The Resurrection of Christ. Matt. 28, 1-15.

The open grave: V. 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. V. 2. 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. V. 3. His countenance was like lightning and his raiment white as snow; v. 4. and for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. As the death of Christ had been attended by supernatural signs to call the attention of the whole world to the redemption then being accomplished upon Calvary, so His resurrection was accompanied by an uproar in nature which pointed to a most unusual happening. In the late hours of the Sabbath-day, the seventh day of the week, as this day was about to merge into a new Sabbath-week, that is, very early on Sunday morning, before the sun rose, the same faithful women that had watched the burial of the Lord went out to see the grave and to take the first steps in the process of embalming the Lord's body. They had not yet reached the garden, when a mighty quaking shook the earth, caused by the fact that an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and rolled away the stone from the door of the tomb, which he then used as a seat for himself. Not to open the grave for Christ was he come, but to show the empty grave to the whole world, to give absolute and undeniable evidence of the fact that the resurrection had taken place in spite of stone and seal and watch. The evangelist says that the appearance of the angel was like lightning, and his garment was white as snow. It was a fearful apparition to the superstitious soldiers to gaze upon one of the holy angels of God. It overwhelmed them; they fell over in a faint, and became as dead men. When God wants to carry out His will with regard to the salvation of mankind, no sinful man, no enemy, may resist Him. The resurrection of Jesus was the seal and final proof for the full atonement gained for the whole world, and all the efforts of the Jews and of Satan to hinder it were unavailing.

The message of the angel: V. 5. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye; for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. V. 6. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. V. 7. 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. V. 8. And they departed quickly from the sepulcher with fear and great joy, and did run to bring His disciples word. In the course of the morning a number of angels came to the grave to partake of the holy joy of Christ's resurrection, as the various gospel-accounts relate. But here only the one is mentioned, as the spokesman to the two women remaining, Mary Magdalene having returned to the city upon seeing the empty grave. The message of the angel was that which characterizes all Gospel-preaching, an admonition not to fear, just as the Christmas herald had said to the disciples. The message of the Gospel is one that must banish all terror of sin and death from the heart, and fill it with holy joy in the Lord. Jesus indeed had been crucified, but they should no longer seek Him with the dead. For He is risen, as He had told them, time and again, as they should have known from the Old Testament prophecies. The place where the Lord had lain was before them, but His body had been released from the bonds of death, which He had conquered. Now they should not delay, but go at once with the glorious news to the disciples, reminding them, incidentally, of the Lord's promise to precede them into Galilee, chapter 26, 32. While the appearance of the messenger, of the holy angel of God, filled them with fear, his message of the resurrection of their Lord and Master filled them with the greatest delight. Hurriedly they leave the grave, to run and bring the good tidings to the disciples. "That the angel is so much concerned about announcing the resurrection of Christ to the disciples who were now lying there with lack of faith and a bad conscience, is a certain indication that the Lord Jesus Christ has risen for the sake and comfort of those of little faith, yea, for those without faith, in order that they might have the benefit of His work, find help and refuge with Him…. That Christ lives. He lives for our benefit, that we should ever be defended by Him and protected from all distress." 211)

The appearance of Jesus: V. 9. 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 worshiped Him. V. 10. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid; go tell My brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see Me. This was undoubtedly the first appearance of the risen Christ. As they were hurrying cityward, and probably before they had left the boundaries of the garden, Jesus came to meet them, giving them the wonderful greeting. All hail! Rejoice! There is only joy and peace and lasting happiness in the kingdom of the resurrected Lord. The women, recognizing Him, fell down at His feet in the fullness of their joy and adoration. At the same time, the exuberance and the excitement caused them to cling to Him, as though in fear of losing Him once more. And therefore Jesus again calms them. No fear should live in their hearts henceforth and forever, but only the desire to bring the joyful news to the apostles, whom He here lovingly calls His brethren. They were now nearer to Him than ever before. In spite of their defection, He knew that their faith was not lost forever, but only hidden by fear. This message was intended as cheering, consoling tidings, to renew faith and hope and trust in their hearts. In the same way, all believers in Christ and His resurrection are now the brothers and sisters of Christ in the fullest and best meaning of the term. For by and through their faith they have become partakers of all the glorious fruits of Christ's resurrection. And thus they have been placed by God the Father on the same level with His own Son Jesus Christ, being coheirs of the eternal joy and blessedness with Him.

The report of the watch: V. 11. Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and showed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. V. 12. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, v. 13. saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole Him away while we slept. V. 14. And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. V. 15. So they took the money, and did as they were taught; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day. While all this was taking place, and while the women were hurrying to the city with their joyful news, the soldiers of the watch gradually awakened from their stupor into which they had been thrown. The damage had evidently been done, and they must make the best of it, for there was no denying the facts. A few of them were delegated to make the report of the morning's happenings to the chief priests, who were responsible for their presence at the grave. The matter was serious enough to demand a meeting of the Sanhedrin, in order to consider ways and means to prevent damage to themselves and their cause. It was finally resolved to bribe the soldiers, to give them a considerable sum of money. They were not at all careful about the amount, they gave with a free hand; for the lie which they taught the soldiers to repeat was surely the essence of stupidity. They were to spread the report that the disciples of Christ came by night, while they were sleeping, and stole the body. The soldiers are to have been asleep, and yet to have seen the thieves, and known that they were disciples! Of far greater importance to the soldiers was the promise which the members of the Council were forced to give, namely, that they would guarantee to straighten out the matter in case the governor should ever find out about it; they would vouch for their safety. For a Roman soldier to be found asleep at his post was anything but an easy matter for him. So the ridiculous report went out among the Jews and became a common rumor among them, taxing their credulity, to be sure, but saving their face, as they fondly hoped.

The Great Missionary Command. Matt. 28, 16—20.

V. 16. Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. V. 17. And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. V. 18. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. V. 19. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: v. 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. Jesus had named a certain mountain in Galilee to His disciples, where He would meet them after His resurrection, but we know neither the time of this meeting nor the location of the mountain. It had been His express command that they assemble there, and after they had received the confirmation of this word by the message of the women on Easter morning, they went to keep the appointment. When He appeared before them there, some of them fell down before Him in glad adoration, but others still were in doubt. They could neither believe the fact of His resurrection nor that it was actually their Lord who here appeared before them. Jesus therefore drew nearer that they might recognize His features more exactly. But principally He depended for the effect of His presence upon His words. The speech of Jesus is majestic, but His whole bearing was friendly and intended to take away all apprehension of whatever kind among them all. His final commission is a wonderful bit of solemn oratory. As He stands before them, in His spiritual body, true man as ever during His earthly life, but no longer in humility and weakness: all power in heaven above and on earth beneath is given to Him. He is the almighty God, with unlimited authority. And since this is true, therefore they, in going forth, in doing the work of their apostolic mission, should make disciples of all nations. The whole earth should be their sphere of activity. And this discipling should be done by two means of grace. First there is the means of making disciples by baptizing in the name of the Triune God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; into the name, as confessing the name which summarizes the entire Christian creed. The second means of making disciples is that of teaching them to observe closely all things which Jesus has committed to His disciples, to expound to them the counsel of God to their salvation. Not human notions, but the Word of the Gospel, the inspired Word of God shall be the content of all preaching in the Church of Jesus Christ, no more, no less. And if His commission is carried out in this manner, then His promise also will stand secure, that He will be with us all the days until the end of time. When this age comes to its close, when He Himself will usher in the new age by the dawn of His Judgment Day, then only will the work of the Church have come to an end.

Summary. Jesus arises from the dead amidst the quaking of the earth, the angel shows the women the empty tomb and bids them bring the tidings to the disciples; Christ, appearing to the same women, confirms the message, while the chief priests and elders take steps to spread lies about the resurrection. Christ finally appears to His disciples in a body on a mountain in Galilee and gives them the great missionary command.