Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 28:1-10

Mat 28:1  And in the end of the sabbath, when it began to dawn towards the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalen and the other Mary, to see the sepulchre.

And in the end of the sabbath.] This section may be divided into two parts: the first [vv. 1–10] proves the fact of Christ’s resurrection; the second [vv. 11–15] states the unbelief of the Jews. We need not show again that the evangelist is true to his purpose to the very end, proving the Messiasship of Jesus, and explaining to the Jewish Christians the rejection of Israel and the conversion of the nations.

1.] Proof of resurrection. This section contains four parts: a. Introduction, v. 1; b. the fright of the guard, vv. 2–4; c. the angel and the women, vv. 5–8; d. Jesus himself appears, vv. 8–10.

a. Introduction. The gospel first gives us the names of certain holy women, tells us what they did, and when they did it.

α. According to the first gospel the holy women were Mary Magdalen and the other Mary, the mother of James the less and Joseph. Mark [16:1] adds the name of Salome, the mother of James and John, to the preceding; Luke increases their number by adding Joanna and the others that were with them [Lk. 24:10]; John [20:1] mentions only Mary Magdalen. That the fourth gospel does not exclude the companions of Mary Magdalen is clear from 22:2, where the latter says to Peter and John: “… we know not where they have laid him.” None of the evangelists professes to give a full list of the holy women, so that they rather supplement than contradict one another.

β. All the gospels agree in telling that the holy women went to the sepulchre of our Lord. Mark [16:1] adds that they bought spices after the sabbath was ended, in order to anoint the body of their Master; Lk. 23:56, too, mentions the preparation of the spices, and in 24:1 he expressly states that they carried the spices with them to the sepulchre. Though it is implied by Luke that the preparation of the spices began on Friday afternoon, it follows from Mark that it was resumed Saturday evening after the sabbath had ended.

γ. There is more difficulty about the time of the preceding action as given in the four gospels: Matthew places it “in the end of the sabbath when it began to dawn towards the first day of the week”; Mark [16:2] states that it occurred “very early in the morning the first day of the week”; Luke [24:1] agrees almost with Mark “on the first day of the week very early in the morning”; John [20:1] reads “on the first day of the week … early, when it was yet dark.” The four evangelists agree, therefore, in assigning the first day of the week as the time of the women’s visit. The discrepancy between the fourth gospel, “when it was yet dark,” and the second, “the sun being now risen,” is of little account. For as the dawn and the twilight are short in Palestine, the women may well be said to have left their house “when it was yet dark” [Jn.], if they came to the sepulchre after sunrise [Mk.]. But how are we to explain the words of the first gospel? How can the end of the sabbath coincide with the dawn of the first day of the week? The Greek word rendered by “end” has two principal meanings: “late” and “long after” [cf. Liddell and Scott, Greek Lexicon, s. v. ὀψέ]. Hence Lamy, Fil. P. etc. explain the words of Matthew thus: “And after the sabbath, when it began to dawn,” etc. [cf. Mald. Fritzsche, Kuin. Steenkiste, etc.]. But Euth. Schegg, Schanz, Keil, Weiss, etc. understand the Greek adverb in its meaning of “late,” so that they agree more closely with the Vulgate version of the word. The foregoing writers differ, however, again in the precise explanation of the passage: Patrizi is of opinion that the two Marys paid a visit to the sepulchre “late on the sabbath, when the evening star [the morning star of Sunday] had risen” [cf. Ewald, Keim]. This view has not been commonly adopted by commentators, but it has the advantage that it reckons the day according to the legal way of the Jews. Most commentators observe that Matthew reckons according to the natural day, i. e. from sunrise to sunset; why else bring the dawn of Sunday in immediate contact with the end of Saturday? The passage means, therefore, “late on the sabbath [i. e. early on Sunday morning] when it began to dawn towards the first day of the week” [cf. Theoph. Lap. Nat. Alex. Alf. Bloomf. Knab. etc.].

Mat 28:2  And behold there was a great earthquake. For an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and coming rolled back the stone and sat upon it. 
Mat 28:3  And his countenance was as lightning and his raiment as snow. 
Mat 28:4  And for fear of him, the guards were struck with terror and became as dead men.

And behold there was.] b. The fright of the guard. The expression “and behold” does not necessarily imply that the following events occurred at the approach of the holy women [Caj. Mald.] or before their very eyes [Weiss], but points out that something wonderful took place. That the events had taken place before the arrival of the women may be inferred from the fact that they saw the stone rolled back when they arrived at the sepulchre, and again from the implied statement that they did not find a Roman guard near the place. The divine presence and power are repeatedly manifested by an earthquake [Pss. 67:8, 9; 97:7 f.; 98:1; 113:6, 7; Joel 3:16; etc.]. The ministry of an angel cannot astonish us under the circumstances, since angels announce Christ’s incarnation, birth, and ascension into heaven; angels, too, minister to him in the desert and in the garden of Gethsemani. The stone was rolled back not to give Jesus an exit, for he rose before the stone was rolled away, even as he was born without violating the virginity of his Blessed Mother [Thom.], but in order to convince the holy women and the disciples of his absence from the sepulchre. Writers vary concerning the exact time of our Lord’s resurrection: some contend that it cannot be determined with certainty; others place it at about an hour after midnight or the first cock-crow; others again place it at the dawn of Sunday, a little after the light of the day had begun to appear [cf. Suar. Bened. XIV. Greg. Euth.]. The point of comparison between the angel’s countenance and lightning is its brightness; and similarly the angel’s raiment is compared to snow on account of its spotless brilliancy [cf. Mald.]. Since even holy persons are frightened by witnessing divine apparitions [cf. Is. 6:5 (hebr.); Ezech. 2:1; Dan. 7:15; Lk. 1:30], the terror of the Roman soldiers at seeing the angel cannot astonish us.

Mat 28:5  And the angel answering, said to the women: Fear not you: for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 
Mat 28:6  He is not here. For he is risen, as he said. Come, and see the place where the Lord was laid. 
Mat 28:7  And going quickly, tell ye his disciples that he is risen. And behold he will go before you into Galilee. There you shall see him. Lo, I have foretold it to you.

And the angel answering, said.] c. The angel and the holy women. [1] Apparition of the angel. The holy women must first have been struck by the removal of the stone [Mk. 16:4; Lk. 24:2; Jn. 20:1], on seeing which Magdalen hastened back to announce the fact to Peter and John [Jn. 20:2]. The other women entered the sepulchre [Mk. 16:5; Lk. 24:3], as we see from verse 8, where the evangelist states: “They went out quickly from the sepulchre”; from the same passage it is clear that the angel addressed them inside the sepulchre, whither he must have retired after the Roman soldiers had fled away. Here the evangelists seem to disagree entirely in their accounts: the women are addressed by one angel according to Matthew and Mark [16:5], by two angels according to Luke [24:4, 5]; again, the angel is sitting to the right according to Mark, the angels are standing by the women according to Luke; the evangelists agree, however, regarding the dress of the angels: “clothed with a white robe” [Mk.] and “in shining apparel” [Lk.]. If one remembers the Jewish style of sepulchres, which had a vestibule and from this an entrance into one or more chambers actually used as graves, one understands why the holy women saw only one angel [Mk.], though two were present in the grave-chamber proper. This is the more natural if the angels occupied the place they did when Magdalen saw them [Jn. 20:12], “sitting one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been laid.” It is also clear why the angels who were first seated [Mk.] should rise and stand by the women in order to reassure them [Lk.].

—Fear not you.] [2] Words of the angel. The “you” is emphatic; it is not a mere address [Fritzsche, Schegg], nor does it signify the contrast between the women and the Roman soldiers [Theoph. Enth. Jans. Mald. Meyer, Berlepsch, Weiss, Keil, etc.], but it contrasts the women with the Jews, for whom the news of the resurrection must prove the cause of the greatest fear [Chrys. Jer. Greg. Schanz, etc.]. This follows from the reason advanced by the angel. The words “fear not” are characteristic of almost all favorable apparitions of angels [cf. Lk. 1:12, 13, 29; 2:9; etc.]. The parallel passage of Luke [24:5] shows that the words of the angel contained a gentle reproof for the incredulity of the women, or their want of attention to the prediction of Jesus. Then they are bidden to announce the good news to the disciples “and to Peter” [Mk.], in order to make them depart for Galilee, where the risen Redeemer will appear to them. Thus the holy women become the first apostles of Christ’s resurrection, as they had been his most faithful companions during the passion, and as the first woman had been the occasion of the fall. Galilee is chosen as the scene of the apparition, because Jesus himself had predicted this most clearly [Mt. 20:32; 26:32], because in Galilee was the apostles’ home where they would be free from the enmities of the Jews, again because in Galilee Jesus had most disciples [1 Cor. 15:6], and finally because Jesus wished to appear solemnly before the assembled Church, to authenticate himself [so to speak] as risen, and to inaugurate his kingdom by pronouncing the apostolical commission in the presence of the congregated faithful [cf. Dublin Review, Oct. 1876, “Gospel Narrative of the Resurrection”; Knab. Schanz, etc.]. Since the disciples did not believe the holy women implicitly, the first apparitions occurred in Jerusalem. The last words of the angel show the unexceptional truthfulness of his information.

Mat 28:8  And they went out quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy, running to tell his disciples.

And they went out quickly.] [3] The action of the holy women. This passage supposes that the holy women had entered the sepulchre. Here we meet another apparent contradiction between the reports of the evangelists: Mk. 16:8 says: “But they going out fled from the sepulchre; for trembling and fear had seized them; and they said nothing to any man, for they were afraid.” Luke [24:9] agrees with the gospel of Matthew: “And going back from the sepulchre, they told all these things to the eleven and to the rest.” Various endeavors have been made to reconcile these apparent discrepancies: Enth. Caj. Salm. Tirin. Lam. Calm. patr. Fil. Grot. Hammond, Kuinoel, etc. think that the holy women said nothing of the angel’s message to any of those they met on their way to the apostles; but this explanation appears forced and unnatural. We must also reject the explanation that the holy women said nothing to the two angels that had spoken to them [Aug. De cons, evang. iii. 24; Bed. Fab.], or that they said nothing to the Roman soldiers whom they saw lying prostrate on the ground [Aug. Dion.]. It seems most natural that the holy women should have kept silent about their experience till they heard the report of Peter, John, and Magdalen, so that the second gospel tells us what happened immediately on their return to the city, while the first and the third gospel relate in general what happened during the day. Peter is informed by a woman of the resurrection, as he had been led by a woman to deny his Master.

Mat 28:9  And behold, Jesus met them, saying: All hail. But they came up and took hold of his feet and adored him. 
Mat 28:10  Then Jesus said to them: Fear not. Go, tell my brethren that they go into Galilee. There they shall see me.

And behold Jesus met them.] d. Jesus appears to the holy women. It is not likely that our Lord appeared to the women immediately on their leaving the sepulchre after the apparition of the angel. If this had been the case, the two disciples on their way to Emmaus would have known of it, as they knew of the apparition of an angel [Lk. 24:23]; again, it would be hard to explain the words of Mark [16:8], according to which the women did not tell the disciples immediately on returning to Jerusalem. Most probably, then, it was when the holy women went out again to the sepulchre at a later period, or when they were together on another errand, that Jesus manifested himself to them. The love of the women recognizes the Master at once, just as happened in the case of St. John [Jn. 21:7]. Our Lord, on his part, bids them to fear not, but deliver the angel’s message to the disciples, whom he now calls his “brethren,” in spite of their desertion in his last hour [cf. Heb. 2:11 f.; Rom. 8:29]. In his mortal life he had called them only friends. According to Hil. Bed. Jer. Euth. Jesus here shows that the curse brought on us through the instrumentality of the first woman has been broken, and at the same time he royally rewards those that had sorrowed for him most bitterly [cf. Zach. 12:10].

It may not be out of place to add here a general survey of our Lord’s apparitions: The first gospel mentions only the apparition to the holy women and that in Galilee; the second gospel mentions the apparition to Mary Magdalen, to the two disciples on their way to Emmaus, and to the disciples on Sunday evening; the third gospel mentions an apparition to Peter, to the disciples on their way to Emmaus, to the disciples on Sunday evening, and implies another immediately before the ascension; the fourth gospel mentions the apparition to Mary Magdalen, to the disciples on Sunday evening, to the disciples together with Thomas, to the disciples on the Sea of Galilee; finally, 1 Cor. 15:5–7 mentions the apparition to Peter, to the eleven on Sunday evening, to the disciples on the mountain of Galilee, to James, to the apostles, and finally to Paul. Besides, there is an almost uniform tradition that our Lord appeared also to his Blessed Mother [cf. Ambr. Sedul. Anselm. Rup. Bonav. Baron. Bened. XIV. etc.]; however, Est. Jans, do not admit this.

The following seems to us the most probable order of apparitions: 1. to his Blessed Mother; 2. to Mary Magdalen; 3. to the holy women; 4. to Peter; 5. to the disciples going to Emmaus; 6. to the apostles except Thomas; 7. to the apostles including Thomas; 8. to the disciples on the Sea of Galilee; 9. to the five hundred on the mountain in Galilee; 10. to the disciples in Jerusalem; 11. to the disciples on Mount Olivet; 12. to the apostle Paul; 13. the time of the apparition to James certainly preceded that to Paul, but its place among the other apparitions cannot be determined.

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One Response to Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 28:1-10

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for Easter Sunday | stjoeofoblog

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