Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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MATTHEW - Chapter 28

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Matthew 28

Supplemental Commentary:

II.  THE PASSION, DEATH AND RESURRECTION  26-28 (continued)

3.  The Resurrection of Jesus  28

28, 1-10:  The Women at the Grave.  Parallels in Mark 16, 1-8 and Luke 24, 1-11.  John 20, 1-18 gives an independent account of the events on Easter morning.  All four Evangelists are in complete agreement on all important points.  In certain minor details they show some differences which cannot be called discrepancies in the strict sense.  Various solutions of these minor differences are offered: the Evangelists view the same event from different angles; at times they may not be referring to the very same event, e.g., the various women who come to the tomb; each Evangelist selects certain details for emphasis and omits others, according to his own special purpose; etc.  There are so many plausible proposals for harmonizing these various details that it is difficult to say which is the best.  No attempt at the harmonization of all these details is made here.  See the Commentary on each of the Gospels for the details proper to each.

1.  Since the Sabbath ended at sunset, the sense here is obviously, late in the night after the Sabbath.  The other Mary: cf. 27, 56.61.  To see the sepulchre: more specifically, they came to anoint the body of Jesus (Mark); but Matthew has already mentioned that the tomb was sealed and a guard set there, and therefore he prefers not to interrupt his narrative by explaining that these women knew nothing of all this.    2-4.  Only in Matthew.  If we had only the First Gospel, we might be led to believe that the women witnessed this sight; but it is clear from the other Gospels that they did not.  These events, which evidently occurred shortly before the arrival of the women, are told in this place by Matthew because he must explain how the soldiers and the seal on the entrance to the tomb were no hindrance to the women, when they discovered the empty tomb.  Probably the original source of Matthew's information here was the true report of the guards.  Note that none of the Evangelists speaks directly of the Resurrection as such.  Our Lord's glorified body was not seen by any mortal eye as He left the grave.  But it is generally supposed that the moment of His resurrection was simultaneous with the great earthquake.  Sat upon it: more exactly according to the Greek, "sat above it," i.e., on the upper part of the sepulcher.    3.  Cf. 17, 2b.    4.  Like dead men: but they soon recovered their senses and fled to the city, (cf. 11) before the women arrived at the tomb.    5.  Even as he said: cf. 12, 40; 16, 21; 17, 22; 20, 19.    6.  See the place: The angel points to the empty grave as evidence of the truth of his statement.    7.  Behold, I have foretold it to you: perhaps this is to be understood as a "sign," i.e., when the Apostles and the holy women see Jesus in Galilee, they will know that the angel spoke the truth.  But Jesus Himself had told the Apostles, that He would go before them into Galilee (cf. 26, 32).  Perhaps we should read here in Matthew as it is in Mark, "Behold, He has foretold it to you."    8.  In fear and great joy: overcome with awe, they were afraid at first to tell the vision to anyone (cf. Mark 16, 8), but reflecting on the stupendous fact of their Lord's resurrection, their joy then made them hasten to bring the glad tidings to the Apostles (cf. Luke 24, 9).    9.  Jesus met them while they were on their way to the Apostles.  Unless we understand Matthew here as giving a summary account of several apparitions of Christ including the apparition to Mary Magdalene (John 20, 14-17), we must assume that she was not with "the other Mary" now but that the latter was accompanied by "the other women" (Luke 24, 10); see Commentary on Mark 16, 9.  They embraced his feet and no doubt kissed them; cf. our Lord's words to Mary Magdalene in John 20, 17, which really means "Stop embracing me."    10.  Christ repeats the command already given to the women by the angel (7); cf. 16 ff.

28, 11-15:  The Guards and the Chief Priests.  Only in Matthew; see Commentary on 27, 62 ff.    11.  While they were going, i.e., while the women were on their way to bring the good news to the Apostles, these guards had already arrived in the city and made their report; it is clear therefore that they had left the tomb before the women arrived there.    12.  Most likely not a full, formal meeting of the Sanhedrin.    13.  The precautions taken by the chief priests had worked out to their own disadvantage.  The very fact that a guard had been set at the tomb could be used by the disciples of Christ in confirmation of the truth of His resurrection, for the presence of the guard made it impossible for the disciples to steal His body.  The story invented by the chief priests involves the absurdity of witnesses testifying to a knowledge of what happened while they were asleep.    14.  This cannot be taken as an argument that this guard consisted of Roman soldiers, for anyone could be prosecuted and punished for spreading calumny.    15b.  These words can rightly be used as an argument to prove that this Gospel was written for the inhabitants of Palestine.

28, 16-20:  Commission of the Apostles.  Only in Matthew; but cf. Mark 16, 15 f.  Following his own special plan, Matthew makes no reference to the apparitions of our Lord to the Apostles which occurred in Jerusalem; Luke on the contrary, according to his special scope, limits his account to the manifestations of Christ in Judea; John tells of Christ appearing to His disciples both in Jerusalem and in Galilee.    16.  They went into Galilee in obedience to Christ's command (7.10).  We do not know what particular mountain this was, nor whether it was before His passion (cf. 26, 32) or after His resurrection (by means of the women), that Jesus had directed them to go there.  The repeated commands about this meeting of Christ and His disciples show the great importance that He attached to it; this importance consisted undoubtedly in the great commission given then to the Apostles.    17.  Some doubted: it is hardly possible that any of the eleven Apostles doubted the truth of Christ's resurrection at this time; perhaps Matthew is again summarizing and referring to the doubt of Thomas (John 20, 24 f); or some doubted not the truth of the Resurrection but whether this was really Jesus, for His countenance seems to have changed somewhat after the Resurrection (cf. Luke 24, 16; John 20, 14; 21, 4b); and perhaps He stood at first at a distance (cf. the next words, And Jesus drew near); or perhaps the some refers not to the Apostles but to other disciples who might have been with them, for many interpreters with great probability identify this apparition with the one mentioned in 1 Cor. 15, 6 (it is hardly likely that "more than five hundred brethren" would have been found at this time anywhere outside of Galilee).    18.  Has been given to me: cf. 11, 27; this power or authority (as the Greek word also means) Christ possessed, even as man, from the first moment of His incarnation, but He voluntarily abstained from using it until He had also merited it by His obedient sufferings; therefore this power was given to Christ by the Father at the Resurrection (cf. Phil. 2, 9-11; Eph. 1, 20-23).  In heaven and on earth: over the invisible as well as the visible world.    19 f.  Substantially the same command is given in Mark 16, 15 f; perhaps both Gospels are here giving in summary the same words of Christ; cf. also Luke 24, 47; Acts 1, 8.  Therefore expresses the consequence: since Christ has this power, He communicates it, necessarily in a limited degree to the Apostles and their successors, in order that His work may be continued to the end of time.  For this purpose He established a Church embracing all nations, no longer limited to the Jews (cf. 10, 5 f).  Christ then lays down the conditions of membership in His Church: (a) faith in Him, implicitly contained in the word disciples and explicitly stated in Mark 16, 16; (b) Baptism; (c) the observance of His commandments.  In the name of the Father, etc.: from the beginning the Church has used these words as the "formula" of Baptism, i.e., the words to be recited while this rite of "washing" is being performed (so already in the "Didache," c. 100 A.D.).  The Greek is literally "Into the name of the Father, etc."; this may mean "into the possession of . . . ," or "into union with . . .";this is probably the meaning of the phrase, "to baptize in the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 2, 38; 8, 16; 10, 48; 19, 5).  These words also clearly teach the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity: one God (the name, in the singular, signifies the unity of nature) and three Persons, distinct but equal to one another.  Finally this passage may be used as a proof of the absolute divinity of Christ: the Son, by which word Christ certainly means Himself, is placed on a par with the Father and the Holy Spirit.  Although Christ is soon to deprived His disciples of His visible presence by His ascension into heaven, still, He remains with them in an invisible manner both by His presence in the Holy Eucharist and by the presence of the Holy Spirit, who is "the Spirit of Christ" (Rom. 8, 9).  With these words, not his own, but the Master's, St. Matthew ends his Gospel.  A more magnificent conclusion cannot be found in any other book.

Louis Hartman, C.SS.R.
Mark Kennedy, O.F.M.


Confraternity Bible:

The Women at the Grave  1 Now late in the night of the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the sepulchre.  2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, and drawing near rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.  3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment like snow.  4 And for fear of him the guards were terrified, and became like dead men.  5 But the angel spoke and said to the women, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you seek Jesus, who was crucified.  6 He is not here, for he has risen even as he said.  Come, see the place where the Lord was laid.  7 And go quickly, tell his disciples that he has risen; and behold, he goes before you into Galilee; there you shall see him.  Behold, I have foretold it to you."  8 And they departed quickly from the tomb in fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.  9 And behold, Jesus met them saying, "Hail!"  And they came up and embraced his feet and worshipped him.  10 Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go, take word to my brethren that they are to set out for Galilee; there they shall see me."

The Guards and the Chief Priests  11 Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened.  12 And when they had assembled with the elders and had consulted together, they gave much money to the soldiers, 13 telling them, "Say, 'His disciples came by night and stole him while we were sleeping.'  14 And if the procurator hears of this, we will persuade him and keep you out of trouble."  15 And they took the money, and did as they were instructed; and this story has been spread abroad among the Jews even to the present day.

Commission of the Apostles  16  But the eleven disciples went into Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them to go.  17 And when they saw him they worshipped him; but some doubted.  18 And Jesus drew near and spoke to them saying, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world."