women had offered the same homage to him (Matthew 28:9). But some doubted (οἱδεÌ—without οἱμεÌν—ἐδιìστασαν). (For the verb, comp. Matthew 14:31.) The doubters could not have been any of the eleven, for they had seen the Lord more than once at Jerusalem, and had had indubitable proofs that he had risen from the dead, and was no mere spirit or spiritual appearance, but possessed of his former body, with new powers, faculties, and laws. Those who for the moment doubted did not hesitate to acknowledge his resurrection, but his identity. They were, perhaps, at a distance. Christ may have appeared surrounded with heavenly glory; at any rate, in a shape, or vesture, or with an aspect with which they were not familiar; hence in this majestic form, they failed to recognize the "despised and rejected of men," the lowly Jesus whom they had known (cf. John 21:4).
Jesus came. Some medieval exegetes have deemed that this verse refers to the time of the ascension; but there is no valid reason for dissociating this portion from the rest of the account. If we do this, we lose the great reason for the oft-enjoined meeting on the Galilaean mountain, which seems to have been expressly and with much care arranged to notify at large the fact of Christ's Resurrection and of his supreme authority, and to convey the Lord's commission to the apostles in the presence of many witnesses. We may suppose that Jesus, who had been standing apart, now drew near to the company, so that all, especially the doubting, might see him closely and hear his familiar voice. Spake unto them (ἐλαλησεν αὐτοῖς, talked unto them). Doubtless he said much more than is here recorded, resolving doubts, confirming faith, infusing comfort. "Thus it is even now; we worship him, and then he draws near, and, by his nearer approaches and secret manifestation of himself to our hearts, we are confirmed in the faith, and see in him God and man" (I. Williams). All power (ἐξιυσιìα) is given (ἐδοìθη, was given) unto me in heaven and in earth. Jesus here asserts that he, as Son of man, has received from the Father supreme authority in heaven and earth, over the whole kingdom of God in its fullest extent. This is net given to him as Son o! God; for, as God, naught can be added to him or taken from him; it is a power which he has merited by his incarnation, death, and Passion (Philippians 2:8-10), which was foretold in the Old Testament, by psalmist (Psalms 2:8; Psalms 8:5-8) and prophet (Daniel 7:13, Daniel 7:14), and with which he was indued on the day that he rose victorious from the grave. So the verb "was given" is in the past tense, because it refers to the dotation arranged in God's eternal purpose, and to the actual investiture at the Resurrection. The power is exercised in his mediatorial kingdom, and will continue to be exercised till he hath put all enemies under his feet, and destroyed death itself (1 Corinthians 15:24-27); but his absolute kingdom is everlasting; as God and Man he reigns forever and ever. This mediatorial authority extends not only over men, so that he governs and protects the Church, disposes bureau events, controls hearts and opinions; but the forces of heaven also are at his command, the Holy Spirit is bestowed by him, the angels are in his employ as ministering to the members of his body.
Go ye therefore (οὖν). The illative particle is perhaps spurious, but it is implied by what has preceded. It is because Jesus has plenary authority, and can delegate power to whom he will, that he confers the following commission. He is addressing the eleven apostles, of whom alone St. Matthew makes mention (verse 16); but as they personally could not execute the grand commission in all its extent and duration, he lays his commands upon their representatives and successors in all ages. They were to go forth, and carry the gospel throughout the world. Doubtless herein is implied the duty of all Christians to be in some sense missionaries, to use their utmost efforts to spread abroad the knowledge of Christ, and to make men obedient to his Law. The propagation of the gospel is a work for all in their several spheres. Teach; docete (Vulgate). These are unfortunate renderings of the verb μαθητευìσατε, which means, "make disciples." Teaching is expressed in verse 20, as one of the elements or components of full discipleship. The imperative aorist μαθητευìσατε is, as it were, decomposed by the two following present participles, "baptizing" and "teaching." In the case of infants the process is exactly what is here represented; they are admitted into the Christian society by baptism, and then instructed in faith and duty. Adults have to be instructed before baptism; but they form a small minority in most Christian communities, where, generally, infant baptism is the rule, and would be regarded rather as exceptions. Teaching alone is not stated by the Lord to be the only thing necessary to convert an unbeliever into a Christian; this is effected by the grace of God applied as Christ proceeds to explain. All nations (παìντα ταÌ ἐìθνη all the nations). The apostles were no longer to go only to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 10:6); they were to Christianize all the nations of the world, Jew and Gentile alike. The gospel is adapted to all the varying minds and habits of men, barbarous and civilized, near and remote, ignorant or cultivated; and it is the duty and privilege of Christ's ministers to make it known and acceptable in all quarters of the globe. Baptizing them; i.e. individuals of all the nations. The present participle denotes the mode of initiation into discipleship. Make them disciples by baptizing them. Christ thus explains his mysterious announcement to Nicodemus (John 3:5), "Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." To the disciples the notion of baptism was no new thing. As a rite typifying the cleansing of the heart and the purpose of leading a new life, it had been long practised in the case of proselytes to the Jewish faith; they had seen it employed by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:6), and had used it themselves (John 4:1, John 4:2). Christ adopts the old rite, gives it a new solemnity, a most sacred formula of administration, a new meaning, new spiritual effects. The persons to whom and in whose presence he spoke would understand his injunction as applicable to all who were capable of its reception, children and adults, the subjects of the initiatory ceremony of proselytism. There was no need of closer specification. Or, if any such instruction was needed, the rules concerning circumcision would be a sufficient guide. In (εἰς, into) the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Our version follows the Vulgate, in nomine, which does not give the right force to the expression. The phrase does not mean merely invoking the Name, under the sanction of the great Name, but something more than this. It signifies into the power and influence of the Holy Trinity, into faith in the three Persons of God, and the duties and privileges consequent on that faith, into the family of God and obedience unto its Head. The "into" shows the end and aim of the consecration of baptism. The "Name" of God is that by which he is known to us—that which connotes his being and his attributes, that by which there exists a conscious connection between God and ourselves (comp. Matthew 18:20). So being baptized into the Name of God implies being placed in subjection to and communion with God himself, admitted into covenant with him. It is to be observed that the term is "name," not "names," thus denoting the unity of the Godhead in the trinity of Persons. The Lord's words have always been taken as the formula of baptism, and have in all ages been used in its administration. The three Divine Persons were revealed at the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:16, Matthew 3:17); they are invoked at every Christian baptism. It is true that we read, in the early Church, of persons being baptized "in the Name of the Lord Jesus," and "in the Name of the Lord" (Acts 8:16; Acts 10:48); but this expression by no means assumes that the names of the other Divine Persons were not used; it denotes that the converts were admitted into the religion which Jesus instituted, in fact, were made Christians. The above formula has from primitive times been considered indispensable for the valid administration of this sacrament. "From this sacred form of baptism," says Bishop Pearson, "did the Church derive the rule of faith, requiring the profession of belief in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, before they could be baptized in their Name" ('On the Creed,' art. 1.).
Teaching (διδαìσκοντες) them (i.e. all the nations) to observe all things, etc. The word for "teaching" is quite different from that used in Matthew 28:19, and there wrongly translated. Instruction is the second necessary condition for discipleship. In the case of adults, as was said above, some teaching must precede the initiation; but this has to be supplemented subsequently in order to build up the convert in the faith and make him perfect; while infants must be taught "as soon as they are able to learn, what a solemn vow, promise, and profession they have here made." All must be taught the Christian faith and duty, and how to obtain God's help to enable them to please him, and to continue in the way of salvation, so that they may "die from sin, and rise again unto righteousness; continually mortifying all their evil and corrupt affections, and daily proceeding in all virtue and godliness of living" ('Public Baptism of Infants'). "He gives," says St. Chrysostom, "the one charge with a view to doctrine [i.e. the form of baptism], the other concerning commandments" ('Horn.,' 90.). All that Christ commanded, both in doctrine and morals, all that he had taught and enjoined during the three past years, they were henceforward to take as their textbook, and enforce on all who were admitted into the Church by baptism. As the Greek is, "I commanded," being aorist and not perfect, it may be rightly opined that Christ here alludes also to various details which he set forth and enjoined during these great forty days, between his resurrection and ascension, when he gave commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen, and spake to them of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God (Acts 1:2, Acts 1:3). And, lo. "After that, because he had enjoined on them great things, to raise their courage, he says. Lo! "etc. (Chrysostom). I am with you alway (ἐγωÌ μεθ ὑμῶν εἰμι παìσας ταρας). Every word is emphatic. The Ascension was at hand; this implied an absence of his visible presence, to be replaced by a spiritual presence, more perfect, potent, effectual, infinite. It is I myself, I, God and Man,who am (not "will be") henceforward ever present among you, with you as Companion, Friend, Guide, Saviour, God. I am with you in all your ministrations, prayers public and private, baptisms, communions, exhortations, doctrine, discipline And this, not now and then, not at certain times only, but "all the days" of your pilgrimage, all the dark days of trial and persecution and affliction; all the days when you, my apostles, are gathered to your rest, and have committed your work to other hands; my presence shall never be withdrawn for a single moment. Often had God made an analogous promise to his servants under the old dispensation—to Moses (Exodus 3:12), to Joshua (Deuteronomy 31:23), to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:8); but this spiritual presence of Christ is something unknown to previous history, a nearness unspeakable, in the Church at large and in the Christian's heart. Even unto the end of the world; the consummation of the age, as Matthew 24:3 (where see note). When the new era is ushered in, evangelizing work will cease; God shall be all in all; all shall know him from the least unto the greatest. And they shall ever be with the Lord; "wherefore comfort one another with these words" (1 Thessalonians 4:18). Amen. The word is here an interpolation, but it expresses what every pious reader must say in his heart, "So be it, O Lord; be with us unto the end; guide and strengthen us in life, and bring us safely through the valley of the shadow of death, to thy blessed presence, where is the fulness of joy forevermore!"
I. THE ANGEL AT THE SEPULCHRE.
1. The holy women. The great sabbath was over. It had been a busy day in the temple; all had been done as usual. The priests little thought, while performing their elaborate ritual, that the one great Sacrifice, Oblation, and Satisfaction for the sins of the whole world, the Sacrifice of which all their sacrifices were but figures, had been offered up on Calvary. Yet the great darkness and the portents which had marked the moment of the Saviour's death must have excited attention at Jerusalem, must have harrowed the consciences of many, and filled the whole city with uneasiness and doubt and awe. Strange anxieties must have disturbed the rest of that sabbath. Men went about asking strange questions of one another. Strange forebodings filled the air. The priests especially must have been full of excitement and anxiety. Their chiefs had been foremost in urging the Crucifixion; and the rent veil must have filled them with wonder and terror. What could it mean? The holy of holies lay exposed—the awful place, which no human being might behold, save only the high priest, and that but once a year, with solemn rites of expiation. It must have seemed to them a tremendous portent, foreboding some great change, some stupendous event. Even the cold indifferent Sadducees must have been stirred into anxious expectation by a prodigy so significant, so startling, so plainly preternatural. This feeling had constrained them to apply to the hated Gentiles even on the sabbath. Herod had employed his soldiers to slay, if it were possible, the infant King of the Jews. The chief priests employed the Roman soldiers to prevent, if it were possible, the resurrection of him whose cross had borne the title which the Wise Men from the East had attributed to the holy Child Jesus. But if that sabbath had been a disturbed and anxious day to the enemies of our Lord, what must it have been to his disciples? They had watched, some few of them, the awful scene on Calvary. Most of them had fled in terror. The Lord had put forth no supernatural powers, as perhaps they had hoped; there had been no armies of angels coming to his help, no display of Divine glory to crush his foes. He was dead, buried out of their sight. They forgot all that the prophets had spoken, all that the Lord himself had said about his resurrection on the third day. Even the circumstances of his death, its calm majesty, its attendant wonders, did not restore their lost faith. "We were hoping," they said, "that it was he which should redeem Israel." But now their hopes were crushed, their faith was gone. The one terrible fact of his death had overwhelmed them in utter despair. They had expected an earthly kingdom in spite of all his many warnings. That Jewish notion of the Messiah's reign had taken entire possession of their hearts. And now that hope had vanished altogether. The Lord had not taken the throne of David; he had died upon the cross, the death of extremest ignominy. They were sunk in misery and disappointment and despondency. The chief priests called to remembrance that they had been told of his predicted resurrection. Hatred is sometimes more keen sighted than love. The disciples seem to have had no hope at all. That sad sabbath day must have been clouded by many remorseful memories of broken promises and selfish fears—how all, save one, had left him at the last, and forsaken him in his agony who had loved them with so great a love. But the long hours of that sorrowful sabbath were over at last; the first day of the week was dawning—that day which was to be the first day of a new life, which was to be consecrated throughout the great Christian Church as the beginning of new hopes, new aspirations; the first great Easter Day was shedding its faint glimmering light through the surrounding darkness; and the holy women came—Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, and afterwards, it seems from St. Mark and St. Luke, Salome and Joanna. They had watched the burial—some of them, at least. Perhaps they were not allowed to approach at the time; perhaps only Joseph, who had obtained the governor's leave, and Nicodemus, a man of rank and authority like Joseph, were permitted on that Friday afternoon to touch the body of the Lord. But the women followed after, and beheld where he was laid. They were last at the sepulchre on the first Good Friday; they were the first to see the empty tomb on the first great Easter Day. They came to see the sepulchre—"to anoint," St. Mark says, the body of him whom they had regarded with a Jove so deep and reverent. They had prepared spices and ointments before the sabbath; they came as soon as the sabbath rest permitted to fulfil their work of love. But that very love, deep and true as it was, expressed itself in preparations which showed that they understood not the Saviour's words, or at least that the awful events of Friday had shaken their belief and destroyed their hopes. Neither Joseph and Nicodemus nor the holy women seem to have had any thought of seeing the Lord in life again. Joseph willingly gave his own new tomb to receive the dear remains. Perhaps he thought that one day his own bones might rest with the honoured body of him whom he so loved and reverenced. None of the followers of the Lord, not even those apostles who had been nearest to him, seem to have remembered those words of his which ought to have been their greatest comfort in the hour of darkness. The shock had been so great; they were so horrified, terror-stricken, bewildered. So it is with us sometimes in great pain, in overwhelming sorrow. We cannot collect our thoughts; we can scarcely pray; there seems to be no hope, nothing but darkness. It may give us some comfort to think that even saints, even apostles, shared this human weakness. But let us remember that in their despair they still loved the Lord; if they had lost hope, they still came to the sepulchre; if they thought that he could give them no help, that they had a living Lord no more, at least they clung to his sacred memory, and came to watch over and to care for his lifeless body. Let us in our sufferings try to keep the thought of the suffering Lord close to our very hearts. If there are times when we cannot find joy in the thought of his glory and majesty, let us try to find peace in the thought of his cross, his death, his burial. Let us pray that our anguish may be made the means of bringing us into closer sympathy with the suffering Lord, into "the fellowship of his sufferings; for if we have become united with him by the likeness of his death, we shall be also by the likeness of his resurrection."
2. The descent of the angel. The women had said among themselves, "Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?" It was a task beyond their strength, and they were troubled. There was no need for their anxiety. So we often trouble ourselves about the future; we wonder how this or that difficulty shall be overcome; who shall save us from this or that threatening calamity. "Let not your heart be troubled," saith the Lord; "ye believe in God, believe also in me." "In quietness and confidence shall be your strength." Those fears of ours, those anxious thoughts which almost wear us out, come from want of faith. How often the event proves that there was no ground for them! We fretted ourselves vainly, we made needless vexations for ourselves; for after all the threatened trouble never came; or, if it did come, it was not so terrible; God gave us strength to bear it. It was so now. One stronger than they had rolled away the stone. There was a great earthquake. A mighty angel had come down from heaven; his appearance was as lightning, and his raiment white as snow. What could the Roman soldiers do in the presence of that effulgent, blinding radiance? For fear of him the watchers did quake (the very earth had quaked at his approach), and became as dead men. The mere sight of one angel of the Lord affrighted them into utter helplessness. How would it have fared with the presumptuous multitude who seized the Saviour in Gethsemane, had he, who is the Lord God of hosts, summoned those heavenly legions? Then he meekly yielded himself; for he willed to suffer and to die that we might live forever. Now his humiliation was over, the hour of his triumph was come; one angel of the Lord scattered the Roman guard. The strength of man is helpless to withstand the will of God.
3. His address to the women. He had done what the women knew was beyond their strength; he had rolled away the stone; they found him sitting on it in his glorious beauty. The blessed angels terrify the enemies of the Lord; they bring joy and gladness to his chosen. The soldiers lay on the ground prostrate, like dead men. The holy women started at the glorious vision, but the heavenly music of the angel's voice soon gave them peace and joy. "Fear not ye," the angel said. The pronoun is emphatic. The guards had cause to fear; not so those faithful women. The angel knew what had brought them there—their love and devotion for the crucified Saviour. But there was no need of their ointments and spices; there was no use for them; for the angel said, "He is not here; he is risen, as he said." There was something, perhaps, of gentle reproof in those words. The Lord had said again and again that he would rise again the third day; his disciples should have remembered his words; they should not have been thus hopeless and despairing; they should have looked forward, despite the agonies of the cross, despite the sealing of the tomb, to the glory of the Resurrection. That prophecy was now fulfilled; they might see the empty tomb: "Come, see the place where the Lord lay." They entered into the sepulchre, St. Mark tells us; they saw that the Lord was gone. The angel sent them to bear the great Easter tidings to the apostles. The apostles had not shown the courage, the affectionate devotion, of these holy women. St. John alone had stood beside the cross; no apostle, as far as we are told, had witnessed the burial. The women, too, were the first to visit the sepulchre; their devotion was rewarded; they first heard the glad tidings; they had the privilege of bearing the blessed news to the apostles, who were to be the witnesses of the Lord's resurrection and to preach his glorious gospel throughout the world. Holy women have often been the means of bringing to the faith of Christ those who have afterwards laboured most abundantly in the Saviour's cause. The angel repeated his charge: "Lo, I have told you," he said. They might not doubt; they had heard the great truth from an angel's lips.
II. THE RISEN LORD.
1. The women on their way. They went at once, they ran. Their hearts were filled with mingled feelings. There was fear,—they could not look upon that form, bright as the lightning flash, without something of dread; but there was a great joy which overcame their fear. The Lord was risen. The thought was too great for them; it thrilled their hearts with strange, unwonted throbbings. But they went as they were bidden; and as they went a holier than an angel's voice fell upon their ears. The Lord manifests himself to those who work for him, who in obedience and faith carry to others the blessed story of his cross and his resurrection.
2. The meeting with the Lord. Jesus met them on their way. Suddenly, in a moment, they saw the gracious form of their beloved Master; they looked once more upon that holy face, no longer stained with blood or fixed in death, but gazing on them with his wonted look of heavenly love in the full majesty of manifest Deity. "All hail!" he said; "rejoice!" Fear and joy were struggling in their hearts; but joy was the right feeling; there was no need to fear. "All hail! rejoice!" it was an ordinary formula of salutation; often a mere conventional greeting, but coming from those lips it spoke volumes; it was full of meaning, deep, holy, blessed meaning. It was the fulfilment of those precious words of his, "Ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you." The presence of the Lord bringeth joy. There is no joy so full and so holy, so sweet and so abiding, as that joy in the Lord which is granted to those who in patience and humility have taken up the cross, denying themselves daily for Christ's sake, recognizing in their hearts and lives the great truth that, since the Lord died for all, they which live should live no longer unto themselves, but unto him which died for them and rose again. These women loved the Lord; they had ministered to him; now they were going to tell the glad tidings of his resurrection. He met them himself; he bade them "Rejoice!" There, and there only, is true joy to be found, in the love of Christ, in work for Christ, in communion with Christ. They came and held him by the feet and worshipped him. They bowed themselves to the ground be[ore him in lowliest adoration. They felt something of that great awe mixed with exceeding joy which the next Sunday forced from the lips of the once unbelieving Thomas the exclamation of adoring faith, "My Lord and my God!" Their joy was too great for words; they could only offer him the worship of their hearts, prostrating themselves, holding those holy feet which three days before had been nailed to the cruel cross, scarcely able to look into his face for awe and wonder and overpowering joy. So the Christian falls down in adoring worship when the Lord reveals himself to the longing soul. When we see him by faith, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, when he manifesteth himself to his chosen as he doth not unto the world, when he saith, "Rejoice!" then they feel the truth of that most precious beatitude, "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed;" then, though they see him not as the Marys saw his gracious face, yet, believing, they rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. In such moments his people offer up to him a holy worship—worship in spirit and in truth, such as, in his condescending love, he seeketh; a worship not selfish, not prayer for our own sakes, for the supply of our own needs, but higher than prayer; a worship which thinks not of self, but only of the Lord, which loses sight of self in the contemplation of his love, his holiness, his majesty, his glory. Such is the worship of his saints in heaven; so we must seek to worship in our poor way on earth.
3. The message. The Lord calmed their agitation. "Be not afraid!" The angel had said the same, but the Lord's words were sweeter music even than the angelic voice. Fear was mingled even now with their great joy; human nature cannot but fear in the awful presence of God. But the Lord in his tender mercy taught them that, though risen now from the dead, he was still, not only very God, but also very Man. He sent them with the first Easter greetings to the apostles—to his brethren, as for the first time he deigned to call them. It was a message of love, a message of forgiveness. They had not acted as brethren should; they had forsaken the Lord in the hour of danger. But he recognized the truth of their love; he forgave their weakness, their terrors; he was "not ashamed to call them brethren." It was a gracious message indeed, full of sweetness to the sorrowing, conscience-stricken apostles. They were to meet the Lord in Galilee; there he would announce to them his assumption of Divine power and majesty; there they should receive the full apostolic commission and the promise of his continual presence unto the end. There were other meetings during the great forty days; but St. Matthew, who was led to dwell mainly upon the majesty and glory of the risen Lord, hastens to that great meeting, so full of momentous consequences, when the Lord in his royal power gave authority to his apostles to baptize all nations into the most holy Name.
1. The holy women loved the Lord. Let us imitate that affectionate reverent love.
2. They said, "Who shall roll us away the stone?" Let us trust in God; the Lord will provide.
3. The angel said, "Fear not ye." The holy angels minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation.
4. The Lord met the holy women; he said, "Rejoice!" May we share that holy joy!
5. They worshipped him. Let us learn to worship here, that we may one day worship in heaven.
The watch and the chief priests.
I. THE REPORT OF THE WATCHERS.
1. Their flight. They were all aghast with terror; they knew not well what had happened. The earthquake had terrified them at first; then there came a vision dazzling like the lightning. From that moment they were as dead men; they knew nothing more. When they recovered from that deathlike swoon the angel had vanished; all was still and quiet. Perhaps they examined the sepulchre. The stone was rolled away; the tomb was open; it was empty. What could they do? They had been posted there to guard it; they were in danger of death. Some fled away in terror; some, bolder than the others, or deeming perhaps that to tell the truth was the safest course, came into the city.
2. Their account. If they were, as it seems most probable, Roman soldiers, they were responsible to the governor; but they felt sure that he would disbelieve their story, and punish them for neglect of duty. It seemed safer to go to the chief priests, who were the persons most interested in the safety of the tomb, who might advise them what to do under the circumstances. They told them all the things that were done; they told them the facts of the case; the earthquake, the vision which they had seen, their own prostration, the empty tomb; they left the chief priests to draw their own conclusions.
II. THE ACTION OF THE CHIEF PRIESTS.
1. The council. A meeting of the Sanhedrin was hastily called. The chief priests were Sadducees; they believed that there was no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit. Now they must have been in a difficulty. The great darkness of Friday, the earthquake, the rent veil, had appalled many hearts. The very thing had happened which they had anxiously tried to prevent; the sacred body had disappeared, and the soldiers brought strange stories of awful apparitions, of earthquakes and lightning, and the supernatural removal of the great stone from the door of the sepulchre. But men can always discover reasons for disbelieving truths which they wish to repudiate; they can always invent difficulties, discrepancies, explanations. The chief priests probably affected to believe that the guards, worn out by long watching, had been so bewildered by the earthquake as to see in the lightning flashes the fancied form of an angel. The Pharisees in the council did not share in the Sadducean heresies; but they had joined with the chief priests in the application to Pilate for a guard (Matthew 27:62). They were, equally with the Sadducees, hostile to the Lord, equally interested in preventing the people from believing his resurrection. Doubtless those few counsellors, such as Joseph and Nicodemus, who had taken no part in compassing the Saviour's death, were not summoned to the meeting. To the rest the Resurrection involved awful consequences. It threw them into such an abyss of tremendous guilt and terrible condemnation, that we are not surprised if men who were evidently selfish, cruel, hypocritical, obstinately refused to admit the evidence of its truth. So, in the face of all testimony, in spite of the fact that the holy body was gone, and the certain knowledge that foe would not, and friend could not, have borne it away, they deceived themselves, or forced themselves into a disbelief of the Lord's resurrection.
2. Their decision. They pretended that what they had feared had really taken place. They made an arrangement with the soldiers; they were to say that while they slept his disciples came by night and stole him away. It was a dangerous thing for the soldiers; they might be punished with death for sleeping at their post, as Herod afterwards treated the keepers of the prison from which St. Peter was released by the angel. So the chief priests undertook to secure them; they promised to persuade the governor if he should hear of the matter. They meant probably to bribe him; and so they would set the soldiers free from anxiety. It was a wicked falsehood, an awful sin; for they were fighting against God; but the only alternative was an open acknowledgment of the truth, and that would have brought upon them a tremendous disgrace. It would have been a confession of guilt—a confession that they had been in the wrong throughout, that they had been selfish, hollow, hypocritical, and that the Prophet of Galilee whom they so utterly hated, whom they had murdered, was indeed the Christ, the Son of the living God. They could not bring themselves to this. They were the rulers of the people, the chiefs of the hierarchy; they could not humble themselves. They chose the alternative of falsehood. Thus it is that sin leads on to sin. One sin forces a man (or seems to force him) to commit another; each wilful sin strengthens the grasp of Satan upon his soul, and brings him nearer to that awful state when repentance becomes impossible. Let us beware, and take heed to ourselves.
3. The conduct of the soldiers. They did as they were taught. Interest and fear combined to make them the willing tools of the chief priests. The priests bribed them largely, and the soldiers were absolutely in their power. If the priests accused them of neglect of duty, they must have been condemned; their only chance of escape seemed to coincide with their interest; so they took the money offered them, and repeated the falsehood which the chief priests put into their mouths.
4. The acceptance of the story. It was commonly reported among the Jews. But it is a manifest falsehood; it is encompassed with all manner of improbabilities. The soldiers, if they had slept, could not have known what had happened. The disciples, terror-stricken as they were, could not have dared to attempt to break open the tomb. They did not wish to remove the sacred body; it had been laid in an honoured grave. Their only wish was to render the last offices of love and reverence. If they had removed it, what would have been the value of a dead body to them? Could a dead body have kindled that zeal, that intense enthusiasm, which urged them to forsake home and all earthly comforts for the love of Christ? Would they have embraced a life of hardship and constant danger, with the almost certain prospect of violent death, for the sake of preaching a lie? It is impossible that zealous, self-denying men like the apostles, could have been impostors; it is impossible that men who wrote what they wrote—simple, artless records, full of indications of truthfulness, full also of little differences which show that there could have been no concert, no collusion; or letters of Christian counsel beautiful in their transparent simplicity, full of high, holy, heavenly teaching, such as the world had never heard before—it is simply inconceivable that such men should have invented a lie, should have suffered, should have died, for what they knew to be false. But perhaps no one maintains this incredible hypothesis now. Then could they have been deceived by others? Who could have deceived them? Whose interest was it? Who could have wished to deceive them? Could they have deceived themselves as to the Lord's resurrection? Did they so treasure in their hearts their Master's promise? Did they so constantly expect to see him again? Did they look for his reappearing so eagerly that they imagined that they saw his form and heard his words? Did they in honest enthusiasm unconsciously create supposed appearances of the Lord out of the lightning's flash, or the uncertain moonlight, or the thousand causes which have from time to time deceived honest men? But the Scripture narratives, artless and truthful as they are, completely exclude this hypothesis. The disciples had forgotten the Lord's promise, or had wholly lost faith in it; they regarded him as dead, as lost to them. Two of them had laid him in the tomb, and had closed it with a great stone. The women were preparing to anoint the body. None of them had any expectation of seeing the Lord again. Even the empty tomb, strange as it may seem to us, did not at once suggest the Resurrection. St. John, indeed, believed when he went into the sepulchre; in the sepulchre itself, in the home of death, he saw by faith the victory over death. But it seems doubtful whether St. Peter even then realized the truth of the Lord's resurrection. And certainly the absence of the body brought sorrow, not joy, to Mary Magdalene. She stood at the sepulchre weeping, and that because, as she said, she knew not where the body of the Lord was laid; her one wish was to recover those loved remains, and, it seems, to remove them to a grave where they might lie in peace (John 20:6-15). Thank God, the central fact of Christianity rests on the surest historical evidence. The great Christian Church has not risen out of a dream, a vision. The greatest moral and spiritual revolution which the world has ever seen was not the work of a few honest but unintelligent and easily misled enthusiasts. Nothing but the truth of the resurrection of the Lord can account for the immense and sudden change from the deepest despondency to the most wonderful zeal and joy and courage and endurance. Nothing but the presence of the risen, living Lord can account for that strong conviction, that dauntless energy, that sustained persevering labour, which overcame all the superstitions of heathenism, all the inertness of religious scepticism, all the mighty power of Rome, and went on conquering and to conquer till the victorious eagles bowed before the mightier cross, and kings and emperors bent the knee in worship of the Crucified.
1. Guilt conceals itself by falsehood. Hate sin, love the truth.
2. To offer bribes or to receive them is alike evil. Covetousness is idolatry.
3. The fact of the Lord's resurrection is incontrovertible. Let us cling to it as the ground of all our hopes; let us seek to realize its spiritual power.
The great meeting in Galilee.
I. THE APPEARANCE OF THE LORD.
1. The place. This was the one only meeting by appointment. The other appearances of the risen Saviour were sudden and unexpected. Both St. Matthew and St. Mark tell us that the Lord, just before his agony, had announced to his apostles that, after he was risen again, he would go before them into Galilee. After the Resurrection the angel first, and, then the Lord himself, had made the same appointment. Evidently it was a meeting of especial importance; the preparation for it, its striking circumstances, the fact that it is the only meeting with the apostles recorded by the first evangelist, invest it with peculiar solemnity. The Lord had chosen some mountain in Galilee as the place of meeting. Thither came the eleven disciples—probably only the eleven. Some have thought that this meeting is the appearance mentioned by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:6, when more than five hundred disciples, most of whom were living when St. Paul wrote, saw the risen Savior. But it seems altogether improbable that the presence of so great a number should have been left unnoticed, that the evangelist should have mentioned only the eleven apostles, when there was an assembly of more than five hundred gathered round the Lord.
2. The effect of the Lord's first appearance. They worshipped him. Before the Resurrection we read from time to time that others worshipped him; we are not told that the apostles did so. Now they felt the majesty of his Person. "When they saw him, they worshipped." We know not how he appeared, whether suddenly, as at other times, or standing afar off on the mountain-top, or possibly in the air above them. Certainly he appeared in the glory of his resurrection body—the body of his glory (Philippians 3:21), the same, yet not the same, with that body which was born of the Virgin Mary, which had hung upon the cross, which had lain in the tomb of Joseph; the same, as the risen bodies of his saints will be the same with their present corruptible bodies; yet not the same, as the spiritual body will differ from the natural body. The Lord appeared; and the glory of his presence filled the hearts of the apostles with unwonted awe and reverence. They prostrated themselves before him in lowliest adoration, offering up that worship which the kneeling Church offers to the risen Lord at all times, especially on that day which is his; and with deepest thankfulness, with most devoted love, with most fervent adoration on that greatest of festivals, when we commemorate the resurrection of Christ our Lord from the dead. But, the apostle tells us with the characteristic truthfulness and simplicity of Holy Scripture, "some doubted." We are not told what their doubts were. It was not sinful, obstinate doubt; for the Lord came nearer and dispelled it; he did not reprove them. It may possibly have been doubted whether worship should be offered to him; and, if so, the Lord's first words, "All power is given unto me," may be regarded as an answer to that unspoken doubt. More probably it was doubt of his identity when they first saw him. None of the eleven could then doubt the fact of the Resurrection. But when they first saw the glorious form in the distance, some of them failed to recognize the Lord; just as they knew him not at first on the Sea of Galilee, when he came to them walking upon the water; as Mary Magdalene "knew not that it was Jesus," when first she saw the risen Lord. He came nearer in his gracious love, he came and spoke unto them. None could doubt longer, when they saw him close at hand, when they heard the well known tones of that much-loved voice. So Christian men doubt sometimes now whether the Lord has really called them, whether they have the high privilege of his presence. He will not leave them in doubt if they love him and keep his word. He will come nearer; he will fulfil his blessed promise, manifesting himself to them as he doth not unto the world.
II. THE LORD'S WORDS.
1. He talked to them. The Greek word implies more than a short, set speech. He said, doubtless, much more than the evangelist has recorded. We know that the Lord did and said many things which are not written in this book; but God has provided for the preservation of all that is necessary for our faith and for our salvation. "These things are written, that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing we might have life through his Name."
2. The mediatorial kingdom. "All authority was given to me," said the risen Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, perfect God and perfect Man. It was given long ago in the eternal purpose of the blessed Trinity. It had been announced in prophecy, more or less clearly, from the time when sin first entered into the world, when it was foretold that the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head. Now it was given. "To this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be the Lord both of the dead and living." That kingdom was won by his death, sealed and ratified by his resurrection. It was because he took upon himself the form of a servant, and became obedient unto death, that God highly exalted him, and gave him the Name which is above every name, that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. He is King over the kingdom of heaven which he established. "He must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet." His authority is unlimited; he is "the Head of all principality and power." His authority extends over the heavenly host: "Angels, authorities, and powers are made subject unto him" (1 Peter 3:22). The angels were bidden to worship him at his incarnation (Hebrews 1:6). They are his ministers; his angels he called them, even in the days of his flesh (Matthew 13:41). He employs them for the service of his kingdom, for the saving of souls. His authority extends over all the earth. All souls are his, bought with his blood; all are bound to render to him obedience, honour, worship. In his Name every knee must bow. All hearts must be yielded up to him in willing love and reverence, for the cross has lifted him up to the eyes of the world as the Incarnate Love, and the Resurrection proves that that Sacrifice of holiest love has been accepted by the Father.
3. The apostolic commission. As the Lord's authority extended over all the earth, so should the commission of his apostles. The limits assigned to their first mission (Matthew 10:5) are now withdrawn. Because all authority was his, they were now to go forth in his Name and in virtue of that worldwide authority. They were to "go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature;" they were to "make disciples of all the nations." It seems a strange injunction when we think that it was delivered to eleven poor, humble, unlearned Jews; but not strange when we remember who gave that solemn charge—the Lord whom all the angels worship, "who is over all, God blessed forever." His servants speak in his Name by his authority; the humbler they are, the more deeply they abase themselves and feel their own weakness and sinfulness, the more effectually does his grace work in them: "My strength is made perfect in weakness," saith the Lord. And the answer of his servants, in faith and self-abasement, is, "I can do all things through Church that strengtheneth me." From this time the Church of Christ was to be catholic, universal, open to all who would believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations." The apostles were to begin the work of gathering all nations into the kingdom of heaven, which is the Church of Christ. And that:
(1) By baptizing them. We have here the institution of the sacrament of baptism. It is the initiatory sacrament of Christianity. In the ordinary course of things it will precede Christian teaching, though whenever it has not been administered in infancy, candidates must be prepared by careful instruction. In virtue of our baptism we become disciples, scholars in the school of Christ. Our baptism binds us to learn of him, to sit at his feet and hear his Word, to follow him, imitating his great example, walking in the blessed steps of his most holy life. And Christian baptism is into the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. It is not only in the Name of Christ (as Acts 10:48), that is, by his authority; nor only on the Name of Jesus Christ (as Acts 2:38, if ἐπὶ be the right reading there), that is, on condition of a confession of Christ, of faith in him; but it is also into the one Name of the blessed Trinity. The children of Israel were baptized into Moses (1 Corinthians 10:2), that is, into the society of which Moses was the head—into his authority. We are baptized into the Name of God, into that Church which is his, called by his Name; into the family of God the Father, into the mystical body of Christ the Son, into the communion of the Holy Ghost. The Name is One, and yet Three. "The Lord our God is one God." Yet in that eternal unity there is a Trinity of Persons. Into this mysterious, this awful Name, we are baptized. May he whose name we bear keep us steadfast in the true faith of his holy gospel!
(2) By teaching them. Baptism is an initiatory rite. Teaching must follow. Christ's apostles, Christ's ministers, must teach, not by word only, but by holy example, and that continually, perseveringly. They must teach all things whatsoever the Lord commanded; not merely this or that favourite doctrine, but the whole range of Scripture truth. They must keep nothing back, but "declare the whole counsel of God"—the doctrine of the sovereignty of God and the fact of human free will and responsibility; the doctrine of justification by faith and the necessity of good works; a simple reliance on the merits and death of Christ, and the absolute necessity of holiness of heart and life; the doctrines of grace and the doctrine of the sacraments; all the truths of the Christian religion, all the practical duties of the Christian life, must have their due place in the teaching of the Church.
4. The last promise. "Behold, I am with you always." It is a repetition of the promise made before his sufferings: "I will come again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you." The Lord had come again. He would never again leave his servants; he would be with them always, all the days, all the appointed days of the world's history, to the consummation of all things. Not one day would he be absent from them. Though after the Ascension they would see him no more with the outward eye, he would be with them by his Spirit, dwelling in their hearts, present always, every day; present in the administration of the sacraments which he had ordained, giving by that presence virtue and efficacy to those outward visible signs which without that presence could convey no inward and spiritual grace; present in their teaching, guiding them into all truth, filling them with zeal and ardent love for souls, giving them the eloquence of deep conviction, the inspired eloquence which comes from the promptings of the Holy Spirit; present always in the daily life of faith and obedience and self-sacrifice, and that forever—unto the end, not only in apostolic times, but present now; present with us, if we are faithful; present as surely and certainly as he was with the apostles whom he had chosen; present with those who have succeeded the apostles in the ministry; present to help them in the administration of the sacraments, in their public teaching, in the daily ministrations; present with all faithful Christians, and that all the days, at all times, in joy and health and prosperity, in sorrow, in sickness, in bereavements, in the hour of death; present always, guiding, teaching, comforting, encouraging, making all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. The Church may well say "Amen" to that gracious promise. "Amen, even so come, Lord Jesus; be with us always according to thy blessed Word; for without thee we can do nothing, and in thy presence is the fulness of joy."
1. The soul that sees the Lord falls down before him in adoring worship. Oh, may we see him now by faith, that we may worship in spirit and in truth!
2. If we come to him in earnest supplication, he will draw near to us, he will remove our doubts and perplexities.
3. All power is his: in earth,—then let us obey him and imitate him in love and reverence; in heaven,—then let us trust in him in the full assurance of faith. He can prepare a place for his chosen in the many mansions of his Father's house.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
The vacant tomb.
Jesus did not only appear after his death, as ghosts are said to have appeared, startling nervous people in haunted places. His tomb was left vacant. His body had disappeared. This is an important fact in regard to the Resurrection.
I. THERE IS A NEGATIVE AS WELL AS A POSITIVE EVIDENCE FOR THE RESURRECTION. The positive evidence is in the appearance of Christ to his disciples; the negative evidence is in the empty tomb. If Jesus had not risen from the dead, men could have pointed to his sealed tomb, could even have torn it open and shown the corpse within. Why did none of the enemies of Jesus do this? No effort appears to have been made to take this simple means of confuting the preaching of the apostles. Yet it was manifestly in the interest of the Sadducean rulers of the Jews to have followed this course. But if the body of our Lord was not to be found, what had become of it? His enemies could have had no interest in hiding it—quite the contrary. M. Renan has suggested that Mary Magdalene carried the body away and hid it. Even if we can think the daring deed practically possible, psychologically it is impossible. Such an ugly fraud would certainly have been found out; for still the body would need to be disposed of. But in their despair none of the disciples were in the mood to invent a fiction of a resurrection. Their sudden transformation from despair to joy and confidence cannot be accounted for on the hypothesis of a fraud. The very lameness of this extraordinary theory, considered as the best that a great imaginative critic can devise, is a proof of the reality of the event he would fain find some means of explaining away.
II. CHRIST HAS RISEN IN THE FULNESS OF HIS POWER AND LIFE. It may seem to us of little moment that he should have brought his body out of the tomb. If he himself still lived, if his soul was still alive, could we not dispense with his body? Here we reason about a region of which we have no knowledge. We do not know how a disembodied spirit can act; we do not know what necessity there may be for some bodily instrument to enable it to communicate with other beings. It is enough to know the fact that Christ's full resurrection life was corporeal as well as spiritual. For us the important truth is that it was and is now a perfect, wakeful, and energetic life. Jesus is no dim shade flitting through the abodes of the dead; he is no sleeping soul like those of our blessed dead who, as some think, sleep in him awaiting their resurrection. He has risen into his perfect life. He is with us now, more truly living than during his earthly ministry.
III. CHRIST'S RESURRECTION IS A TYPE OF THE CHRISTIAN'S RESURRECTION. The physical circumstances must be different in the ease of other people whose bodies have long since mouldered to dust, perished by fire, melted away in the sea, or been devoured by wild beasts and cannibals. But the fact of a full and perfect life is what is alone important. Jesus, the firstfruits from the dead, is the promise of this life for his people. They who sleep in him will awake in his likeness.—W.F.A.
Doubts as to the Resurrection.
If some doubted when they saw Jesus, it is not surprising that some doubt now that it is nearly nineteen centuries since our Lord was on earth among men in visible form. Therefore it is not just or charitable to turn savagely against people who are seriously perplexed. The only right and Christian course is to try to help them.
I. THERE MUST BE MUCH MYSTERY IN RELIGION. It reaches out beyond our everyday experience, and deals with things of God and the unseen world, and therefore we should be prepared to see the clouds gathering over many of its difficult regions. If we look for a mathematical demonstration or a scientific verification of the facts and doctrines of our faith, we shall often be disappointed. At present, in this world of partial lights, such things are not always to be had on demand. Religion belongs to the region of practical life. If we have enough evidence for a reasonable conviction, this is all that we really need. Absolute freedom from all questions we cannot have; nor do we need it; we are disciplined by our mental difficulties.
II. THERE ARE DIFFICULTIES WHICH OUR OWN IGNORANCE WILL ACCOUNT FOR. We do not know why "some doubted." Was our Lord's appearance greatly altered? We cannot for a moment imagine that some one else was personating the dead Christ. The very fact that some who saw him doubted about him shows that even the more sceptical Christians did see the risen Christ. But how mysterious are these vague Hints! They just show that we have not yet full light. In the twilight there are many obscurities.
III. IT IS OUR DUTY TO EXAMINE THE EVIDENCE OF THE RESURRECTION. Too often doubt feeds on itself. Some people devour sceptical books, but they have not patience to examine the other side. They give a large welcome to doubts of all kinds, thinking his conduct fair and generous and liberal-minded; but they are very grudging of receiving what is urged in favour of Christian truth. Then there are those who are too careless to think at all seriously. They catch the floating doubts and play with them indolently—no more. Others are earnest in the pursuit of truth. These people would to well to consider the cumulative evidence for the resurrection of Christ.
1. There is the alternative—What became of his body if he did not rise?
2. How could men who had despaired suddenly wake up to a great confidence if no resurrection had occurred to revive their faith?
3. If one or two hysterical fanatics might have fancied they had seen a flitting ghost in the twilight, is that a reason for believing that a dozen men could have had a similar hallucination—not to mention the five hundred to whom St. Paul refers—many of whom he knew to be alive in his own day? St. Paul's undoubted Epistle to the Corinthians sums up the evidence with great force.
IV. FAITH IN THE RESURRECTION IS LARGELY DEPENDENT ON OUR IDEA OF CHRIST. This is not merely a question of an historical fact. The resurrection of Christ is not to be compared with the fabled resurrection of Nero. We have first to learn who Christ was. The unique nature of Christ, seen in his earthly life, prepares us to believe in his resurrection. It is not merely a resurrection; it is the resurrection of Christ that we are to see, as the crowning of his wonderful life on earth.—W.F.A.
The great commission.
This is the grand missionary charter. Here is more than our justification for urging on missionary work, more than our encouragement for maintaining it; here is our positive duty to evangelize the world. Let us look at the source, the object, and the encouragement of this great commission.
I. ITS SOURCE. The authority and commandment of Christ.
1. The authority of Christ. Jesus speaks these words after his resurrection. He is now to be exalted to the right hand of God. But his exaltation is not to a place of idle honours. It is to a throne of power. The authority which he has won by his triumph over sin and death he will now use in conquering the world.
(1) This is authority in heaven; therefore it will involve heavenly blessings—pardon, regeneration, eternal life.
(2) It is also on earth; therefore it will bring numberless blessings, and will help men here and now
2. The command of Christ. He uses his authority by commissioning his disciples to preach his gospel. The first claim of missionary work does not come from the misery and need of the heathen; it does not come from the blessings of the gospel, which it would be so well for all to share in; though here are two powerful motives. It springs from the direct command of Christ. The Church that neglects missions is disregarding the express orders of her Lord.
II. ITS OBJECT.
1. To go. The disciples are to become apostles; Christians are to be missionaries. When it is possible, the Church is to spread abroad. We are not to wait for the world to come to Christ; we are to go out into the world to preach Christ. Christianity must be aggressive, and Christians must be active in carrying the gospel to all who, have not yet received it.
2. To make disciples. It is not enough to live among the heat, hen. Many do this for purely selfish reasons. The gospel is spread by teaching. There is a teaching of great power in the true living of a Christian life. But we must add definite instruction in the truths of our faith. The kingdom of heaven rests on truth, it finds its way best through the making known of its facts and principles. It does not dread the light; it welcomes it and spreads it. Evangelistic appeals in which there is no teaching, unless they follow on good sober instruction, must vanish in the smoke of shapeless emotions.
3. To baptize. Not merely is the truth to be preached; Christ requires a confession of discipleship. He expects his people to be bound together in Church fellowship. The great central revelation about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, is to be the foundation of our teaching and the bond of our union. This does not mean that we must comprehend the Trinity; it means that we must know the Fatherhood of God, the Divinity and saving power of Christ, and the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit.
4. To discipline. "Teaching them to observe," etc. Mission converts must be taught the will and commandments. of Christ—trained in Christian ethics.
III. THE ENCOURAGEMENT.
1. The living presence of Christ. We do not preach a dead or an absent Christ. We have not only to do with the Jesus of ancient history. The living Christ is with us. But that is not all. It is a mistake to detach this verse from the preceding verse, as is often the case in popular discourse. Christ is with us in our missionary work. We have no right to expect the encouragement of his presence if we do not fulfil the condition he lays down. The missionary Church is the Church that has most of Christ. The power and inspiration of missionary work is his presence in our midst.
2. The abiding presence of Christ. He is with his people in their missionary work to the end of the world.
(1) Then missionary work is to be continuous.
(2) Then Christ is with us now in this work as truly as he was with the apostles. We cannot fail with such a presence. We are to preach to all nations, and in the end all nations will be won, and "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."—W.F.A.
HOMILIES BY MARCUS DODS
Lessons of the Resurrection.
The four evangelists concur in setting forth the three successive steps in the evidence by which our Lord's incredulous followers were at length persuaded of the reality of his resurrection. These are:
1. The fact of the sepulchre being found empty.
2. The testimony of the angels who were seen in it.
3. The appearances of our Lord himself.
On these points we shall not now particularly dwell, but direct attention to certain side lights which the narrative affords. Thus it teaches us—
I. THAT THERE ARE SPIRITUAL BEHIND THE MECHANICAL AGENCIES IN NATURE.
1. This is evident in the angel's work.
(1) The earthquake is attributed to him. "Behold, there was an earthquake; for an angel of the Lord," etc. The rolling away of the stone, in like manner, is ascribed to him. Whatever mechanical agencies were in commission here, angelical energy was behind them.
(2) This is not the sole example of the exertion of such energy in the production of physical effects. Angels smote the Sodomites with blindness, and brought down a torrent of fire and brimstone upon the cities of the plain (see Genesis 19:11, Genesis 19:13). They brought the pestilence upon Israel in the days of David, by which seventy thousand were destroyed, and in the days of Hezekiah they smote a hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrians (see 2 Samuel 24:16; 2 Kings 19:35). An angel dissolved the chain that bound Peter in Herod's prison, and made the doors fly open before him (see Acts 12:6-11).
(3) Within narrower limits human spirits exert energy in the material world. The microcosm, the body, responds to the will. Through the medium of the body we act upon the macrocosm around. We change the course of rivers, tunnel mountains, cut waterways through continents, modify climates, alter the flora and fauna of a country, give direction and development to instincts in animals.
(4) The universe is dual, viz. spiritual and material. These complements mutually act and react. The spiritual cannot be divorced from the physical. Any system of natural philosophy that tails to recognize this is essentially deficient.
(5) One grand use of miracles is to force this truth upon our consideration. A miracle is not necessarily an inversion of the laws of nature, though to a limited knowledge such may appear to be the case. It is rather the evidence of the presence behind materialism of a superior spiritual agency. "The works which none other did" (see John 15:24).
2. In the manner in which he impressed the senses.
(1) He rendered himself visible. The watch saw him, and were in consequence stricken with terror. This terror was deepened by their having felt the earthquake and seen the rolling away of the stone. He sat upon the stone in tranquil triumph in their presence, as if defying the armies of earth and hell to repined it or to hinder the resurrection of the Redeemer. The women also saw him. His appearance generally was that of a young man. But his countenance, or rather his whole form, was bright, "like lightning." His raiment was white as snow—whitened by the lightning brightness transmitted from his Person. This white radiance was the emblem at once of purity, joy, and triumph, and eminently suitable to the tidings he bore (cf. Acts 1:10; Acts 10:30).
(2) He rendered himself audible. He used the voice and language of humanity to give to the women comfort, instruction, and direction.
(3) Whether, however, these visual and audible impressions were made upon the physical organs of the witnesses or upon the spiritual senses in them corresponding, is not certain, though the presumption is that the physical senses were addressed, since mechanical force was undoubtedly exerted in producing the earthquake and in the removal of the stone. We should ever recognize God in nature.
II. THAT THE RESURRECTION BODY IS ENDOWED WITH ETHERIAL PROPERTIES.
1. Such was the case with the body of Jesus.
(1) His resurrection was not witnessed by the watch. They felt the earthquake; they saw the angel; they witnessed the rolling away of the stone; but Jesus they saw not. Note: He does not reveal himself to the incredulous and disobedient. He did not appear even to the women until he had first tried their faith and obedience by his ministering angel.
(2) The resurrection of Jesus appears to have taken place before the stone was rolled away. Taking the narrative as it lies before us in Matthew, the women appear to have seen the angel roll away the stone and seat himself upon it, and witnessed also the effect of the vision upon the watch. The accounts in Mark and Luke may be harmonized to this view. Then, descending from the stone, he conducted them into the tomb, where they saw a second angel, but otherwise a vacant sepulchre. "He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay." The stone was not removed to let the Saviour out, but to let the witnesses in to see that he was already gone.
(3) The presumption, then, is that the body of Jesus had undergone such a change that it passed out of the sepulchre through the pores of the stone, as the electric matter freely passes through concrete substances. The following remarkable words are ascribed to the Rabbi Judah Hakkodesh: "After three days the soul of Messiah shall return to its body, and shall go out of that stone in which he shall be buried."
(4) This same etherial property was afterwards exhibited whenever Jesus vanished from the sight of those to whom he had appeared. It was likewise remarkably exhibited on those occasions in which he stood in the midst of his disciples when they were assembled with closed doors (see John 20:19-29).
2. But the body of Jesus is the pattern resurrection body.
(1) "As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly" (cf. Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 15:20, 1Co 15:44, 1 Corinthians 15:48, 1 Corinthians 15:49; 2Co 3:18; 2 Corinthians 4:11; Philippians 3:20, Philippians 3:21).
(2) The bodies of the saints that arose after his resurrection exhibited the same etherial qualities (see Matthew 27:53).
(3) This will let in light upon the subject of the mingling of the saints of the first resurrection with living men during that great period of the reign of Christ, which is the burden of prophetic hope (cf. Romans 8:17; 2 Timothy 2:8-12; Revelation 5:10; Revelation 20:6).
(4) Jesus rose the third day, not only to answer the type of the Prophet Jonah, and to verify his own words (see Matthew 12:40), but to indicate the time of the first resurrection of his saints (cf. Hosea 6:2). "A day is with the Lord as a thousand years."
III. THAT THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST BRINGS HEAVES NEARER TO BELIEVERS.
1. It brings them into communion with angels.
(1) The appearance of the angels to the women evinced that through the risen Saviour we come to a heavenly communion (see Hebrews 12:22). Angels own Jesus as their Lord as well as we. Their communication is concerning him.
(2) The women had comfortable assurance in their action. It announced to them that the Lord who had been delivered for our offences had rendered satisfaction to Divine justice, and therefore received his legal discharge from the prison.
(3) They had this also in their words.
(a) "Fear not ye." The watch were left to their fears. Not so the women. True daughters of Sarah (see 1 Peter 3:6).
(b) "For I know that ye seek Jesus, which hath been crucified." Love seeks Jesus because he hath been crucified. Those who seek the Crucified One need never fear.
(c) "He is not here: for he is risen, even as he said." Those who seek Jesus crucified will find him risen. "He is risen! ' This is joyful news, not only to the women, but to all disciples of Christ in every age. The risen Christ is our consolation. If we find him not immediately in sensible comfort, the assurance that he is risen will be followed by that comfort in good time. Henceforth let us seek Jesus as One that is risen, viz. not with carnal thoughts of him (see 2 Corinthians 5:16), but with heavenly mind and spiritual communications (cf. Romans 10:6-8; Philippians 3:20; Colossians 3:1-3).
(d) "Go quickly." Those sent on God's errands must not loiter.
(e) "Tell his disciples." The disciples of Jesus are more honoured than kings. The apostles should believe without seeing. The women are sent to testify to them, and thus to test their faith. We must not monopolize our comforts (see 2 Kings 7:9). "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
(f) "Behold, he goeth before you into Galilee." Angels are in the secret of the Lord.
2. It brings them into new relations with their Lord.
(1) He spiritually manifests himself to them. The women were highly honoured to be the first to whom the risen Lord appeared. That favour expressed the removal from the sex of its ancient reproach (cf. 1 Timothy 2:14).
(2) He speaks comfortable words to them. "All hail!" equivalent to "Rejoice ye!" Let joy triumph over fear. The risen Christ is his people's Joy. "All hail!" equivalent to "All health!"—spiritual and saving health to you!
(3) He affords sensible proofs of his love. "And they came and took hold of his feet, and worshipped him." They were now sure it was no phantasm, but the very body of the real Jesus.
(4) He gives them his gracious commission: "Fear not; go tell my brethren that they depart into Galilee, and there shall they see me." He went to Galilee to multiply his witnesses. The greater part of his disciples were Galilaeans. There it was probably that "he was seen of more than five hundred brethren" (cf. Acts 1:15; 1 Corinthians 15:6).
(5) He calls his disciples his "brethren." Here for the first time we find him using this condescending and endearing appellation. The Resurrection, which declared him the Son of God with power, declared also all the sons of God to be his brethren. The spirit of the servant now gives place to that of the son. First we are "servants," then "friends" (see John 15:15), finally "brethren" (see Matthew 25:40; John 20:17).
(6) The Christian discipleship is now constituted into a sacred brotherhood.—J.A.M.
The earthquake which accompanied the resurrection of Christ had its counterpart in the moral commotion which this event occasioned. Thus—
I. THE WATCH WERE MOVED.
1. They were alarmed for their lives.
(1) By "the things that were come to pass." They had felt the shock of a "great earthquake." The stoutest heart will shake in the presence of a force that moves the foundations of the earth. To this terror was added the appearance of the angel whose form shone like lightning, while his raiment glittered as the snow. The effect was paralyzing. "For fear of him the watchers did quake, and became as dead men" Who can abide amidst the wonderful visions and tremendous elemental uproar of that great day of the Lord, when in the glory of his majesty he shall arise to shake terribly the earth?
(2) By the fear of military discipline. They were responsible with their lives for the safe custody of the body of Jesus, and the security of the sealed stone. But the stone has been rolled away and the sepulchre is vacant. What are they to do? The ways of God are perplexing to the sinner.
(3) The soldiers tremble for their lives when they should have trembled for their sins. The death of the sinful is of all deaths the most terrible. Unhappily, this is too seldom and too partially seen.
2. They acted with the wisdom of the world.
(1) We have no proof that they deserted their post. Some of them went into the city to report to the elders the things that had come to pass. This probably they did by order of their captain, while the rest waited to receive their official discharge. The steady discipline of the Roman soldier has its lessons for the Christian soldier.
(2) They entered into the wicked plot of the elders. Covetousness conquered the Roman soldier. What a mass of evidence did he consent to set aside for a bribe! The mercenary tongue will sell the truth for money. Fear may have wrought with their covetousness. They might doubt whether the governor would believe the truth, or whether the rulers might not set up another plot against their fidelity. They elected to take the money and trust to the promise of the rulers to secure them against the terror of the military discipline.
(3) What a glorious opportunity did the soldiers miss of becoming honourable witnesses for Christ! But God made them his witnesses in spite of their unworthiness. He can make men efficient preachers of his gospel without giving to them a particle of the preacher's honour or reward.
II. THE ELDERS WERE MOVED.
1. The hypocrite is alarmed for his credit.
(1) The murderer would appear a saint. To free themselves of the guilt of the murder of Christ, the rulers had accused him of being a "deceiver" (see Matthew 27:63). But his resurrection from the dead is a triumphant refutation of that wicked defence.
(2) What will the elders do now that blood guiltiness is brought home to them? Will they, even at the eleventh hour, confess their hypocrisy and sue for mercy for their aggravated sin? Or will they at the peril of their damnation defend their credit and persist in their hypocrisy? How solemn are the resolutions of the will!
(3) They elect to persist in their impenitence. What a melancholy example of the power of unbelief! It often pleads want of evidence. Here is an instance of determined unbelief against admitted evidence. An evil, churlish heart will repel the clearest evidence. Note: The waywardness of unbelief prevents the Saviour from rising in our hearts.
2. But he vainly seeks to preserve it.
(1) His efforts may be desperately impudent. The elders deliberately resolved to oppose a lie to the living Truth. They give "large money" to the soldiers to encourage them to publish the lie. How deeply did they sin in thus casting a stumbling block in the way of the soldiers! They teach them to lie speciously. "By night," etc. But the war is toilsome which falsehood has to wage with truth. "If," etc. (Matthew 28:14). Note: The "large money" is the sequel of the small money paid to Iscariot. Iniquity begets iniquity, and the descents are with an aggravating speed (see Psalms 69:27). If the wicked give "large money" to promote a lie, the good should not give small money grudgingly to propagate the saving truth.
(2) His confusion will be all the more signal.
(a) The disciples were not likely to attempt the stealing of the body. For had they thought Christ a deceiver, they would not have run any risk for him. Had they believed him the Messiah, they could have had no occasion or inducement. The pilgrimage of the women was one of devotion, to weep over the dead, and pour some fresh ointment over One whom they desired to preserve, but dreamt not of being able to restore. They were perplexed as to who should roll away the stone, being ignorant both of its being sealed and of the watch being set over it. They were not likely to be in any plot for the stealing of his body to trump up a story of his resurrection.
(b) The soldiers were not likely to have allowed the removal of the body. A watch of sixty armed men could not have been overpowered by a few terrified disciples. The whole watch could not have been asleep, and asleep so soundly as not to be awakened by the rolling away of a stone so large that a company of women despaired of moving it, and by the entrance into the sepulchre of a number of men, and their subsequent exit from it bearing the body. This is all the less likely to have occurred when it is remembered that, according to Roman military law, it was instant death that a guard should be found off their watch. And they were asleep, how did they know what happened?
(c) The elders pain fully felt the clumsiness of their story, else why did they not search the lodgings of the disciples for the body said to have been stolen by them? Were they likely to have been careful for the safety of the Roman soldiers unless they had some reason for it? Do not the words of Gamaliel (see Acts 5:38, Acts 5:39) assume that the resurrection might be true? Could this argument have been pleaded in the council had the senators continued to maintain their story?
III. THE DISCIPLES WERE MOVED.
1. What is sorrow go the wicked is often joy to the good.
(1) While the soldiers went to the elders with the news of the Resurrection, to fill their faces with shame, the women went to the disciples with the same news, to fill their hearts with gladness. They were commissioned to gather the disciples to a particular mountain in Galilee, there to meet their risen Lord. The "names" in Jerusalem were "a hundred and twenty;" in Galilee the number was greater. This was probably the occasion upon which the Lord appeared to "above five hundred brethren" (see 1 Corinthians 15:6). Matthew passes by at least five different appearances of our Lord, and proceeds to speak of one which seems, from its previous appointment, to have been an occasion of peculiar solemnity and importance. His object evidently was to refute the tale respecting the stealing of the body.
(2) The fact of the Resurrection is eminently joyful, as it settles forever the Messiahship of Jesus, and with it the absolute truth of his teaching and the trustworthiness of his glorious promises.
2. Holy joy is deepened with the assurance of faith.
(1) When the disciples saw Jesus they worshipped him. Here was a recognition of his Divinity (cf. Matthew 18:26; Acts 10:28; Revelation 5:1-14.; Revelation 6:0.; Revelation 19:10). By accepting their worship Jesus acknowledged himself to be God. Christian worship is the adoration of Christ as "the true God and Eternal Life" (see 1 John 5:20, 1 John 5:21). To worship in truth is to serve in love.
(2) "Some doubted" They doubted that we may believe. For the disciples were the reverse of credulous men. They doubted transiently, viz. while Jesus was yet at a distance; but when he "came to them, and spake unto them," they doubted no more (cf. per. 18; Luke 24:37; John 20:24). Doubts may transiently trouble the sincere worshipper, but in due time Jesus will come nearer and blessedly manifest himself (see John 16:21). The wickedly obstinate will not believe, though they see (see John 9:41).—J.A.M.
The angel at the sepulchre directed the women to announce the resurrection of Christ to his disciples and summon them to meet him in Galilee. Jesus himself afterwards appeared to them and repeated this instruction. The eleven accordingly repaired to the appointed place, and with them probably the five hundred brethren (see 1 Corinthians 15:6). "Some" of this number—some of those who had not seen him, like Thomas—"doubted" of the reality of the Resurrection, until they were convinced by the evidence of sense. In the words he addressed to them we have:
1. The commission he received from God.
2. The commission he gave to his disciples.
3. The promise of his presence with them. The commission to the disciples includes three particulars:
(1) The universal publication of the gospel.
(2) The baptizing of such as should embrace it.
(3) Their instruction in its doctrines and precepts. We shall now direct particular attention to two points, viz.—
I. CONSIDER BAPTISM AS A SIGN OF CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP.
1. This is evinced in its history.
(1) The Israelites were recognized as disciples of Moses when they were baptized "in the cloud and in the sea" (see 1 Corinthians 1:2). From that period, amidst all their rebellions, they never called in question the Divinity of his mission. In this baptism also they were separated from the abominations of the Egyptians, and initiated into the pure precepts and blessed promises delivered to them by the hand of Moses.
(2) Those baptized by John are called his disciples. So far convertible are the terms "baptism" and "disciple" that John's doctrine is called his "baptism" (cf. Matthew 3:1, Matthew 3:2; Luke 3:3; Acts 19:4).
(3) Jesus made disciples by baptism after John was cast into prison (see John 4:1).
(4) Baptism is clearly made a sign of Christian discipleship in the terms of the commission. The Greek term here translated "teach" differs from that afterwards rendered "teaching," and literally signifies "to disciple," and is accordingly in the margin construed "make disciples" or "Christians" of all nations (cf. Acts 11:26). "Make disciples" is the reading of our New Version in the text.
(5) This is recognized in the practice of the apostles (see Acts 2:37, Acts 2:41; Acts 10:48; Acts 19:1-7).
2. Persons are baptized in order to being taught.
(1) This follows from what has been advanced. A disciple is simply a learner. Men are not baptized because they are instructed, though a preliminary instruction may be necessary. The Church, to which baptism introduces us, is a school in which the sons of God are educated for heaven. This discipleship continues to the end of life.
(2) The commission sets forth the subjects of our learning. "Teaching theme" etc. (verse 20). The teaching is doctrinal and practical also. Life lessons in all good senses.
(3) Since Christian teaching is to follow baptism rather than to precede it, and since holy teaching cannot be begun too early, there is great propriety in the baptism of infants. Preliminary confession of faith is necessary for adults who have errors to renounce, but infants are happily not in this evil case.
(4) Hence because baptism replaces circumcision as the sign of God's covenant, baptism is called "the circumcision of Christ," i.e. of Christianity (see Colossians 2:11, Colossians 2:12). If baptism be not regarded as taking the place of circumcision, then the covenant has now no initiatory rite. The Lord's Supper is not initiatory, but of regular habitual observance, as the Passover formerly was.
II. CONSIDER THE NATURE OF THE CHURCH OF THE BAPTIZED.
1. It is a unity.
(1) Disciples are all baptized into one faith: "Into the Name," etc. The discipleship of the faith. Whatever diversity there may be in non-essentials, there must be unity in cardinals (see Ephesians 4:5).
(2) The baptized constitute one mystical body (see 1Co 12:12, 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27, Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 4:5, Ephesians 4:6). Hence schism is represented as a setting up of human names in competition with the one great Name (see 1 Corinthians 1:12-15).
(3) Love is the badge of Christian discipleship (see John 13:34, John 13:35).
2. It is catholic.
(1) The commission to baptize overarches ethnic distinctions. "All nations." This may have been at first understood to refer to the Jews, wherever dispersed among the nations; but it was soon taken in the wider meaning (see Galatians 3:27, Galatians 3:28). We are Christians first, then Britons, or Franks, or Germans.
(2) It connects heaven and earth. "All power," etc.; "therefore," etc. (see Ephesians 3:14, Ephesians 3:15).
"One family we dwell in him,
One Church above, beneath,
Though now divided by the stream,
The narrow stream of death."
(3) It extends throughout the ages. It is not strictly correct to speak of the patriarchal, Jewish, and Christian Churches. The Church of God is one under the successive dispensations so distinguished (see Galatians 3:16, Galatians 3:29). We are grafted into the olive that grew in Abraham's garden.
3. It has visible and invisible parts.
(1) There is no visible Catholic Church. We find no Scripture warrant for the idea. It would necessitate a division in the unity of the Church. It would introduce the monstrosity of two bodies to the one Head.
(2) The major part of the one Church is the invisible part. Disembodied saints from all the ages are in it. Hence it takes its name from its headquarters in heaven (see Hebrews 12:23). The spiritual members of it here on earth are the permanent members from amongst those thai are visible (see Romans 2:28, Romans 2:29). But they cannot be certainly known until the judgment.
(3) The Church of the baptized is a very noble corporation. It is a great honour to be connected with it. To be permanently so connected, we must have vital union with Christ.
(4) This is that Church so built by a true faith in the Son of God, that the gates of Hades cannot prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). For the weeding out of the tares, at death, is a benefit, not an injury to it. The dissolution of the body does not for an instant interrupt the life of faith in Christ (see John 11:26).—J.A.M.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
Concerning the nature or the location of angels we do know, probably we can know, nothing. When they have come into the earthly spheres they have always appeared to be men like ourselves; their peculiarity has not been their wings, but their purity and radiancy. But one thing does come out quite clearly and impressively from every case of angel visitation. They are always ministers, engaged in some form of ministering. Whatever dignity we may think to belong to the angels, it is the dignity that lies in service. Here in our text the angel is no mere figure; he has something to do; he waits upon the rising Lord, rolls back the stone from the door, and sits upon it. Summarizing the work of the angels, it is said, "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?"
I. THE RIGHEST DIGNITY IN THE OTHER WORLD. Angels are beings that belong to the other world; and if we can get to know about them, we get to know something of the occupations, interests, and sentiments of the other world. And this is the thing which the angels more especially teach us—in that other world their highest and noblest idea is "serving one another in love." There is one characteristic of the eternal state. It is even so characteristic as to seem to be the only characteristic worth mentioning—it is ministry. Heaven is heaven because every member can say, "I am among you as he that serveth." They learn this of Christ.
II. THE HIGHEST DIGNITY IN THIS WORLD. The angels illustrate it, and the Lord Jesus taught it. "Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your servant." Instances may be taken from the several ages, pre-Christian and Christian; and it may be shown that we never have an angel exhibiting himself or getting for himself; they are always doing two things—obeying and serving. Then show what an impression of the grandeur of angels we have. But what is our notion of them? Do we think of them as having extraordinary privileges? That is not their dignity. This is it—they have risen into the full joy of ministering. The circle is complete: God, Christ, the Spirit, beings of the other world, redeemed men and women in this world, are one in this—all are ministering.—R.T.
Christ's resurrection the acknowledgment of man's soul victory.
Our Redeemer's work lacks completeness until his soul triumph of trust and submission has manifestly, in some open way, gained the acknowledgment and acceptance of God. And this is precisely what we have in the Resurrection. In Gethsemane a soul triumph of obedience and trust was won. That soul triumph was tested by the physical woes of Calvary. That soul triumph was seen to have gained Divine acceptance on the morning of the Resurrection. And the acceptance of the perfect Son involves the acceptance of that humanity of which he was the Head and Representative. Our Lord's humanity was headship. By natural generation all men are in Adam; by spiritual regeneration all men are in Christ, or may be in Christ. Examine this relation carefully.
I. THINK OF GETHSEMANE. There is the conflict between flesh and spirit, between the shrinking from duty which involved suffering, and the obedience and trust of the Son. Just the kind of struggle carried on in our souls many a time since then. We may say, "That conflict was undertaken for me. It was a necessary part of the working out of salvation for me which the Lord Jesus undertook." But we may also say, "That conflict was mine." The fight between flesh and spirit was always ending in the mastery of the flesh, while I managed it myself. But I watch that great soul fight of Gethsemane with the holiest and intensest feeling, because it is mine. In Christ its Champion, humanity won liberty from the bondage of self, won the trust and the obedience of the Son.
II. THINK OF CALVARY. There the conflict was renewed. The first victory, which had been altogether one of the soul, of feeling, must be yet again proved in a conflict whose main clement should be bodily, physical suffering. Shame, weariness, pain, death agony, all tested the reality of the triumph that had been gained in Gethsemane. And here too we can see the representative character of our Redeemer's work. We have often thought that we had won a right state of mind and feeling; but we have gone forth to actual life and relations, and found that our soul victory failed to stand the actual testings of life. We may say, "Jesus died on Calvary for me; a Sacrifice and Propitiation for my sins." We may also say, "That death on Calvary was mine. I could not make my soul victory stand the test of the worries and pains and trials of life. Jesus took up the matter for me, and on Calvary I see myself in him; my burden on him; my fight fought by him; and his victory is victory for me,—it is my victory."
III. THINK OF THE RESURRECTION. It may be said, "But Jesus died." It may seem as if his conflict ended in defeat. At Calvary we have no decided sign of victory. The disciples went away in hopelessness and tears. Can a word be spoken that shall relieve the darkness? We may find it in our text. Look at the burial place, and hear the angel say, "He is not here: for he is risen." And we may say, "That resurrection was mine. It is the seal of my triumph. I stand now in all the joy and strength of a victor. In Christ my foot is on self and sin and death. I can enter into the 'power of his resurrection.'" Are we then to expect freedom from temptation, deliverance from all the outward ills of life? Nay, not so. If I had said so, you would have smiled, as you remembered what cares worried, burdens pressed, and sins still humbled you. It is this—life, toil, suffering, look and are wholly different things when we realize Christ in us, we in Christ, and his victories involving ours in them. The resurrection of our Lord is the Divine acknowledgment of man's soul victory over sin—evil consequences; and over sin—evil power. Those who are united by faith to the Lord Jesus Christ enter daily into his triumph; it is repeated in them again and again; and day by day they are "more than conquerors through him that loved them." We often dwell on salvation from penalty. We should often realize that victory over sin and over self which is won for us by Christ. Too often we are satisfied with saying that we may have strength from Christ to wrestle with evil if we ask for it. But we ought to go on to say that we have the victory in having the risen and living Christ. Every form of evil Christ has met for us and beaten; that is, I, in Christ, have met and beaten. Sickness is a beaten foe; pain, loss, disappointment, suffering, are beaten foes; death itself is a beaten foe. And God has openly acknowledged man's soul victory in raising his Son Jesus Christ from the dead.—R.T.
Canon Liddon, in an impressive sermon on this text, asks, "How did these women receive Jesus when thus (suddenly) he met them? The fear and great joy with which they had come out of the sepulchre must surely now have been intensified: fear,—for here, beyond all question, was he who was so lately a tenant of the tomb, who had traversed the unseen world, the world of the dead; and great joy,—for here was indisputable proof of the truth of the angel's message, 'He is risen.' He was here himself, the same figure, the same form, the same gracious countenance, lately marred and bruised, now lighted up with an unearthly radiance, the pierced hands, the pierced feet. What did they do? They came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. There are three features in this action of these humble and deeply religious women that are especially deserving of our attention.
1. Their forgetfulness of themselves.
2. Their reverence.
3. Their tenacity of purpose;" this is taken as being suggested by their act of holding him by the feet. Attention may also be fixed on the fact that the women were taken by surprise, and that revealed much concerning them.
I. THEIR ACT UNDER SURPRISE SHOWED THAT THEIR FEELINGS TOWARDS CHRIST WERE GENUINE. Men are constantly found out by being "taken at unawares." But a man who is thoroughly genuine never minds being "taken at unawares." These women were sincere. In an instant genuine feeling worthily responded to the Christ revelation.
II. THEIR ACT UNDER SURPRISE SHOWED THEIR EMOTIONAL CHARACTERISTICS. Notice particularly what they did under impulse. It was what women would do under such circumstances, not what men would do. Women get round to Jesus by the heart rather than by the head; but he accepts the worship of emotion as freely as the worship of intellect. Let woman serve Christ woman's way.
III. THEIR ACT UNDER SURPRISE NEEDED DIVINE CORRECTION. It was dangerously impulsive; it was unspiritual; it was a satisfaction in material presence; it lacked thought.—R.T.
The helplessness of a foolish excuse.
If ever there was a foolish excuse offered, this was it. If they were Roman soldiers who composed the watch, everybody must have known it was untrue, for sleeping on duty was punished by death. If they were part of the temple guard, everybody would know that they had been set up to tell this tale by the enemies of Jesus. If inquiry be made concerning the source of St. Matthew's information, it may suffice to remind that two at least of our Lord's friends, Joseph and Nicodemus, were members of the Sanhedrin, and would be fully cognizant of the Sanhedrin secrets. The invention of an excuse, and bribing men to make it, show how bewildered the priest party was by the facts and incidents reported. They never attempted to deny the facts; they invented an excuse which they knew had no atom of foundation in fact. Those watchmen could not declare that one single disciple had been seen near the place. It is ever true that they are in grave danger of accusing themselves who attempt to excuse themselves.
I. THIS EXCUSE DECEIVED NOBODY.
1. It did not deceive the watchmen; they must have laughed as they looked into the anxious faces of these officials, and pocketed their hush money.
2. It did not deceive the priest party. They knew perfectly well that it was all their own invention, and never a disciple had touched the body.
3. It did not deceive Pilate, to whom the report was sure to come. He enjoyed the confusion of the men who had mastered him and compelled him to do a wrong.
4. It did not deceive the disciples. For they bad absolutely silent consciences, and the idea of stealing the body had never come to them.
5. It does not deceive us; for we can see that making such a lying excuse is just what the priest party was capable of; but stealing the body is just what the disciples were incapable of.
II. THIS EXCUSE DID NOT HELP THOSE WHO MADE IT. It did not touch the fact that the body was gone. It did not prevent the circulation of the report that Jesus was risen from the dead. These men spent their money for nothing, and only made themselves laughing stocks.
III. THIS EXCUSE DID HELP THOSE AGAINST WHOM IT WAS MADE. It drew attention to the disciples; it set men upon inquiring what had really happened; it made the fact of miraculous resurrection stand out all the more clearly.—R.T.
Power in the risen Christ's hands.
I. No one of us needs proofs of the fact of our Lord's resurrection from the dead. Yet that resurrection remains an unsolved mystery. No one can explain it, but we inquire concerning its significance. One point only now engages our attention. Everybody who dies lives after death. Our dead friends are not dead. We never think of them as dead. They are dead in the sense of ceasing to respond to their present environment, but they are not passed out of existence. Moses and Elias passed away from mortal scenes ages before, but they spake with Jesus in the holy mount. What is true of man is also true of the Divine Man. If never a word had been spoken about his resurrection, we should have known that Jesus lived after and beyond death. That cross could not end Jesus; it only liberated a human spirit. Have we learned the lesson which our Lord almost in vain. tried to teach Martha? She cried, in her blinding agony, "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died." He answered, "Thy brother shall rise again." She misunderstood his reply, and away went her thoughts, coursing down the ages, until they came up against a great resurrection and judgment day. We need not so misunderstand our Lord. He did but wrap up his meaning in the usual figurative fashion. What he said was this, "Lazarus lives; is living now. What you really want, is not requickening of life, but restored relations of the living Lazarus to the body of Lazarus."
II. There is a marked difference between our Lord's living after death, and everybody else's living after death. When a man dies his life work is done. He lives, but he cannot carry on his work. Moses dies on Mount Nebo; nay, Moses lives; but he cannot carry on his work, and lead Israel through into the Promised Land. The artist is visited by the angel of death with the half-finished picture on his easel. The artist lives, but he cannot perfect the picture. Charles Dickens died with his work 'Edwin Drood' half written, and the plot undisclosed. Sir Edgar Boehm was caught away from his studio with the part-moulded statue before him. They live, but they cannot touch and finish their incomplete work. If the dead are active in some unknown sphere, they are certainly dormant in relation to all their earth work. For them death ends all enterprise. But it was not so with Christ. Death did not end all. His redemptive mission was not closed with his death. He resumed his earth work. After death he took it up again. Call it a picture, Jesus worked again at the picture. Call it a book, Jesus wrote on at the book. Call it the redemption of man from sin. Call it the sanctification of men unto righteousness. Jesus, living after death, goes on redeeming, goes on sanctifying. And the full convincement of this fact is the real meaning and purpose of our Lord's resurrection. It was forty days of showing us that he was at work again; of helping us to realize what his work was, and what his work would be forever. Our dead Lord is not only alive, he is active in relation to his lifework. "Alive forevermore;" his power is thus symbolized, "He has the keys of hell and of death."
III. The text declares the renewal of our Lord's commission. All power is given into the hands of Christ, but the only power Christ knows of or cares for is spiritual power. What the world calls "power" was to Christ illusion, mockery, play. To be Earth-King of humanity presented no attraction to him. The power given to Christ is the spiritual power, for which alone he cared. It is power on the souls that we are, and not mere power over the bodies that we have, and the relations that our bodies can sustain.
IV. How did Jesus come to have this spiritual power? It is easy to say that God gave it to him; but there must be some good reason why God gave it to him, and to no one but him. And it seems that God's giving was really this—sealing to him the power which Jesus himself had won; and putting Jesus in the place or office where his power could have free, full exercise. Christ's life on the earth was the moral discipline, the varied testing, the range of experiences, which prepared him for the trust of power to save which he now holds. Moral forces on moral beings are gained only through moral experiences. He who would save man must be man, must know man, must go at least a representative round of human experiences.—R.T.
The threefold Name.
"In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Sometimes the Name of the Lord Jesus only is mentioned in the formula. Here our Lord gives one Name with three sounds. Each separate Name giving a distinct relation of the one Being to men. Our Lord did not say, "in the names," but "in the Name." However we may present the threefoldness, we must keep it manifestly consistent with the Divine unity. "The union of the three names in one formula (as in the benediction of 2 Corinthians 13:14) is in itself a proof at once of the distinctness and equality of the three Divine Persons." The apostles were to go forth, and disciple all nations, that is, bring them all into the full joy of sonship with God, into which they had themselves been brought; and they were to receive their pledge and seal their sonship by baptizing them into the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The significance of the threefold Name is seen in the light of this recovered sonship of men.
I. THE NAME OF THE FATHER, WHO CLAIMS THE SONSHIP. It is the relation to himself in which God set his creatures. They are his children. He designed to give them fatherly care; he expected from them sonlike obedience. Men are sons of God, and they ought to have lived and served like sons. Man's sin lay in refusing his sonship. But man's wilfulness could not affect God's claim. God still demands sonship of every child born in his image.
II. THE NAME OF THE SON, WHO SHOWS THE SONSHIP. In his own earth life of trust and obedience. Men who, in their wilfulness, refused their sonship, came at last to lose their sense of sonship; they needed to have the very idea recovered; they needed to see it as an actual realized fact, and that is the meaning of Christ's living through a Son's life here on earth.
III. THE NAME OF THE HOLY GHOST, WHO WORKS THE SONSHIP. For the sonship must not he a mere external fact, a formal ordering of the conduct and relations. True sonship is a cherished spirit, which finds expression in outward relations. And the Holy Ghost is God working within us, in the spheres of thought, Of motive, and of feeling. He ever freshly inspired the spirit of sonship. One Name—God who asks response in sonship.—R.T.
The vision of the abiding Christ.
Christ ever with us must be, in some way, effectively apprehended by us, or it will be but vague, helpless sentiment. We must be able to see him who is thus "with us always." What, then, is seeing the living Christ?
I. THE WORLD'S WAY OF SEEING CHRIST. The "world" is our Lord's term for men who are outside his special renewal, who are left to the guidance of the senses and the mind in their "feeling after God, if haply they might find him." The man in Christ is the man to whom God is the inspiration and the life. The man of the world is the man who is satisfied to be his own inspiration and his own life. The "world" represents such a seeing of Christ as is possible to the senses; and even to the senses God "manifest in the flesh" has been shown. The "world," on its own terms, and in its own ways, has seen the Christ. He has been looked upon, handled, and listened to. He has made his impressions on lawyer and Pharisee, Sadducee and scribe, priest and princely governor, as well as on the common people. The senses could see Christ, but they could not see much. And so to the "world," Christ is really lost, gone away. "He is not," says the world; "for I cannot see him." And with this it thinks to settle the question. But exactly what we have to contend with is the world's incapacity to see the unseen. It is not best to have our Lord in the sphere of our senses. Once having had, for a while, the sense manifestation of Christ, it is better, every way better, that the sense limits should be removed. Want we want now, and what we have, is an "unlocalized, invisible, spiritually present, everywhere-present Saviour."
II. THE DISCIPLES' WAY OF SEEING CHRIST. For their good, their Master often puzzled those disciples. As they sat at table with him in the upper room, they were in a most bewildered state of mind. They could not get at their Lord's meaning. He was going away. He was coming again. He was going away in order that he might come again. Others would not be able to see him, but they would be able. Perhaps they lighted on this explanation. He means that the memory of his life and character, and the influence of his wise teachings, will abide with us, and that will be, in some sense, like having him present with us. And that would be a wonderful advance on the "world's" way of seeing Christ. And yet even that way is too limited. For those first disciples it put Christ into the limits of their personal knowledge and experience of him, and that could not have been his meaning when he said, "But ye see me." For us it limits the apprehension of Christ to the Gospel records. He would have us reach something altogether higher than that. He himself is "with us all the days."
III. CHRIST'S WAY OF SHOWING HIMSELF TO US. Jesus, in the upper room, talked much to his disciples about the Spirit. They could not at first think of their Lord as Spirit, because they had him with them in the flesh. But he tried to make them feel that this Spirit would do for them permanently just what he had done for them temporarily. He would comfort them, watch over them, teach them, sanctify them. And at last he ventured to say, "When your eyes are fully opened, you will see that the Comforter, who 'abides with you alway,' will really be me come back to you again." "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you." It is as if he had said," I pass from the region of bodily senses. I shall not be only a mental memory. To the opened, trusting, loving heart I shall come, to be the spirit and life of his spirit; to be a new and nobler self in him." In their measure the great apostles seem to have caught their Lord's meaning. St. Peter, standing beside the sick AEneas, spoke as if he actually saw the Lord there present, and said, "AEneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole." St. John seems to be always with Christ. You never see him but you seem to see also his Master. You never listen to a word from his lips, or read a word from his pen, but you feel that, behind the words, is the inspiration of the Master himself. St. Paul seems to gain a twofold sight of the ever-present Christ. Sometimes he sees himself, as it were, ensphered in Christ: "I knew a man in Christ." Sometimes he realizes Christ as a mysterious other One, Divine One, who dwells within us. He speaks of "Christ in us," and says, with the most surprising spiritual insight, "I live: yet not I; Christ liveth in me." Christ is with us all the days, and we may know that he is; we may even see him.—R.T.
NOTE.—The Exposition in this volume, from John 15:1-27. to the end, is written by the Revelation W. J. Deane, M.A.