Risen1. Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.

The language as far as when this occurred is difficult. Some claim that this says that they actually went on the Sabbath. Yet I find it impossible to believe that the women would have been planning to prepare the Lord’s body with spices on the Sabbath day, for that would have been work, and no good Israelite woman would have broken the law in such a way even to decorate the body of her Lord. Yet the language here in Greek indicates that they came “on the first of the Sabbaths.” What does this mean? I believe that this is a reference to the seven Sabbaths they were to count after the Passover until they got to the feast of Pentecost fifty days later. The language here indicates that this was the first day counting down to Pentecost, in other words the first day in reckoning the Sabbaths until that day. Thus, it was indeed on the day after the Sabbath, Sunday, that they were coming, and not on the Sabbath itself. Different people might disagree with this and have different views about what the Greek means here. I must go back, however, to the fact that their actions indicated that this could not have actually been the Sabbath. Luke 23:56 tells us that they waited until after the Sabbath to visit the tomb. This is enough for me, and whatever the strange language here might mean, it cannot mean that they came to the tomb on the Sabbath.

Notice that in this passage we see no mention of spices, but rather that they merely came to see the tomb. It would appear to me that this visit then had followed the visit with the spices, and the women already knew that the body of Jesus would not be there. They were coming to see the place once again after having found out that He had risen.

Many believe that there was only one visit of the women to the tomb. Here again we have a difficulty caused by differing details among the four gospels. There were apparently several visits to the tomb by differing groups of women. If we note the given occurrences:

1.) Here in Matthew we have “as the first day of the week began to dawn.” Mary Magdalene and the other Mary come to the tomb. (This Mary was not Jesus’ mother, for her Greek name was “Miriam,” as was Mary (Miriam) Magdalene. This was an actual “Maria.”) They find the angel who had rolled away the stone. (Compare verse 4 with verse 5, “the angel.”) He invites them to see the place where the Lord lay, and then instructs them to go and tell the disciples that a.) He is risen and b.) He is going before them into Galilee, where they will see Him. These two (Mary Magdalene and the other Mary) run from the tomb with fear and joy to bring the disciples word. Jesus meets them on the way, and allows them to touch His feet.

2.) In Mark, we have very early in the morning, “at the rising of the sun” (as it was rising into the sky). We have Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome come with spices prepared (notice there was no mention of spices in the previous occurrence in Matthew.) They are worried about rolling the stone away, not knowing that this has already been done. When they find it already rolled away, they enter the tomb and find a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. They are alarmed, but he tells them not to be alarmed, invites them to see the place where he was laid, and tells them a.) He is risen and b.) He is going before them into Galilee, where they will see Him. These three leave the tomb quickly and flee, are amazed, and say nothing to anyone, being afraid.

3.) In Luke, we have it still very early. We have “the women who had come with Him from Galilee” (Luke 23:55) along with certain other women. These were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women with them. They come to the tomb bearing spices. They find the stone rolled away, but not Jesus’ body. They are standing around greatly perplexed, but at this time two men in shining garments stand by them and tell them a.) He is risen and b.) He told them that He would rise before His death. No instructions for His disciples are given. So that they remember His words and, leaving the tomb, go and tell the eleven and all the rest of what they have seen.

4.) In John, we have Mary Magdalene coming to the tomb while it was still dark. She sees the stone taken away, and runs to tell Peter and John. They come and survey the scene, but believe her story of someone taking His body away and leave. She remains there weeping, where the Lord meets her, although He does not allow her to touch Him. After recognizing Him and talking with Him, she runs and tells the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and explains what He told her.

This is perhaps the most confusing and hard to figure out of our “discrepancies” yet. It would appear that this was a very confusing and unbelievable time for all involved, and no doubt they were as worn out emotionally as they could possibly be. They probably kept trying to convince themselves that the things that they were seeing were just imagination or hallucination, and this would explain their repeated returns to the tomb. But it appears most likely to me that Mary’s trip to the tomb while it was still dark was the first of these events (recorded in John.) She was going there most likely to weep, not being able to sleep for sorrow. Finding the tomb empty, she runs in alarm to Peter and John. Her meeting with Christ in the garden then takes place, with Him revealing to her that she cannot touch Him as He is about to ascend to His father. She goes and tells His disciples, but they do not believe her. Then, she having no doubt already made plans with the other women to return to the sepulcher at dawn to adorn His body with the spices, she returns with them as recorded in Mark. Perhaps she is starting to doubt what she saw earlier, the disciples’ unbelief having dampened her spirits, and so she does not comment as the other two women discuss how they will move the stone away from the sepulcher. Then, upon seeing the empty tomb, they enter and talk to the young man. He gives them instructions, but they are afraid and leave without telling anyone. No doubt they then go and join a larger group of women, who, seeing the spices and so forth that they are carrying and noting their distress (although they say nothing of what has happened to them), deduce that they are heading for the sepulcher and steer them back in that direction, coming along to help as is recorded in Luke. Upon reaching the sepulcher, they enter and find His body not there. The women (at least, all those for whom this is a first trip to the sepulcher this morning) are very perplexed, but the angels come and speak to them. There being more reason (not to mention security) in numbers, these women respond with less fear and more dawning joy, and immediately go to tell the disciples, who do not believe them. Growing frustrated with the disciples for not accepting their story, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary return to the sepulcher to see what they can see as is recorded in Matthew. This time the angel talks to them and gives them the instructions as to what they are to tell the disciples. At last having overcome their fear and basking in the joy of what they finally believe, they rush to tell the disciples the instructions that the angel has given them. Meanwhile Jesus has completed His ascension to heaven and meets them on the road, allowing them now to touch Him and repeating to them the instructions that they are to give.

This is just my interpretation of these events, but I believe that something like this might have been what actually happened. At any rate, the difference in details between the accounts indicate clearly more than one visit to the tomb. The facts given in Matthew, I believe, point to it as most likely the final visit after they already knew that the Lord had risen.

2. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it.

This account does not mention to us the actual resurrection of the Lord, but only what appeared to the soldiers who were guarding the tomb, as we saw in the close of the last chapter. What actually went on inside the tomb and to the Lord Jesus we must gather from what the angel tells the women, and what those who saw Him afterwards observed. In fact, none of the gospels actually describe the resurrection, this one coming the closest by describing what the soldiers saw. God does not describe for us what actually happened in the tomb, as no one but Himself actually saw it. Rather, He describes for us what people witnessed as they were involved with the event, and what led them to believe that He was indeed risen. Thus we can take the testimony of these witnesses as evidence, and this evidence is more convincing than if He had actually said, “And Jesus arose and passed through the roof of the tomb and into the sky” or something along those lines.

Who this angel was it does not say. He was certainly an angel of the Lord, but He was not THE messenger of the Lord Himself, Jesus Christ, for He was in the tomb arising out of it, not descending from heaven to it.

3. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow.

When it says that he appeared “like lightning,” it means he shined with a brightness like lightning. The white clothing is often seen with angels, and probably indicates their purity, since those who did not fall did not become sinful beings like we of Adam’s race are.

4. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.

There weren’t many things that could make a tough, Roman soldier faint dead away, but this angel definitely could! He must have been a sight indeed.

5. But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.

Apparently this angel was sitting on the stone he had rolled back when the women came to the tomb. Whether this was the same angel they saw sitting inside the tomb (Mark 16:5,) or one of the two that stood by them in the tomb (Luke 24:4,) or one of the two Mary saw sitting in the tomb (John 20:12,) it is hard to say. Perhaps this angel was sitting on the stone the whole time, and they did not see him (he was hidden from their vision) until this visit.

Although they were seeking for the Lord, this does not mean that this was not a later visit than those listed in the other gospels, or that they thought He was still dead. Remember, He appeared to Mary in John 20:14-17. These women might have been seeking Him alive, not dead.

6. “He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

He wishes to assure them that the Lord is indeed risen, and that His body has not somehow reappeared in the tomb.

7. “And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.”

These are the last instructions these women receive from an angel. They are to once again tell the disciples that He is risen from the dead, and then they are to go into Galilee and He will appear to them there. Having told them this, the angel makes a final statement, “Behold, I have told you,” as if a charge had been given to him to deliver this message to them, and now he had fulfilled it. Indeed, this is probably what had in fact occurred, this angel being instructed to deliver this message by the Lord Himself.

8. So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.

Their fear now was not so much fright as it was great awe at what had transpired. And we can certainly imagine their joy at the knowledge that their Master had indeed conquered death, man’s greatest enemy!

9. And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” And they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him.

After the visit in Mark, they were afraid to carry out the instructions they were given, and so they did not respond in faith, and rather kept the news quiet. Now, however, they respond in faith, going to carry out the charge they had been given. And now, as they were going to obey the command they were given, the Lord Himself appeared to them. Apparently, He had already visited heaven and ascended to God as He told Mary He was going to do in John 20:17 when He refused to allow her to touch Him. Having fulfilled this office, however, and having presented Himself before His Father, as He had to do, He now allows them to touch Him, which they do, taking Him by the feet and worshiping Him. Notice that He does not stop them from worshipping, and it was indeed right for them to do so. His resurrection had proven once and for all that He was worthy to be worshipped as God Himself!

10. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

The Lord expands on the command the angel had given them, telling them that they are also to tell this command to His brethren. I believe by this He meant His literal brothers, not His disciples. His brothers, although they did not believe in Him during His earthly ministry (John 7:3-8,) did believe in Him afterwards, and two of them even wrote books of the Bible (James and Jude.) Probably their turnaround came because of the resurrection, and His appearance to them afterwards in Galilee. Although we have no mention of this actually occurring in Scripture, we can be sure from this passage that it did. No doubt seeing your brother alive after He had died would give you an opportunity to have second thoughts about your previous opinion of Him!

11. Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened.

Why only some came and not all it is hard to say. Perhaps some of them were still unconscious. Perhaps only the officers went to take full responsibility for what had occurred. Or perhaps some ran in fear for their lives, realizing that they had failed in their charge. The law then would have made the life of any Roman soldier forfeit who allowed anyone to break a seal that they were set to guard without the permission of the one who had set the seal, or someone with more authority than the sealer. Perhaps the rest of the soldiers feared for their lives and fled, and only these were man enough to go back to face the music.

12. When they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers,

The chief priests and elders seem to have believed the story that the soldiers told them! They were so set against the Lord, however, that they were more concerned with covering this story up than they were with what this miracle actually meant and what it proved about the Lord Jesus. It seems they were so good at refusing to believe in Christ no matter what miracle He performed that even His Own resurrection from the dead could not shake them from their unbelief!

13. saying, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’

I dare say that there are many who still would like to believe that the fact of His resurrection was just a trick of His disciples. Yet, if so, then this “trick” was one that the disciples were willing to die for, as most of them were martyrs. So I ask you, would men be more likely to die for a lie or for the truth?

14. “And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.”

The governor would have ordered these men killed if they had indeed so neglected their duty. The only way they could have been saved from this fate was to hunt down the offending disciples and execute them. Thus, the fact that neither of these things happened is the clearest evidence that this story was not only a total fabrication, but a foolish and transparent one.

15. So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.

This is what the rich class, the Jews, preferred to believe, rather than that the Lord had risen from the dead. Even by the time Matthew was writing this more than thirty years later, there were many Jews who preferred this story. This shows that the wealthy and educated can be deceived just as easily as the poor and ignorant, especially if they wish to be!

16. Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them.

This apparently took place about ten days after His resurrection, so there is a significant gap between verses 15 and 16 that must be filled in from the other gospels. The disciples did not obey this command to go into Galilee until the Lord had appeared to them and they had seen Him themselves! Then they did obey it, however, as we read here. Notice, though, that this mountain in Galilee where He met them is not where He ascended from, for we read in Luke 24:50 that His ascension took place from Bethany, the same town where He stayed the week before His death and where Mary, Martha, and Lazarus lived. Thus, after this meeting in Galilee, He must have ordered them to return to Judea. Remember, forty days passed between His resurrection and His ascension. Many events must have occurred, and He must have done many things with His disciples, only some of which are mentioned in the Scriptures.

17. And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.

The idea here seems to be not that some doubted that it was really Him or that He was really alive from the dead, but that some hesitated to worship Him. Perhaps some of them were still uncomfortable with the idea of worshiping a man, even one Who had risen from the dead.

18. Then Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

Jesus comes to them and gives the words that should erase all doubt from their minds as to the appropriateness of worshiping Him, telling them that “All power is given unto Me in heaven and on earth.” This is an appropriate statement for Matthew, a book that focuses on His kingship and thus His authority.

This is an amazing statement indeed! Do we thus believe that the Lord Jesus has all power, indeed, the power of God Himself? Or do we ascribe to Him a lesser place than we ascribe to God? We should not do so, for His is indeed all the authority. Unlike these disciples, we should not hesitate to worship the Son of God!

19. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Because of the Lord’s authority and the fact that He will reign as King of all the earth, the disciples are to act in this manner. They are to disciple all nations. All nations are to be taught by these men, and then baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching a nation has to do with teaching its leadership. The leadership of nations in our day need very much to be taught the ways of God. Someday, we can be certain, this will happen, and it will be these very disciples the Lord Jesus was talking to here, risen from the dead, who will do the teaching. What a glorious day that will be! Then, when they have taught a nation and it has agreed to abide by God’s laws and to serve God’s government, these disciples will have the privilege of baptizing these submissive nations. When a nation is thus baptized, it is counted as being part of God’s Kingdom on the earth. All nations will eventually have to do this, or else be stripped of the power and authority to be a nation, for our Lord will brook no rebellion in those days!

Some, not understanding at all the future kingdom or the disciples’ part in it, try to make this a command that we can carry out today! They ignore the part about teaching “the nations” and instead make this to be teaching individuals. They ignore the fact that this was a command to the Lord’s disciples and make this a command to all men today. Then, they try to make their own missionary efforts and spreading the gospel a part of obeying this commandment! Then, having thus mangled this passage and misinterpreted it to fit their own ends, they are troubled by the results, wondering why the disciples never acted in this manner when they baptized individuals, instead baptizing them in the name of Jesus Christ, not in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. What those who are thus troubled do not realize is that these disciples never had the opportunity to begin carrying out this command because the Lord never officially proclaimed the arrival of His government to the whole world and demanded to the nations that they become a part of it. Since the Lord never carried out His part of the deal, they could not be expected to carry out theirs. The only way, then, that anyone will ever obey these words of our Lord will be if He raises these disciples from the dead in the future to carry them out. This we can be sure He will do!

20. “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

This is what they are to teach the nations at this future time. The disciples, having learned for years about the government of God from the King Himself, will be eminently qualified to teach the governments of all nations about the Lord and what His governing principles will be. They will be able to do this, having received their instructions from the King Himself, and so the nations who hear their words will know that what they speak is truth, and what God truly demands of them.

Christ here promises His disciples that He will be with them always, until the end of the world. But this is a bad translation. The idea is the consummation, not the end. He is promising to be with these men until all the promises He has given them will at last be fulfilled. And, though this command is not to us and though it will not be our job to teach and baptize nations in this way, we still can know that He is with us as well until that time. What a blessed realization that is. May God speed the day!

Matthew Conclusion

Thus, we end our study of Matthew. The book is one from which we can learn much, but we always need to remember that the primary message of this book is Christ as King. We saw the lineage of a King, the birth of a King, the teaching of a King to His subjects, and the parables of a King about His upcoming Kingdom. Finally, we saw the King rejected and nailed to a cross, yet even the grave could not hold Him. The King rose, and now all authority is given to Him in heaven and on earth. The last we see of Him in this book He is instructing His disciples as to what they are to do once His Kingship becomes known and His Kingdom rules over the earth at last.

The day of His Kingship is drawing close. Then we will see our glorious Lord and Savior unveiled before the world at last! Until that day, however, Matthew stands to reminds us of the great King whose Kingdom those who truly love Him eagerly await.