1 After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary
Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.
After the Sabbath, on Sunday morning, Jesus rose from the dead. This fact led to
the disciples and early Christians meeting together weekly on “the first day of the
week” (see Mark 16:9; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2). They broke bread (perhaps
meaning they celebrated the Lord’s Supper) and perhaps received a collection
and probably heard the scriptures read (probably including the Old Testament,
gospel portions, and letters from the apostles) and taught or discussed the
scriptures. The women went to care for the entombed body of Jesus, not because
they expected to see Him raised from the dead.
2 And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the
Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and
sat on it.
The earthquake was explained by the coming of the angel to roll away the stone
door in front of the tomb. The angel then sat on the stone, remaining at the tomb
entrance. The angel did not come to let Jesus out of the tomb (as Jesus had the
stone rolled away for Lazarus to come out of the tomb alive when He called
Lazarus to come out). Jesus passed through the stone walls, for the women found
the tomb empty and they did not see Jesus walk out of the tomb when the angel
rolled away the stone. Jesus later passed through walls or a closed door to appear
to His disciples who were fearfully hiding in a locked room (see John 20:19).
3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.
The angel appeared to both the guards and the women. The women were not
confused about where Jesus was buried or the location of His tomb (see Matthew
27:61). The guards reacted with fear, similar to the guards’ terrified response
when Jesus died on the cross and there was an earthquake (see Matthew 27:54).
The Bible says we can entertain angels unawares (see Hebrews 13:2). In the case
of Jesus’ resurrection, both guards and women were aware of the angel coming to
the tomb and they were overwhelmed at his appearing.
4 For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men.
The Roman guards had both a physical and mental reaction to the angel. Rather than bravely stand their ground as they had been taught and challenge the angel
over his actions, they shook with fear and fell to the ground. Perhaps they had
also learned from the guards at the crucifixion (or were the same guards) that
Jesus was the Son of God, so they expected immediate execution from an angry
God at the hands of the angel. The guards fell unconscious and the women
witnessed their response.
5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you
are looking for Jesus who was crucified.
The angel disregarded the guards, and sought to comfort the women who had
come to honor Jesus by caring for his dead body according to their burial
practices. The angel reinforced the fact that Jesus had indeed been crucified; that
in fact He had died and had been buried at that exact location where he appeared.
The women were right to come there looking for Jesus, but they were not
accurate in their thinking because they expected to find Jesus still dead.
6 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the
place where he lay.
The angel corrected their thinking and invited them to become witnesses
regarding the empty tomb. He declared they would not find Jesus’ body because
Jesus had been raised (though at one time Jesus had been laid in the empty
tomb, in which no other body had ever been laid). Jesus’ resurrection had
occurred sometime prior that day, prior to the opening of the tomb by the angel
and the earthquake. The angel’s perfect timing made it possible for the women to
see the guards guarding the tomb, experience the earthquake, and see the stone
rolled away before they entered the tomb. There could be no confusion or doubt
about someone having come to the tomb earlier to remove Jesus’ body.
7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the
dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see
him.’ This is my message for you.”
After the women saw where Jesus had been laid and the angel once again
emphasized that Jesus had been dead and had been raised from the dead, the
angel told them that Jesus also had the ability to travel to Galilee (He had not just
been resuscitated, which would have required months of rehabilitation). Jesus
would later need to demonstrate His fully human resurrected powers by
appearing to them in a locked room to convince them that He was alive and well
and that they should travel to Galilee to see Him again.
8 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell
The women believed the angel because he was no ordinary man and miracles
accompanied his appearing. They saw the guards fall in fear. They saw the empty tomb. They felt the earthquake and the earthquake’s perfect timing. They saw the
angel roll the stone away without the help of other angels or people. Presumably,
the disciples felt the great earthquake where they were in hiding, and the women
could explain the cause of the earthquake. The two women could give good and
sufficient reasons for the disciples to believe that Jesus had been raised from the
dead, but the disciples were foolish and slow to believe (see Luke 24:25-26).
9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to
him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him.
The Bible teaches the need for two witnesses in case of a trial. Two witnesses to
an event should be believed in they are know to be trustworthy. The Hebrews
knew that witnesses would be held accountable by God for bearing false witness
or lying. In addition to the events surrounding Jesus’ resurrection, both the angel
and the living, resurrected Lord Jesus bore witness to the fact that Jesus had
been raised from the dead. At this point in time, the women worshiped Jesus as
would all those in the early Christian church. Jesus received their worship as was
He right as the Son of God. Angels and the apostles (no matter what miracles they
worked) always refused the worship of others, saying only God deserved to be
worshiped. Jesus did not refuse to be worshiped. He willingly received the
worship of others as God.
10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers
to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
This was the second time that the women were told not to be afraid. Though
Jesus is the Son of God, He called His disciples “brothers” (see also Hebrews
2:11). He reaffirmed what the angel told the women, again we have two witnesses
to the command because the command was given to them twice by two different
persons. Obedience to this command would become a test for the disciples, and
they failed the test by remaining in the locked room until Jesus appeared to them
to convince them He was raised from the dead—which also gives us more good
reasons to believe that the facts presented regarding Jesus’ resurrection are true.
11 While they were going, some of the guard went into the city and
told the chief priests everything that had happened.
The women went to reveal the good news of Jesus’ resurrection to His disciples as
He commanded. The guards went to reveal the “bad news” (from their
perspective) to the people responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion and death. They felt
the earthquake, and presumably so did the chief priests and the Roman
authorities, for the earthquake was great. The guards saw the angel and the
empty tomb, and they reported all of this to the religious authorities.
12 After the priests had assembled with the elders, they devised a plan
to give a large sum of money to the soldiers,
The elders of the people were convinced by the facts the soldiers presented to
them, but just as they had lied and borne false witness to crucify Jesus, one who
was innocent, so they implicated the guards in bearing false witness again
regarding His resurrection. To avoid being held responsible for the death of the
Son of God, and for other reasons, they bribed the soldiers (another crime by
religious leaders) to join in their lying schemes.
13 telling them, “You must say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole
him away while we were asleep.’
The lie that the religious leaders devised is highly implausible. The disciples’
hopes were crushed. They went into hiding. They would not venture out of
hiding, but the women did go to Jesus’ grave. They were hiding in fear that they
would be found and crucified too, as rebels, to satisfy the blood lust of the
religious leaders. The women went to embalm Jesus’ body. None of Jesus’
followers had any reason to steal His body or try to concoct a fraud that would
lead to their deaths. All of this is plausible and consistent with the facts of
Scripture. They certainly would not have had the courage to steal Jesus’ body or
fight armed Roman guards, or take the chance of awakening the Roman guards
while they slept as they rolled away a heavy stone. How could the Roman guards
have stayed asleep while a stone was rolled away, especially since they would be
killed for failure to do their duty in securing Jesus’ body (see Acts 16:27)?
14 If this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep
you out of trouble.”
Everyone knew the guards would be punished for failure to do their duty, and the
story would have resulted in their execution, so the religious leaders determined
to achieve their fraud by plotting with the governor or lying to him. The guards
needed the leaders to protect them and explain the disappearance of Jesus’ body
for them. If they had not been bribed, to escape punishment for dereliction of
duty, the guards would have told the truth.
15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this
story is still told among the Jews to this day.
Even today, various atheists and other religious teachers promote the story
concocted by these religious leaders (or some variation of the story) in their
efforts to deny the fact of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. This is another
prophecy that has been fulfilled. For almost 2,000 years since the gospel of
Matthew was written “this story is still told among the Jews to this day.” (I will
not promote any of these books here, but if you want to know an example you can
send an e-mail to me.)
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which
Jesus had directed them.
Matthew wrote a shortened version of Jesus’ resurrection appearances and added
some facts some of the other gospel writers omitted (this is to be expected of any
biographer). From the other gospels we learn that the disciples did not
immediately believe the women and do what Jesus commanded them to do
through the women; however, the eleven did eventually go to Galilee as Jesus had
commanded them and as Matthew reported. They should have immediately
believed and obeyed what Jesus said through the women, but they did not (Jesus
called them foolish).
17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.
Just as the women worshiped Jesus, some of the disciples also worshiped Jesus
when He appeared to them on the mountain. Rather than doubting His
resurrection (which they had become convinced of by Jesus himself), I believe
that some doubted whether they should worship Jesus as God. Jesus’ response
when He gave them the Great Commission answers the doubt about whether they
should worship Him as God, for Matthew wrote (beginning with verse 18) “And
Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority 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 and teaching
them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with
you always, to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20). Notice: Jesus used
“name” in the singular when speaking of “the Father and of the Son and of the
Holy Spirit.” He declared clearly that worshiping Him as God was right and