NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
by Dr. Robert R. Seyda
GOSPEL OF MATTHEW
Experts in the Greek language tell us a slight change in the lettering occurred in this saying of Jesus sometime during the copying of the original manuscript, but when those changes are corrected, John’s account of what Jesus said will read the same as Matthew’s. However, that is not necessary since what John says falls harmoniously in context with the situation. As soon as Mary recognized the man in the garden as the Jesus she followed for so many years, she ran to Him and bowed down at His feet. In verse 17 we see the disciples doing the same thing. However, Jesus had a mission for her to accomplish. So in kindness, He said to her, “Stop kneeling there holding on to my feet, get up and go tell the others what I’ve just told you.” So it was not a rebuke, it was a request.
How illustrative this is of believers who come to Jesus in times of worship, or run to Him in moments of fear, to bow down and pray at His feet. While this is fine, it is not an end in itself; Jesus wants us to go and do what He has commanded us to do. In my younger days, it was not unusual to see believers go to the altar for prayer at the end of the service and tarry there for a long time, sometimes for hours. That’s when my youthful brain wondered it they were doing this to impress God or impress the other saints looking on. I can almost hear our Savior calling to them, “Get up! Go tell others what I’ve already done for you instead of hanging around here asking Me for more! I’m with you! I’ll go with you. I’ll give you all you need to complete the work I’ve given you!”
Verses 11-15: The women then went to tell the disciples. In the meantime, some of the soldiers who had been guarding the tomb had already gone into the city. They went directly to the leading priests and told them everything that happened. Then the priests met with the older Jewish leaders and made up a story. They paid the soldiers a lot of money and said to them, “Tell the people that Jesus’ followers came during the night and stole the body while you were sleeping. If the governor hears about this, we will talk to him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers kept the money and obeyed the priests. And that story is still being spread among the Jews even today.
Apparently, the women knew where the other followers of Jesus were hiding. So they headed straight toward the location. At the same time, another group was headed for the place where the leading priests were normally found on the first day of the week. The Persian Version puts it this way, “…moreover, the rulers and governors, who watched the sepulcher, coming to themselves, returned to the city with a pale and frightened countenance.” However, most other translations follow the Greek text as rendered above.
When these soldiers arrived, the leading priests totally ignored what the Psalmist cautioned them to do, “So, kings and rulers, be smart and learn this lesson. Serve the Lord with fear and trembling. Show that you are loyal to His Son or the Lord will be angry and destroy you. He is almost angry enough to do that now, but those who go to Him for protection will be blessed.”1 But these chief priests took another route. They wanted to cover up their failure and blunder of trying to get rid of this Messiah.
It is interesting that the scribe who translated Matthew’s Hebrew notes into Greek shows that this attempt to mislead and misinterpret what happened was still being rumored during the days in which this translation took place. Scholars believe that it was around 70 AD or later. But thousands of years later we still hear it being repeated.
During the Middle Ages, the Jews became so concerned at the growth of Christianity and the elevation of Jesus to the Trinity, that they decided to publish a polemic chronicle as the true story of Jesus rising from the dead.2 In their telling of what happened at Jesus resurrection, they give the following account: “Now about the middle of the night His disciples came and sat down by the grave under the brook. Judas, seeing this, took away the body and hid it in his garden under a brook. Diverting the water elsewhere, he buried the body in the channel and then brought the water back. On the morrow, when the disciples came again and sat down to weep, Judas said to them, ‘Why do you weep? Look and see if the buried man is there.’ And when they looked and found He was not there, the miserable crowd cried out, ‘He is not in the grave but has ascended to heaven.’ For He foretold this Himself when alive, and as if concerning Himself the saying was interpreted, ‘But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave; for he shall receive me’ Selah.’”3 According to one early Christian apologist, this story about the disciples stealing the body was purposely spread by the Jews throughout the world in order to discredit the Christian’s claim that He was risen.4
They go on to say: “After these things, the strife between the Nazarenes and the Jews grew so great that it caused a division between them, and if a Nazarene met a Jew he would kill him. The trouble increased more and more for 30 years, when the Nazarenes, having increased to thousands and myriads, prohibited the Israelites from coming to the greater festivals in Jerusalem. Then there was great distress among the Israelites, like what it was in the day the golden calf was forged so that no one knew what to do. The debilitating faith increased, and there came forth 12 men like bad offspring of foul ravens, who wandered through the twelve kingdoms and spread false doctrines among mankind. Some of the Israelites followed them, and these being of high authority, strengthened the Yeshuitic faith; and because they gave themselves out to be apostles of Him who was hanged, the great body of the Israelites followed them.”5
Verses 16-17: The eleven followers of Jesus went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus told them to go. On the mountain, the followers saw Jesus. They bowed before Him. But some of the followers did not believe that it was really Jesus.
Matthew now bypasses the stories of our Lord’s appearances to the women, the two men on the road to Emmaus, and the disciples in the upper room, as told by Luke and John, and records that tell when Jesus meets them up in Galilee just as He told the women to tell them. Most scholars believe that the mountain where Jesus told them to go was the one He visited often and where His transfiguration took place which is near the city of Capernaum. It appears that Jesus may have told them the exact spot where He would meet them.6
I like this commentary I found: “Christ made an appointment to meet His disciples in Galilee, and that appointment He kept. He kept it in spite of: (1) His sleeping disciples, (2) His betrayal, (3) their forsaking Him, (4) His death, (5) His burial, (6) Peter’s denial, (7) the big lie, and (8) the unbelief of many. The only persons who did not meet Christ on that mount in Galilee are those who did not go there to keep their appointment. In like manner, now Christ keeps His appointments with His disciples, in spite of similar lapses on their part; and what are those appointments? They are: (1) to meet Him in baptism, (2) at the Lord’s table, (3) in the trials of life, (4) in death, and (5) in the rapture, (6) and in the judgment to come. Only those who will not obey Him shall miss the joy of meeting the Lord in those appointments; but in the case of the judgment, all shall keep that appointment, whether they desire to do so or not.”7 Our Lord wanted to meet His followers to give them a message that would ring out through the ages.
Chrysostom adds his commentary: “This seems to me to be the last appearance in Galilee when He sent them out to baptize. And if ‘some doubted,’ herein again admire the Evangelists’ truthfulness. Even up to the last day, they were determined not to conceal even their own shortcomings. Nevertheless, even these are assured by what they see.”8
1 Psalm 2:10-12
2 Toledot Yeshu or Toledoth Jeschu, (The Book of the History of Jesus, or Generations of Jesus, or Life of Jesus), which was an “anti-gospel” or parody of the Christian gospel.
3 The Lost and Hostile Gospels by S. Baring-Gould, Jewish Anti-Gospels, The First Toledoth Jeschu, Williams and Norgate, London, 1874, pp. 87-88
4 Justin Martyr ‘s Dialogue with Trypho, Ch. 107
5 Ibid. p. 89
6 Matthew 26:32
7 From James Burton Coffman’s Commentary on Matthew, loc. cit., redacted by adding the Rapture
8 Chrysostom: Matthew, Homily 90.2