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2. Justly did Divine Providence favour these pious women with the first news of the resurrection of Jesus: this was a proper reward for the attachment and zeal of those who attended him, when deserted by other friends, who followed him to the place of execution, and never left the cross while he lived. Great must have been their transport of joy, when they heard from the angel that he was alive, and when they saw before them many evidences of that fact; but greater still when they saw him themselves, when they heard his voice and felt his person, so as to have left in their minds no doubt of his actual resurrection!-But
3. Who can describe or conceive what Jesus felt, upon the present occasion, when he returned to life, after having been crucified? How great must have been his satisfaction to recollect, that his labours and sufferings were all finished, and that God, his heavenly Father, had so highly approved of his zeal and diligence in the one, and of his patience under the other; as to raise him from the dead! With what pleasure must he recollect that the prophecy which he delivered so often, and upon the truth of which he rested his pretensions to be the Messiah, is accomplished, that the fears and suspicions of his friends will now be dissipated, the calumnies of his enemies be refuted and their malicious hopes disappointed!
Others had been raised from the dead as well as he: but they were raised to a short life, speedily terminated by a second death; whereas Jesus rises to die no more. They returned to life, to struggle with sin and temptation, with much suffering and many trials: but when Christ rises, his warfare is already accomplished: he enters upon a new and superior existence, in which he shall experience none of these evils, where he shall have no enemies to contend with, no pain to endure: he is about to ascend, in a new and glorified body, to his Father in heaven, where he will be beyond the reach of all mortal cares and afflictions, where he shall enjoy the most evident tokens of divine favour, where he shall behold the triumph of his religion over its first enemies,
and over every other attempt that shall be made to corrupt or destroy it, and where he will at length meet an immense company of his disciples, which no man can number, from every people, nation and tongue under heaven, all saved from destruction, and made for ever happy, hy his doctrines and sufferings. Joyful indeed must the feelings of Jesus be with these views of the past, and these prospects of the future! Such also will one day, be your feelings, Christians, if you are his genuine disciples : for you are his brethren, possessed of the same nature, joint heirs of the same promises, destined to live for ever with him in the same place: when you rise from the dead, you will have before you nearly the same prospects which your master had, and experience the same delightful feelings.
Matthew xxviii. 11. to the end,
11. Now when they, the women, were going, behold some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done.
That is, The earthquake, the vision of angels, the removal of the stone and the disappearance of the body: these things seemed to them so extraordinary that they thought proper to call together the whole Sanhedrim, that they might deliberate upon what was to be done.
12. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money, a good sum of money, unto the soldiers,
13. Saying, Say ye, his disciples came by night, and stole him away, while we slept:
That this story should be true, is in the highest degree incredible: for, considering how strict the military discipline of the Romans was, and that such offences as sieeping upon guard were punished with death, it is not probable that a whole band of soldiers would suffer themselves to fall asleep, and risk the penalties of so severe a law; even allowing that they kept guard the whole night, and especially if they remained at the scpulchre no more than three or four hours. But there are other difficulties of no less weight: it does not appear, from the preceding history, that the disciples of Jesus expected his resurrection, although he had often foretold it: they would therefore have no temptation to invent the scheme which is here imputed to them: or, if they had contrived it, being without arms, and discouraged by the late events, they would not have had the resolution, or rather the stupidity, to attempt to execute it: they must have foreseen how unable twelve men were to contend with a whole band of soldiers : their only hopes of success must have been built upon finding the guard asleep: but even then they must have been aware that the removal of the stone must occasion a noise that would awake them, as it was so large that several women despaired of being able to remove it. Further, if they had succeeded in obtaining the body, they would probably have been discovered in carrying it away; for, although night, it was the time of full moon, when so many persons assembled to keep the passover, that the houses in Jerusalem would not lodge them, but they were obliged to spend the night in the open air, in the streets of Jerusalem, or the neighbouring gardens. Nor would conveying away the body be sufficient for their purpose, unless they could also show Jesus alive, which was not in their power.
Upon the whole, then, this story, which the Jewish council put into the mouths of the soldiers, is attended with every circumstance of improbability; to say nothing of the absurdity of men's pretending to know what took place while they were asleep.
Weak indeed must be that cause which admits of no better defence than this!
14. And if this come to the go
vernor's ears, or rather if this affair be brought to a hearing before the governor, we will persuade him, i. e. to excuse you for a neglect of duty, and secure you.
If the soldiers asserted, according to this direction, that the body of Jesus was taken from the sepulchre while they slept, they acknowledged that they had been guilty of a gross neglect of duty, for which they were likely to be called to an account by the Roman governor, who would inflict upon them the punishment of the law. To remove their apprehensions upon this subject, the Jewish priests assure them that they will undertake to satisfy the governor, and to screen them from danger; a promise which the council might very well make, in regard to so corrupt a governor as Pontius Pilate.
15. So they took the money, and did as they were taught, and this saying, this account, is commonly reported among the Jews until this day,
If it should be asked, how Matthew came to be acquainted with these secret transactions, since the soldiers were enjoined not to publish them, and did as they were taught, or how he could know what took place at the sepulchre before the women came there, which must depend entirely upon the account of the soldiers, it may be answered with respect to the private bargain between the Jewish council and the soldiers, that, although enjoined secresy, they might not all of them observe it, and the evangelist might take his account from what was reported to him by the soldiers themselves, or from some other person, to whom they related what had passed; or some members of the council might likewise divulge the secret: in regard to what took place at the sepulchre, at the resurrection of Jesus, it may be observed that they were only some of the guard who went to the high priests: the rest went home, and laid themselves under no obligation to conceal what
they had seen: besides, there was a considerable interval between the time at which Jesus rose and that at which the council met, in which time they might all have mentioned to their acquaintance whom they saw, what had taken place ; which they would be the more inclined to do, as the events were of a very extraordinary nature. 16. Then the eleven disciples went
into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.
The eleven only are here mentioned as assembling to meet Christ in Galilee: but it is highly probable that there was a much larger number of disciples; for it was known that Christ would show himself there, he having told them, both before his death, and since his resurrection, by means of the women, that he would meet them in Galilee. This would naturally bring together as many of his disciples, to see him, as were able to attend: it was, on this occasion, probably, that he was seen by above five hundred at once, of whom Paul speaks, 1 Cor. xv. 9: this was more likely to take place in Galilee than in any other part of the country; for, having exercised the greatest part of his public ministry in Galilee, the majority of his disciples resided there. This circumstance also points out the reason of his fixing upon this spot, rather than upon Jerusalem, for his pearance to his disciples : a greater number could be assembled there; and he chose a mountain for this interview because there would be room for as many to see him as chose to come, and they might assemble without opposition.
17. And, when they saw him, they worshipped him:
Rather fell down and did him homage: the English word "worship” formerly expressed those marks of respect which are shown to men in high station: hence our magistrates are still called worshipful, i. e. deserving of worship; and our Lord is said to be worshipped by his disciples, on this and other occasions, when they