Matthew Poole's Commentary
In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.Matthew 28:1-8 Christ’s resurrection is declared by an angel to the women.
Matthew 28:9-10 Christ himself appeareth to them.
Matthew 28:11-15 The chief priests bribe the soldiers to report that
he was stolen by the disciples.
Matthew 28:16,17 Christ appeareth to the eleven in Galilee,
Matthew 28:18-20 and sendeth them to teach and baptize all nations.
We are now come to that part of the Gospel which treats concerning the resurrection of Christ, and the converse which he had upon the earth for forty days, Acts 1:3, until the time of his ascension into heaven. Matthew and Mark are the shortest in this narration. I shall therefore, only consider what Matthew saith, and what the other evangelists speak as to the same things which he mentions, leaving out what the other evangelists have (not at all mentioned by him) to be discoursed in their proper place. We heard before that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary had prepared spices and ointments to anoint the body of Christ, but the sabbath day being at hand, they would not by that unnecessary action profane the sabbath; as Luke tells us, Luke 23:56, they rested on the sabbath, according to the commandment: The sabbath ended with them at the setting of the sun. They did not go as soon as the sabbath was ended, but after it was ended,
as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week. The first day of the week began with them as soon as the sabbath was ended, so as the first day of the week was a third part spent; therefore Mark reports the time, Mark 16:1,2, And when the sabbath was past; and says that Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Salome, had bought sweet spices that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning, the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. Luke saith, Luke 24:1, that upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.
John saith, John 20:1, The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre. As to the time, three evangelists say it was upon the first day of the week, early in the morning; about sunrising, saith Mark; while it was yet dark, saith John: these now interpret Matthew’s oqe sabbatwn, which doth not signify, in the evening of the sabbath, but in the evening of the sabbaths, the end of the week. The Jews, in honour to the sabbath, called all the days of the week sabbaths, the first of the sabbath, the second of the sabbath, &c.; so as oqe sabbatwn is well translated by our translators, In the end of the sabbath, the evening or night following the sabbath, following the seventh day, which was the sabbath. Nor is oqe to be taken here strictly for that time of the night which we call the evening, but for the whole night, which must be reckoned to continue until the sunrising of the first day of the week; and so Matthew expounds himself, adding,
as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, that is, the first artificial day, as the day is accounted from sunrising to sun setting; otherwise it was upon the first natural day of the week, which began from the sun setting before. Matthew mentions the coming of Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, who, Mark saith, was the mother of James and Salome, to the sepulchre. John mentions only Mary Magdalene, but it is not probable she went alone, and two other evangelists say also the other Mary. Luke saith there were certain others with them: there might be divers with them, though one only be named by John, two by Matthew and Mark as being the principal persons in the company. And though Matthew only mentions their going to see the sepulchre, yet Mark telleth us that they went also to anoint his body, and Luke saith they carried the spices prepared for that end; their faith, as it seemeth, was yet but weak as to our Saviour’s resurrection.
And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.See Poole on "Matthew 28:4".
His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:See Poole on "Matthew 28:4".
And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.Ver. 2-4. Matthew alone telleth us this; all the other evangelists agree that when the women came they found the stone rolled away, which eased them of the solicitude they had as they came, saying amongst themselves,
Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? Matthew saith, an angel descended and rolled away the stone, and came and sat upon it. This angel had assumed a shape, for he appeared to those that saw him, as to
his countenance, like lightning; as to his garment, as one clothed in exceeding white linen, white as snow. What doth the watch all this while? Matthew saith, they were afraid, shook, and became like dead men. Luke and John make mention of two angels. Indeed there needed not any angel at all to remove the stone, if this had been all he had come down for; He that was quickened by the Spirit, could by the same power have rolled away the stone; but as it was fit that the angels, who had been witnesses of his passion, should also be witnesses of his resurrection, that he who was justified in the Spirit, should be seen of angels, 1 Timothy 3:16; so it was necessary, that the keepers might give a just account to Pilate, the chief priests, and scribes. And no wonder that they were afraid, and as dead men, whereas all apparitions of this nature naturally affright us, and they had such a conscience of guilt upon them, and might justly fear what their masters should say to them, when they found the body was missing; especially also seeing, or being sensible of, the earthquake, or great concussion of the air (for though we translate it earthquake, yet the Greek saith no more than seismov megav). Besides that the presence of the angels seemed reasonable to prevent a cheat, by putting some other dead body into the sepulchre, and to direct the women who were now coming towards the sepulchre, for they were not yet come: when they were come, they found the stone rolled away; and Matthew’s relation, how the stone came removed, was doubtless not from them, but from the keepers, or some to whom they had related it.
And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.See Poole on "Matthew 28:8".
He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.See Poole on "Matthew 28:8".
And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.See Poole on "Matthew 28:8".
And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.Ver. 5-8. Mark saith, Mark 16:5-8, And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man, for they were afraid.
Luke saith, Luke 24:3-11, And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: and as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered his words, and returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles. And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.
John saith, of Mary Magdalene only, John 20:2, Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.
Matthew in this relation omits many things more distinctly related by the other evangelists. When the women came to the sepulchre, they first entered in; so saith Mark and Luke. It was within that they saw the angel, habited as it were in a long white, shining garment. They were affrighted, (as we naturally are upon apparitions), they bowed down their faces to the earth. The angel bids them not to fear, he knew that they sought Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified;
Why seek ye the living among the dead? he is not here, but is risen; showeth to them the place where his body was laid; minds them of Christ’s words to them in Galilee, Matthew 18:23; bids them go tell his disciples (Mark adds, and Peter) that he was going before them into Galilee, and that there they should see him, as he had said unto them, Matthew 26:32 Mark 14:28.
They departed quickly from the sepulchre (as Matthew saith) with fear and great joy; Mark saith, trembling and amazed. John doth not say, unbelieving, but he saith it in effect, for he saith, that they said to Simon Peter, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. The cause of their fear and amazement was doubtless the apparition of the angel. The cause of their sudden joy was the news that he was risen, told them by the angel. It appeareth that their joy was but a sudden flash of passion, not rising from the certainty of their souls as to the truth of what they heard, because they said to the disciples, that they did not believe it, but upon second thoughts concluded that somebody had removed our Saviour’s body: neither did the apostles themselves believe it, as appeareth by Luke; he saith they looked upon it as an idle tale.
John saith expressly, John 20:9, As yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead: they knew it notionally, but they did not give a firm and a fixed assent to it, they did not believe it. It was not, it seemeth, in the power of their wills to believe this article of Christ’s resurrection; for as they had a Divine revelation of the thing from Christ himself, so we cannot but think they had mind and good will enough to believe it. But God had not given them the power of faith as to this point.
And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.See Poole on "Matthew 28:10".
Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.Ver. 9,10. Matthew repeateth this very shortly. Mark saith, Mark 16:9-11, Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.
Luke saith, Luke 24:12, Then (that is, when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary had come and told the disciples what they had seen and heard, though at first they gave no credit to it) arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre, and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.
John relates this more distinctly, in John 20:3-18: Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, ( whom Jesus loved, as Matthew 28:2, and that was John himself, who wrote that Gospel, John 13:23), and came to the sepulchre. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, and the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again unto their own home. But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, and seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they say unto her, woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her. What there is particularly to be noted upon the several particulars in John’s relation, I shall observe when I come to that chapter of John; I have only at present transcribed it, that from the comparing it with the other evangelists we might understand the order of this history.
And as they went to tell his disciples. This seemeth to be their second going, and the order to be thus: When Mary and the rest came to the disciples, and told them they had been at the sepulchre, and what they had there seen and heard, they believed it not. But yet, it being close by the city, and not knowing what to think, Peter resolves to go and see, and so doth John. They both run, but John comes there first, but goes not into the sepulchre, but only looks in, and sees the linen clothes lying. Peter comes (for it was very near the gates of the city); he goeth in, seeth the linen clothes, and the napkin. Then John also adventures to go in, and saw and believed; he is the first is said to have believed. Then they went home. But Mary stayed weeping; and now and then looking into the sepulchre, she seeth not the clothes only, but two angels sitting, the one at the head, the other at the feet of the place where the body of Christ did lie. They ask her why she wept. She tells them, Because they had taken away her Lord, and she did not know where they had laid him. Now, saith John, when she had said thus, estrafh eiv ta opisw, we translate it, She turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, John 20:14; which seemeth to contradict our evangelist Matthew, who saith,
As they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. Our translation now would make one think that Mary was still at the sepulchre, and there looking back she saw Jesus; and this seemeth either to assert that Mary saw Christ twice, once at the sepulchre, once in her return to the city, or else to contradict Matthew; but the Greek words may be translated, ‘She was turned backward’, that is, was going back to tell his disciples, and met Christ, who saluted her, saying, All hail.
Though Mary Magdalene be only named, and possibly all the women who were with her at first did not come back with her the second time, yet it is plain she was not alone, for Matthew saith, They came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. He bids her be not afraid, but go and tell his disciples they should meet him in Galilee. For the other discourse betwixt him and Mary, we shall meet with it when we come to that chapter in St. John’s Gospel where it is mentioned. Mark saith, that when they had heard he was alive, and had been seen of her, they believed not. We do not read that the angels appeared either to Peter or John, much less that Christ as yet showed himself to them; so they had only the testimony of Mary as to these things, and their own view of the empty sepulchre, and the clothes lying by. How hard a thing it is to believe spiritual mysteries, above the reach of our reason! So hard, that no revelation of flesh and blood is sufficient to beget such a faith.
Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done.See Poole on "Matthew 28:15".
And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers,See Poole on "Matthew 28:15".
Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.See Poole on "Matthew 28:15".
And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you.See Poole on "Matthew 28:15".
So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.Ver. 11-15. No other evangelist hath this passage, which was necessary to be inserted by Matthew:
1. To satisfy readers how it could come to pass, that Matthew should know of the earthquake, or concussion of the air rather, and that an angel came and rolled away the stone; for all this was done, and Christ risen, before the women came: it came out by the watch, or by Pilate to whom the watch related it, or else by some of the priests and elders, who did not keep counsel so well as others.
2. To show the horrible wickedness of these priests and elders, that would thus cover the blood they had spilt with a lie and subornation. Thus one sin requires more to defend it.
3. To let us see how simple people will show themselves in their malice. What a story here was! If they were asleep, how could they know that Christ’s disciples came by night and stole him away? Would no noise of rolling away the stone wake them? Malice will not allow men deliberation enough to show themselves wise. God infatuated these men, that succeeding ages might know they were suborned. Here we have also the ground of that fable with which the Jews presently filled all the world.
Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.See Poole on "Matthew 28:17".
And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.Ver. 16,17. The other evangelists mention several other appearances of Christ, which we shall consider when we come to them. This was in Galilee, upon Christ’s appointment either before or after his resurrection, we cannot certainly say when, or how. Some think (upon what grounds I know not, but because the evangelists mention no more) that this was the famous appearance mentioned by the apostles, when he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once, 1 Corinthians 15:6. The text speaks but of eleven that went into Galilee; it is possible more might meet him there, but we have no guidance of Scripture to conclude it. Some
worshipped him; but some doubted: Thomas we know did so, so might others: but some think that it had been better translated, ‘some had doubted’; I understand no sufficient reason for it, for it is not certain that this was after his other appearances mentioned by the other evangelists.
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.See Poole on "Matthew 28:20".
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:See Poole on "Matthew 28:20".
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.Ver. 18-20. Mark saith, Mark 16:15-18, And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name they shall cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. Our blessed Lord in these three last verses:
1. Asserts his power and authority.
2. He delegates a power.
3. He subjoins a promise.
The power and authority which he asserts to himself is, All power both in heaven and earth, Acts 10:36,42 Eph 1:20-22; power of remission of sins, Luke 24:47, of congregating, teaching, and governing his church; a power to give eternal life to whomsoever he pleased. This was inherent in him as God blessed for ever, given to him as our Mediator and Redeemer, given him when he came into the world, but more especially confirmed to him and manifested to be given him at his resurrection and ascension, Philippians 2:9,10. Having declared his power, he delegates it:
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations; the Greek is mayhteusate, make disciples all nations; but that must be first by preaching and instructing them in the principles of the Christian faith, and Mark expounds it, telling us our Saviour said, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature, that is, to every reasonable creature capable of hearing and receiving it. I cannot be of their mind, who think that persons may be baptized before they are taught; we want precedents of any such baptism in Scripture, though indeed we find precedents of persons baptized who had but a small degree of the knowledge of the gospel; but it should seem that they were all first taught that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and were not baptized till they professed such belief, Acts 8:37, and John baptized them in Jordan, confessing their sins, Matthew 3:6. But it doth not therefore follow, that children of such professors are not to be baptized, for the apostles were commanded to baptize all nations: children are a great part of any nation, if not the greatest part, and although amongst the Jews those that were converted to the Jewish religion were first instructed in the law of God before they were circumcised, yet the fathers being once admitted, the children were circumcised at eight days old; nor were they under any covenant different from us, though we be under a more clear manifestation of the same covenant of grace, of which circumcision was a sign and seal to them, as baptism is to us. Infants are capable of the obligations of baptism, for the obligation ariseth from the equity of the thing, not from the understanding and capacity of the person; they are also capable of the same privileges, for of such is the kingdom of God, as our Saviour hath taught us.
All nations: the apostles were by this precept obliged to go up and down the world preaching the gospel, but not presently. So it is plain that the apostles understood their commission, from Acts 1:8 Acts 3:26 13:46 18:6,7 Ga 2:7. They were first to preach and to baptize amongst the Jews, and then thus to disciple all nations. Pastors and teachers who succeeded the apostles were not under this obligation, but were to be fixed in churches gathered, as we learn from the Acts of the Apostles, and the Epistles of the apostles. They by this commission have authority in any place to preach and to baptize, but are not under an obligation to fix no where, but to go up and down preaching in all nations.
Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Baptizing them is no more than washing them with water. We read of the baptism of pots and cups, Mark 7:8, (we translate it washing, ) which we know may be by dipping them in water, or by pouring or sprinkling of water upon them. It is true, the first baptisms of which we read in holy writ were by dippings of the persons baptized. It was in a hot country, where it might be at any time without the danger of persons’ lives. Where it may be, we judge it reasonable, and most resembling our burial with Christ by baptism into death; but we cannot think it necessary, for God loveth mercy rather than sacrifice, and the thing signified by baptism, viz. the washing away of the soul’s sins with the blood of Christ, is in Scripture expressed to us by pouring and sprinkling, Ezekiel 36:25 Hebrews 12:24 1 Peter 1:2.
In the name of the Father, &c.; in the Greek it is, eis to onoma, into the name. In the name doth not only import the naming of the names of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost upon them, but, in the authority, or (which is indeed the chief) into the profession of the trinity of the persons in the one Divine Being: dedicating the persons baptized to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and thereby obliging them to worship and serve God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; for in baptism there is both a solemn dedication of the person to God, and a solemn stipulation: the person baptized either covenanting for himself that he will be the Lord’s, or his parents covenanting for him that he shall be the Lord’s; which covenant doth both oblige the parents to do what in them lieth in order to that end, and also the child, the parents covenanting for no more than the child was under a natural and religious obligation to perform, if such covenant had never been made by its parents on its behalf.
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. There is a teaching must go before baptism of persons grown up; and this was the constant practice of the apostles. It is fit men should act as rational creatures, understanding what they do. And there is a teaching which must follow baptism; for baptism without obedience, and a living up to that covenant in which we are engaged, will save no soul, but lay it under a greater condemnation. The apostles might teach nothing but what Christ had commanded them, and they were bound to teach whatsoever Christ had commanded them. Here now is the rule of the baptized person’s obedience. We are bound to no obedience but of the commands of Christ, and to a perfect obedience of them, under the penalty of eternal condemnation. When Mark saith, He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, it doth not imply that baptism is absolutely necessary to salvation, or in the same order with faith in Christ; but that the contempt of it is damnable, as being a piece of presumptuous disobedience; and such a faith is to be understood there, under the notion of believing, as worketh by love.
And, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world: I am and I will be with you, and those who succeed you in the work of the ministry, being called of me thereunto. I will be with you, protecting you, and upholding that ordinance, and blessing you, and all others of my faithful ministers that labour for making me and my gospel known, with success.
Unto the end of the world; not of this age only, but of the world: my ministry begun in you shall not fail, nor shall the adding of souls to the number of them who shall be saved (as a token of my gracious presence with you) fail, till the world shall be determined, and the new heavens and the new earth shall appear. What Mark addeth concerning the signs that should follow those that believed, had a particular reference to the times immediately following Christ’s ascension into heaven, and is to be understood of those miraculous operations which were to be wrought by the apostles, and others, for a further confirmation of the doctrine of the gospel by them preached. Matthew says nothing of them here. There is no promise of Christ’s presence with his ministers to enable to such operations to the end of the world; but with his ministers preaching, baptizing, and teaching men to observe and to do whatsoever he hath commanded them, he hath promised to be, till time shall be no more.