Mat_28:1. 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 sepulcher.
While the Jewish Sabbath lasted, they paid to it due respect. They did not even go the sepulcher to perform the kindly offices of embalmment; but when the old Sabbath was dying away, and the new and better Sabbath began to dawn, these holy women found their way back to their Lord’s tomb. Woman must be first at the sepulcher as she was last at the cross. We may well forget that she was first in the transgression; the honour which Christ put upon her took away that shame. Who but Mary Magdalene should be the first at the tomb? Out of her Christ had cast seven devils, and now she acts as if into her he had sent seven angels. She had received so much grace that she was full of love to her Lord. “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 sepulcher.” You can just see them in the gray light of the dawn; it is not clear enough to make out their form and shape; but in the twilight they are coming into the garden, and finding their way to the new sepulcher.
Mat_28:2. And, behold, there was a great earthquake:—
The women must have wondered as they felt that tremor beneath their.
feet. If you have ever felt an earthquake, you will never forget it; and this was a great one, not one of an ordinary kind: “a great earthquake.” Death was being upheaved, and all the bars of the sepulcher were beginning to burst. When the King awoke from the sleep of death, he shook the world; the bed-chamber in which he rested for a little while trembled as the heavenly Hero arose from his couch: “Behold, there was a great earthquake.” Nor was the King unattended in his rising,—
Mat_28:2. For the angel of the Lord—
It was not merely one of the angelic host, but some mighty presence-angel:
“the angel of the Lord”—
Mat_28:2. Descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.
Jesus was put in the prison of the tomb as a hostage for his people; therefore he must not break out by himself, but the angelic sheriff’s officer must bring the warrant for his deliverance, and set the captive at liberty. He was immured because of human debt; but the debt is paid, so he must go free. Like a flash of fire, the angel descends from the right hand of God. He stands at the mouth of the tomb, he touches the great stone, sealed as it was, and guarded by the soldiery, and it rolls back; and when he has rolled back the stone from the door. he sits upon it, as if to defy earth and hell ever to roll it back again. That great stone seems to represent the sin of all Christ’s people, which shut them up in prison; it can never be laid again over the mouth of the sepulcher of any child of God. Christ has risen, and all his saints must rise, too. The angel “rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.” I think I see there one of the grandest sights that ever man beheld, for one greater than an earthly king is sitting on something better than a throne.
Mat_28:3. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:
Dazzling in its purity, like the raiment worn by Christ upon the Mount of Transfiguration, whiter than any fuller can make it.
Mat_28:4. And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.
First a palsy of fear, and then a stiffening of fright, fell upon them, for they had never seen such a sight as this before. They were Roman soldiers, who knew nothing of the meaning of cowardice; yet at the sight of this messenger of God, “the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.”
Mat_28:5. And the angel answered and said unto the women,—
We had almost forgotten them; we had been thinking of the earthquake, and the angel, and the flaming lightning, and the frightened soldiers; but this angel’s thought is all about the women. He whose countenance was like lightning, and whose garments were white as snow, said to the women,—
Mat_28:5-7. Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead;
Notice the angel’s words; first “See,” and then “Go.” You cannot tell the message till you know it. You who would serve God, must first be instructed yourselves. “Come, see the place where the Lord lay;” and then, “Go quickly.” If you have seen, then go. Do not sit down, and admire the sight, and forget the thousands who have never seen it; but come, see the place where the Lord lay, and then go, and “go quickly.”
Mat_28:7. And Behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.
That is a very beautiful touch of condescension on the Saviour’s part,—that he would go before his disciples into Galilee. Why, Galilee was the very opposite of a classic region; it was a district that was much despised. The clod-hoppers, the boors, the illiterate people of no account, lived in “Galilee of the Gentiles.” “Yet,” says Christ, “I will meet you there.” It was the King’s own rendezvous,—not in the courts of earthly monarchs, nor in the palaces of the priests, but away down in Galilee. What cares he for the grandeur of men, and their empty pomp and boasted wisdom? He goes to places that are despised, that he may lift them up by the glory of his light: “Behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.”
Mat_28:8. And they departed quickly from the sepulcher with fear and great joy;
That seems a strange mixture: “fear and great joy.” Yet there was plenty of reason for both emotions. Who would not fear that had felt an earthquake, and seen an angel, and marked the tomb broken open? Yet who would not rejoice that had had such a cheering message, and such an assurance that the crucified Christ had risen from the dead? Experience is the best explanation of experience; you must feel for yourself these two emotions working together before you can understand how they can live in anyone at the same time: “They departed quickly from the sepulcher with fear and great joy.”
Mat_28:8. And did run to bring his disciples word.
Good women! “They did run.” These staid matrons did run, and who would not run to tell of a risen Lord?
Mat_28:9. And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them,—
Happy are the ministers who meet their Lord when they are going up the pulpit stairs; blessed are the teachers who meet Jesus when they are going to the class. They will be sure to preach and teach well when that is the case: “As they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them.”
Mat_28:9. Saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.
These holy women were not Unitarians; knowing that Jesus was the Son of God, they had no hesitation in worshipping him. Perhaps these timid souls clung to their Lord through fear that he might be again taken from them, so “they held him by the feet, and worshipped him,” fear and faith striving within them for the mastery.
Mat_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.
Note how Jesus dwells upon this despised district of Galilee; I should like to dwell upon it, too. He said nothing about classic Corinth, or imperial Rome, or proud Jerusalem; but his message is,” Tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.” If we will be humble, if we will cast aside the pride of life, there shall we meet him who is meek and lowly of heart.
Mat_28:11-13. 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. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.
You must often have noticed what a mixture of falsehood this was. “You were asleep; you are sure that you were asleep?” “Yes.” “Yet you say that the disciples came; you knew they were the disciples though you were asleep. And they stole him away? You know how they did it, you can describe the stealthy way in which they took away the body of Jesus; you were the witnesses of it, although you were sound asleep all the while.” Go, sirs, it is worse than trifling to listen to the lying of a witness who begins by swearing that he was fast asleep all the time; yet this was the tale that the soldiers were bribed to tell; and many a worse lie than this has been told to try to put the truth of God out of countenance. The modern philosophy which is thrust forward to cast a slur upon the great truths of revelation, is no more worthy of credence than this lie put into the mouths of the soldiers; yet common report gives it currency, and amongst a certain clique it pays. But the soldiers naturally said, “We shall be put to death for sleeping while on duty;” so the chief priests said,—
Mat_28:14. And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you.
“We can give some more of those arguments that have been so telling in your hands, and they will prevail with the governor as they have prevailed with you.”
Mat_28:15. So they took the money, and did as they were taught:—
Plenty do this still, and I have no doubt they will continue to do so as long as the world is what it is: “They took the money, and did as they were taught:”—
Mat_28:15-17. And this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day. Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.
Where will not Mr. Doubting, and other members of his troublesome family be found? We can never expect to be quite free from doubters in the Church, since even in the presence of the newly-risen Christ some doubted. Yet the Lord revealed himself to the assembled company, although he knew that some among them would doubt that it was really their Lord who was risen from the dead.
Mat_28:18-20. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in, earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 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.
We say, “Amen,” too. May he be most manifestly with us here even now, for his sweet love’s sake! Amen.