Matthew 27:53
And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
27:51-56 The rending of the veil signified that Christ, by his death, opened a way to God. We have an open way through Christ to the throne of grace, or mercy-seat now, and to the throne of glory hereafter. When we duly consider Christ's death, our hard and rocky hearts should be rent; the heart, and not the garments. That heart is harder than a rock that will not yield, that will not melt, where Jesus Christ is plainly set forth crucified. The graves were opened, and many bodies of saints which slept, arose. To whom they appeared, in what manner, and how they disappeared, we are not told; and we must not desire to be wise above what is written. The dreadful appearances of God in his providence, sometimes work strangely for the conviction and awakening of sinners. This was expressed in the terror that fell upon the centurion and the Roman soldiers. We may reflect with comfort on the abundant testimonies given to the character of Jesus; and, seeking to give no just cause of offence, we may leave it to the Lord to clear our characters, if we live to Him. Let us, with an eye of faith, behold Christ and him crucified, and be affected with that great love wherewith he loved us. But his friends could give no more than a look; they beheld him, but could not help him. Never were the horrid nature and effects of sin so tremendously displayed, as on that day when the beloved Son of the Father hung upon the cross, suffering for sin, the Just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. Let us yield ourselves willingly to his service.And came out of the graves after his resurrection - The narrative of Matthew does not determine whether they came to life before Jesus rose, and remained in the tombs, or came to life after he died. The latter is probably the correct opinion. There is nothing said of the reason why they were raised. It is not improbable to suppose that it was, amid the other wonders attending the death of Jesus, to convince the Jews that he was the Messiah. Perhaps some who had been his open friends were raised up now as an attestation that he in whom they had believed was the Christ. What became of them after they had entered into the city whether they again died or ascended to heaven, is not revealed, and conjecture is vain.

The holy city - Jerusalem, called holy because the temple was there, because it was devoted to God, and because it was the place of religious solemnities.

52. And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose—These sleeping saints (see on [1377]1Th 4:14) were Old Testament believers, who—according to the usual punctuation in our version—were quickened into resurrection life at the moment of their Lord's death, but lay in their graves till His resurrection, when they came forth. But it is far more natural, as we think, and consonant with other Scriptures, to understand that only the graves were opened, probably by the earthquake, at our Lord's death, and this only in preparation for the subsequent exit of those who slept in them, when the Spirit of life should enter into them from their risen Lord, and along with Him they should come forth, trophies of His victory over the grave. Thus, in the opening of the graves at the moment of the Redeemer's expiring, there was a glorious symbolical proclamation that the death which had just taken place had "swallowed up death in victory"; and whereas the saints that slept in them were awakened only by their risen Lord, to accompany Him out of the tomb, it was fitting that "the Prince of Life … should be the First that should rise from the dead" (Ac 26:23; 1Co 15:20, 23; Col 1:18; Re 1:5).

and went into the holy city—that city where He, in virtue of whose resurrection they were now alive, had been condemned.

and appeared unto many—that there might be undeniable evidence of their own resurrection first, and through it of their Lord's. Thus, while it was not deemed fitting that He Himself should appear again in Jerusalem, save to the disciples, provision was made that the fact of His resurrection should be left in no doubt. It must be observed, however, that the resurrection of these sleeping saints was not like those of the widow of Nain's son, of Jairus' daughter, of Lazarus, and of the man who "revived and stood upon his feet," on his dead body touching the bones of Elisha (2Ki 13:21)—which were mere temporary recallings of the departed spirit to the mortal body, to be followed by a final departure of it "till the trumpet shall sound." But this was a resurrection once for all, to life everlasting; and so there is no room to doubt that they went to glory with their Lord, as bright trophies of His victory over death.

The Centurion's Testimony (Mt 27:54).

Ver. 51-53. Mark, Mark 15:38, mentions only the rending of the veil. No more doth Luke, Luke 23:45. John mentions none of these things. It pleased God to give a testimony against this prodigious piece of wickedness by prodigious signs, both in the heavens and on the earth. In the heavens the sun, as we heard before, suffered an unusual, preternatural eclipse, which lasted three hours. In the earth, there was an earthquake, to that degree, that the rocks were rent by it. Earthquakes were sometimes no more than indications of God’s power and majesty, Psalm 68:8 Joel 2:10; and some think, that by this earthquake Christ declared his Divine power. It is certain that the centurion concluded from it, this was the Son of God, Matthew 27:54. But earthquakes were sometimes not only the indications of the Divine majesty and power, but also of his wrath, Psalm 18:7,8 Joe 3:16 Nahum 1:6. And such doubtless was this; to show that the earth abhorred what these men had done. Besides these,

the veil of the temple was rent: three of the evangelists mention it. It is not much material whether this were the outward veil, or the inward veil, or hangings, which parted the most holy place from the other part of the temple, though probably it was the inner veil. By this rending of the veil God testified his wrath against the Jews, and that he was leaving his temple amongst them. The veil also was a type of Christ’s flesh, Hebrews 10:20: the antitype being rent, it was reasonable that the type should also be so. By this also was showed, that the temple service was now at an end, and to continue no longer, and the partition wall between Jews and Gentiles was pulled down. For what Matthew speaks, Matthew 27:52,53, of the graves opening, and the bodies of the saints arising, &c., probably it was not till Christ’s resurrection; only Matthew puts it in here, reckoning up together all the prodigious things that happened, for Matthew himself saith, Matthew 27:53, they

came out of the graves after his resurrection, and it is not likely that the graves opened any considerable time before they came out of their graves. These now were the prodigies which attended the death of our Saviour.

And came out of the graves after his resurrection,.... The resurrection of Christ; for he rose as the first fruits, as the first begotten of the dead, and the firstborn from the dead; for he was the first that was raised to an immortal life; for though others were raised before him, by himself, and in the times of the prophets, yet to a mortal life; but these saints came forth to the resurrection of life, and therefore it was necessary that Christ the first fruits, should rise first. The Arabic version indeed reads, "after their own resurrection"; and the Ethiopic version, "after they were raised"; both wrong, and scarcely sense:

and went into the holy city; the city of Jerusalem, which though now a very wicked city, was so called, because of the temple, and the worship of God, and his residence in it: the burying places of the Jews were without the city (a), and therefore these risen saints, are said to go into it:

and appeared unto many; of their friends and acquaintance, who had personally known them, and conversed with them in their lifetime. These saints, I apprehend, continued on earth until our Lord's ascension, and then joining the retinue of angels, went triumphantly with him to heaven, as trophies of his victory over sin, Satan, death, and the grave,

(a) Vid. Gloss. in T. Bab. Kiddushin, fol. 80. 2. & Maimon. Hilch. Shemitta veyobel, c. 13. sect. 3.

And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 27:53 Μετὰ τὴν ἔγερσιν αὐτοῦ] is to be taken in an active sense (Psalm 139:2; Plat. Tim. p. 70 C; comp. ἐξέγερσις, Polyb. ix. 15. 4; ἀνέγερσις, Plut. Mor. p. 156 B), yet not as though αὐτοῦ were a genitive of the subject (“postquam eos Jesus in vitam restituerat,” Fritzsche, which would be to make the addition of αὐτοῦ something like superfluous), but a genitive of the object, in which case it is unnecessary to say who it was that raised up Christ. The words are not to be connected with ἐξελθόντες (de Wette, following the majority of the earlier expositors), which would involve the absurd idea that those here referred to had been lying in their graves alive awaiting the coming of the third day; but, as Heinsius, with εἰσῆλθον. After life was restored they left their graves, but only after the resurrection of Jesus did they enter the holy city. Up till then they had kept themselves concealed. And this is by no means difficult to understand; for it was only after the resurrection of Jesus that their appearing could be of service in the way of bearing testimony in favour of Him in whose death the power of Hades was supposed to have been vanquished, and hence it was only then that their rising found its appropriate explanation.

ἁγίαν πόλιν] is in keeping with the solemnity of the entire narrative; comp. Matthew 4:5.

Matthew 27:53. μετὰ τὴν ἔγερσιν αὐτοῦ, after the raising (active) of Jesus (by God), i.e., after Christ’s own resurrection: not after the raising (of them) by Him, as if αὐτοῦ were genitive subjective. So Fritzsche, who, however, brackets the phrase as a doubtful reading. ἔγερσιν occurs here only in N. T.

Matthew 27:53. Ἐξελθόντες, having come out) i.e. the saints whose bodies had been resuscitated, in stately procession.—μετὰ τὴν ἔγερσιν Αὐτοῦ, after His resurrection) This clause refers to the verb ἠγέρθη, were raised, to which the verbal noun ἔγερσις (the act of being raised), which does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament, is fitted in this passage; and yet this same clause is placed between the egress of the saints from the tombs, and their ingress into the city. This intermingling of the words admirably corresponds with the facts. Immediately on our Lord’s death, the veil was rent in twain, the earth shook, the rocks were rent; and St Matthew has woven together the other circumstances with these prodigies. From which we are able to gather that there was one continual earthquake from the death to the resurrection of our Lord, which first aroused the living (Matthew 27:54), and afterwards the dead. There cannot be assigned any noticeable interval between the resurrection of the bodies of the saints, and their coming forth from the tomb. The first who rose from the dead to die no more was Christ; he had however companions. After His resurrection, that of the saints also took place; but it is recorded that their egress from the tombs, and their ingress into the Holy City, occurred after His resurrection; because those many persons, to whom the saints appeared, knew the time of their ingress and appearance, but had not seen their actual resurrection. The silence of St Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:23, does not prove, as Artemonius has inferred, ad Init. Ev. Joh. p. 571, that the bodies of the saints came forth from the tombs without their souls, and that their souls afterwards ascended to heaven without their bodies.—ἐνεφανίσθησαν, appeared) singly to individuals, or several at once, to more than one. An instance of real apparition.

Verse 53. - Came out of (ἐξελθόντες) the graves after his resurrection. The masculine participle, not agreeing with "bodies" (σώματα), denotes the personality of the bodies of the saints, that these arose perfect in soul and body. They could not rise before Christ rose. "Christ the firstfruits, afterwards they that are Christ's." Ewald and others have understood "after his resurrection" to mean "after he raised them from the dead." But the language is against such an interpretation, and there can be no reasonable doubt that the words refer to Christ's own resurrection. If it be contended that the word used, ἔγερσις, is active in sense, we may reply that, granting this, it merely emphasizes Christ's voluntary action in raising himself. As was said above, St. Matthew anticipates the regular sequence of events in order to complete at one view his accounts of the portents that attended the death and resurrection of Christ. The holy city. Jerusalem, as in ch. 4:5. The guilty Jerusalem is still the holy city, as retaining the temple, with its services, the ministry, the Scriptures. Some would understand the heavenly Jerusalem, into which these spiritual bodies entered; but the context is wholly against such an exposition. Appeared unto many. They were permitted to show themselves openly in their well known forms to pious relations and friends, as witnesses and proofs of the resurrection. If they had already gone to heaven, they could not have thus appeared. It may he right to add that many of the Fathers and modern commentators hold that these resuscitated saints were those to whom Christ preached (1 Peter 3:19) when he descended into hell, and that they accompanied him into glory when he ascended into heaven. Matthew 27:53
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