Matthew 28:1-15 and Waldenström's Commentary

by Paul Peter Waldenström and translated by Tommy Carlson

Verse 1 — However,1 later on the Sabbath,2 in the dawning of the first day of the week, came Mary of Magdala and the other Mary3 to see the grave.4

  1. The story of Jesus' resurrection and the events connected with this story is also told in Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20.
  2. That is to say, Saturday night, toward Sunday morning, while it was still dark (John 20:1).
  3. The mother of James and John. John mentions only Mary of Magdala (20:1), Mark mentions both Marys and Salome (16:1), Luke both Marys and Joanna "and the others with them" (24:10). In addition, it must be noted that a compilation of the different evangelists' stories about Jesus' resurrection and the revelations to his disciples is reconciled with great difficulty. For an attempt to solve these difficulties, see comments to John 20:18. (A translation of Waldenström's comments on this passage and considerable discussion of this matter can be found in Pietisten, Volume III, Number 1).
  4. To anoint Jesus' dead body. That a guard had been placed at the grave, they did not know. The guard contingent had probably been placed there on the Sabbath (Chap. 27:62), but, on the Sabbath, the women had been quiet at home (Luke 23:56).

Verse 2 — And there was a big earthquake,1 for an angel of the Lord came from heaven and went forward and rolled the stone away and sat on it.

  1. That this earthquake happened before the women came to the grave, so they did not witness the quake, can be seen in Luke 24:2-4, which clearly shows that the women had no idea what happened. It is also evident that the quake was restricted to the grave itself. That the evangelist says that it was large, can only mean that it was powerful.

Verse 3 — His appearance was like lightning1 and his garment as snow.

  1. His face was shining as brilliantly as lightning.

Verse 4 — Of fear for him the guards were shaking and were like dead.1

  1. They had come to their senses and fled by the time the women came.

Verse 5 — But the angel answered and said to the women: There is no need for you to be afraid, for I know that you1 seek Jesus who was crucified.

  1. There is an emphasis on the word YOU. Only the enemies of Jesus had reason to be afraid.

Verse 6 — He is not here, because he has been awakened as he said he would. (Matt, 12:40, 16:21, 17:23) Come here and see the chamber where he laid;

Verse 7 — and go quickly and say to his disciples that he has been awakened from the dead. And look, he goes before1 you2 to Galilee; there you shall see him (see Matt. 26:32). Now I have told you.3

  1. He says GO instead of SHALL GO because there is not time to waste (same comment to 3:10).
  2. Namely, the disciples (not the women).
  3. So that you can be sure of it.

Verse 8 — And they went with haste from the grave and ran with fear and great joy to tell about it to his disciples.

Verse 9 — And there Jesus met them, saying: Be glad!1 But they went up to him and fell to his feet and worshiped him.

  1. The common words of greeting in the Greek language mean "BE GLAD!" The greeting among the Greeks contained a wish for joy. In Hebrew, the common greeting contained a wish for peace (Judges 19:20), and God's grace or help (Genesis 43:29), or of blessing (Judges 6:12; Ruth 2:4; compare Luke 1:28). In Swedish, the greeting contains a wish for a good day, a good night, and so forth.

Verse 10 — Then Jesus said to them: Fear not;1 go and tell my brothers2 that they may go to Galilee; and there they will see me. (See John 20:17; Acts 1:3, 12:31; I Cor. 15:5).

  1. Their fear he wanted to take away from them, but not their joy.
  2. That is, the disciples. However much they had sinned, he still called them brothers.

Verse 11 — But while they were going,1 some of the guard came to the city and told the high priests all that had happened.

  1. While the disciples were on the road [to Galilee].

Verse 12 — And after they had gathered with the elders and had some discussion, they gave a sufficient number1 of silver coins2 to the soldiers,

  1. The soldiers allowed themselves to be paid well.
  2. They were silver shekels. Because of its sacred purpose, they probably took the money from the temple treasury. Compare comments to 26:15.

Verse 13 — saying: Say that his disciples came during the night and stole his body while we were sleeping.1 (See Mau. 27:64).

  1. How could they know what took place while they were sleeping? When otherwise intelligent people find themselves in an awkward situation, they often do some very dumb things to correct it.

Verse 14 — And if it should be that the governor should inquire1 of this, we shall prevail upon him2 so that you need not be concerned3 about it.

  1. The word which is used here in the original text means to hear and then to convene a legal hearing. Compare John 7:51.
  2. That he will not make a great fuss about it. It was a common practice among the Roman public officials to take bribes. Compare Acts 24:26.
  3. To fix it so that you do not have to worry about a thing.

Verse 15 — They took the silver coins and did as they were told. And this story1 has been celebrated among the Jews to this day.2

  1. Namely that the disciples had stolen the dead body of Jesus.
  2. The reality of Christ's resurrection from the dead has by false science often been denied and renounced. But it is supported by the strongest historical foundations which confirm the events. Among these foundations the following may be cited:

THE TESTIMONY OF THE DISCIPLES. Upon the resurrection of Christ, the disciples build the whole gospel sermon and thereby convey the Christian faith; on this they built salvation, justiTication by faith, the resurrection of the dead, in short, all of Christianity (see I Cor. 15:14-22; Romans 8:11, 10:9; I Peter 3:21; Acts 1:22). How could they have done this if t hey had not known that Christ was resurrected? Furthermore, how could Christ's resurrection have filled them with such courage, such joy in suffering and death, such endurance, to which their history testifies, if they had not known that he really was resurrected? They would have then been offering their lives for a sermon that was based on conscious lies and made this offer with joy and with prayer for their executioners! A dead Christ was, for the apostles, unthinkable. They had given up the thought that Jesus was Christ at the moment of his death. The overwhelming proof that he was resurrected restored their faith that he was Christ.

There have also been objections that the disciples were gullible and that their longing for his resurrection was so lively that finally they believed they saw him resurrected with their own eyes. But the gospel history shows the opposite. The apostles had given up all hope and were not waiting for the Lord to be raised from the dead. When they received word that he was risen, they did not believe. Only through his repeated appearances did they finally believe.

A special importance belongs to the testimony of the apostle Paul, He was at first a bitter enemy but then became the most energetic apostle, He offered all, to devote his life and all his strength to preach about the crucified and resurrected savior. He counted everything as detrimental in comparison to the infinite knowledge about Christ (Phil. 3). How was this change possible if he had not known that Christ was risen? None of the apostles places so much importance on the resurrection as he does. It is, therefore, irrefutable what he himself says in I Cor. 15:15, that if Christ is not really risen then the apostles are false witnesses. They are not wellmeaning — however misguided — but they are FALSE WITNESSES and nothing else. But their whole life and work prove that if there ever had been truthful persons on this earth, they were the apostles.

THE WORK OF APOSTOLIC PREACHING. How is it conceivable, that on the first pentecost after Christ's death, three thousand people could, through the preaching about Christ's resurrection, become converted in Jerusalem, if it was not known that Jesus really was resurrected? And how can it be explained that, century after century, this sermon could prove itself so powerful that it has recreated individuals and whole peoples, if it was only a lie?

THE TESTIMONIES OF THE ENEMIES. Because their attempt to carefully guard the grave had been a complete failure, they did not dare accost the disciples for their supposed stealing of the body. And, thereby, they had one of the most difficult counts of accusation against them that was possible — SUPPOSE 1T WAS TRUE. Now they found themselves, instead, forced to bribe the Governor so that he would not interfere in the matter. They did not even dare to officially accuse the disciples of lying when they preached that Christ was resurrected. How is all this conceivable if they did not know that the disciples were correct? With the acceptance of Christ's resurrection we are faced with one riddle which nevertheless, in reality is supported by valid historical evidence; with the denial of Christ's resurrection, we are faced with many riddles for whose sake we must defy the existing historical evidence. That we cannot explain the wonder of the resurrection only proves the stupidity of our understanding and nothing else. In reality there are thousands upon thousands of things that we experience on a daily basis that are equally unexplainable. Who has, for example, the ability to explain how a grain of seed grows, or how the child receives life from the mother's womb, and so on? And, yet, who denies their existence?

With Christ's resurrection, as Paul notes in I Cor. 15, the whole gospel stands or falls. It is also clear that the gospels show sinners the way to Christ as the Savior. But to direct sinners to a savior who is in the grave is as foolish as directing the sick to a doctor who is dead and buried. If Christ is not risen, Christianity is the biggest fraud that has ever been invented. Take away Christ's resurrection, and of the Gospel there only remains waste paper, so serious is this issue.