In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week…
The four evangelists concur in setting forth the three successive steps in the evidence by which our Lord's incredulous followers were at length persuaded of the reality of his resurrection. These are:
1. The fact of the sepulchre being found empty.
2. The testimony of the angels who were seen in it.
3. The appearances of our Lord himself.
On these points we shall not now particularly dwell, but direct attention to certain side lights which the narrative affords. Thus it teaches us -
I. THAT THERE ARE SPIRITUAL BEHIND THE MECHANICAL AGENCIES IN NATURE.
1. This is evident in the angel's work.
(1) The earthquake is attributed to him. "Behold, there was an earthquake; for an angel of the Lord," etc. The rolling away of the stone, in like manner, is ascribed to him. Whatever mechanical agencies were in commission here, angelical energy was behind them.
(2) This is not the sole example of the exertion of such energy in the production of physical effects. Angels smote the Sodomites with blindness, and brought down a torrent of fire and brimstone upon the cities of the plain (see Genesis 19:11, 13). They brought the pestilence upon Israel in the days of David, by which seventy thousand were destroyed, and in the days of Hezekiah they smote a hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrians (see 2 Samuel 24:16; 2 Kings 19:35). An angel dissolved the chain that bound Peter in Herod's prison, and made the doors fly open before him (see Acts 12:6-11).
(3) Within narrower limits human spirits exert energy in the material world. The microcosm, the body, responds to the will. Through the medium of the body we act upon the macrocosm around. We change the course of rivers, tunnel mountains, cut waterways through continents, modify climates, alter the flora and fauna of a country, give direction and development to instincts in animals.
(4) The universe is dual, viz. spiritual and material. These complements mutually act and react. The spiritual cannot be divorced from the physical. Any system of natural philosophy that tails to recognize this is essentially deficient.
(5) One grand use of miracles is to force this truth upon our consideration. A miracle is not necessarily an inversion of the laws of nature, though to a limited knowledge such may appear to be the case. It is rather the evidence of the presence behind materialism of a superior spiritual agency. "The works which none other did" (see John 15:24).
2. In the manner in which he impressed the senses.
(1) He rendered himself visible. The watch saw him, and were in consequence stricken with terror. This terror was deepened by their having felt the earthquake and seen the rolling away of the stone. He sat upon the stone in tranquil triumph in their presence, as if defying the armies of earth and hell to repined it or to hinder the resurrection of the Redeemer. The women also saw him. His appearance generally was that of a young man (see Mark 16:15). But his countenance, or rather his whole form, was bright, "like lightning." His raiment was white as snow - whitened by the lightning brightness transmitted from his Person. This white radiance was the emblem at once of purity, joy, and triumph, and eminently suitable to the tidings he bore (cf. Acts 1:10; Acts 10:30).
(2) He rendered himself audible. He used the voice and language of humanity to give to the women comfort, instruction, and direction.
(3) Whether, however, these visual and audible impressions were made upon the physical organs of the witnesses or upon the spiritual senses in them corresponding, is not certain, though the presumption is that the physical senses were addressed, since mechanical force was undoubtedly exerted in producing the earthquake and in the removal of the stone. We should ever recognize God in nature.
II. THAT THE RESURRECTION BODY IS ENDOWED WITH ETHERIAL PROPERTIES.
1. Such was the case with the body of Jesus.
(1) His resurrection was not witnessed by the watch. They felt the earthquake; they saw the angel; they witnessed the rolling away of the stone; but Jesus they saw not. Note: He does not reveal himself to the incredulous and disobedient. He did not appear even to the women until he had first tried their faith and obedience by his ministering angel.
(2) The resurrection of Jesus appears to have taken place before the stone was rolled away. Taking the narrative as it lies before us in Matthew, the women appear to have seen the angel roll away the stone and seat himself upon it, and witnessed also the effect of the vision upon the watch. The accounts in Mark and Luke may be harmonized to this view. Then, descending from the stone, he conducted them into the tomb, where they saw a second angel, but otherwise a vacant sepulchre. "He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay." The stone was not removed to let the Saviour out, but to let the witnesses in to see that he was already gone.
(3) The presumption, then, is that the body of Jesus had undergone such a change that it passed out of the sepulchre through the pores of the stone, as the electric matter freely passes through concrete substances. The following remarkable words are ascribed to the Rabbi Judah Hakkodesh: "After three days the soul of Messiah shall return to its body, and shall go out of that stone in which he shall be buried."
(4) This same etherial property was afterwards exhibited whenever Jesus vanished from the sight of those to whom he had appeared. It was likewise remarkably exhibited on those occasions in which he stood in the midst of his disciples when they were assembled with closed doors (see John 20:19-29).
2. But the body of Jesus is the pattern resurrection body.
(1) "As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly" (cf. Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 15:20, 44, 48, 49; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Corinthians 4:11; Philippians 3:20, 21).
(2) The bodies of the saints that arose after his resurrection exhibited the same etherial qualities (see Matthew 27:53).
(3) This will let in light upon the subject of the mingling of the saints of the first resurrection with living men during that great period of the reign of Christ, which is the burden of prophetic hope (cf. Romans 8:17; 2 Timothy 2:8-12; Revelation 5:10; Revelation 20:6).
(4) Jesus rose the third day, not only to answer the type of the Prophet Jonah, and to verify his own words (see Matthew 12:40), but to indicate the time of the first resurrection of his saints (cf. Hosea 6:2). "A day is with the Lord as a thousand years."
III. THAT THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST BRINGS HEAVES NEARER TO BELIEVERS.
1. It brings them into communion with angels.
(1) The appearance of the angels to the women evinced that through the risen Saviour we come to a heavenly communion (see Hebrews 12:22). Angels own Jesus as their Lord as well as we. Their communication is concerning him.
(2) The women had comfortable assurance in their action. It announced to them that the Lord who had been delivered for our offences had rendered satisfaction to Divine justice, and therefore received his legal discharge from the prison.
(3) They had this also in their words.
(a) "Fear not ye." The watch were left to their fears. Not so the women. True daughters of Sarah (see 1 Peter 3:6).
(b) "For I know that ye seek Jesus, which hath been crucified." Love seeks Jesus because he hath been crucified. Those who seek the Crucified One need never fear.
(c) "He is not here: for he is risen, even as he said." Those who seek Jesus crucified will find him risen. "He is risen! ' This is joyful news, not only to the women, but to all disciples of Christ in every age. The risen Christ is our consolation. If we find him not immediately in sensible comfort, the assurance that he is risen will be followed by that comfort in good time. Henceforth let us seek Jesus as One that is risen, viz. not with carnal thoughts of him (see 2 Corinthians 5:16), but with heavenly mind and spiritual communications (cf. Romans 10:6-8; Philippians 3:20; Colossians 3:1-3).
(d) "Go quickly." Those sent on God's errands must not loiter.
(e) "Tell his disciples." The disciples of Jesus are more honoured than kings. The apostles should believe without seeing. The women are sent to testify to them, and thus to test their faith. We must not monopolize our comforts (see 2 Kings 7:9). "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
(f) "Behold, he goeth before you into Galilee." Angels are in the secret of the Lord.
2. It brings them into new relations with their Lord.
(1) He spiritually manifests himself to them. The women were highly honoured to be the first to whom the risen Lord appeared. That favour expressed the removal from the sex of its ancient reproach (cf. 1 Timothy 2:14).
(2) He speaks comfortable words to them. "All hail!" equivalent to "Rejoice ye!" Let joy triumph over fear. The risen Christ is his people's Joy. "All hail!" equivalent to "All health!" - spiritual and saving health to you!
(3) He affords sensible proofs of his love. "And they came and took hold of his feet, and worshipped him." They were now sure it was no phantasm, but the very body of the real Jesus.
(4) He gives them his gracious commission: "Fear not; go tell my brethren that they depart into Galilee, and there shall they see me." He went to Galilee to multiply his witnesses. The greater part of his disciples were Galilaeans. There it was probably that "he was seen of more than five hundred brethren" (cf. Acts 1:15; 1 Corinthians 15:6).
(5) He calls his disciples his "brethren." Here for the first time we find him using this condescending and endearing appellation. The Resurrection, which declared him the Son of God with power, declared also all the sons of God to be his brethren. The spirit of the servant now gives place to that of the son. First we are "servants," then "friends" (see John 15:15), finally "brethren" (see Matthew 25:40; John 20:17).
(6) The Christian discipleship is now constituted into a sacred brotherhood. - J.A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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 sepulchre.