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THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW - Chapter 28 - Verse 15
Verse 15. This saying is—reported. This account of the disappearance of the body of Jesus from the sepulchre is commonly given.
Until this day. The time when Matthew wrote this gospel, i.e., about thirty years after the resurrection.
The resurrection of the Lord Jesus, of which an account is given in this chapter, is one of the most important doctrines of the Christian religion, and is attested by the strongest evidence that can be adduced in favour of any ancient fact. Let it be considered,
(2.) There was no doubt that he was really dead. Of this the Jews, the Romans, and the disciples, were all equally well satisfied.
(3.) Every proper precaution was taken to prevent his removal by stealth. A guard, usually consisting of sixty men, was placed there for the express purpose of keeping him, and the sepulchre was secured by a large stone, and by a seal.
(4.) On the third day the body was missing. In this all were agreed. The high priest did not dare to call that in question. They laboured, therefore, to account for it. The disciples affirmed that he was alive. The Jews hired the Roman soldiers to affirm that he was stolen while they slept, and succeeded in making many of the people believe it. This account of the Jews is attended with the following difficulties and absurdities: \-
(1.) The Roman guard was composed usually of sixty men, and they were
stationed there for the express purpose of guarding the body of Jesus.
(2.) The punishment of sleeping while on guard in the Roman army was
death, and it is perfectly incredible that they should expose
themselves in this manner to death.
(3.) The disciples were few in number, unarmed, weak, and timid. They
had just fled before those who took Jesus in the garden, and how can
it be believed that in so short a time they would dare to attempt
to take away from a Roman guard of armed men what they were expressly
set to defend ?
(4.) How could the disciples presume that they would find them
asleep; or, if they should, how was it possible to remove the stone
and the body, without awaking one of their number?
(5.) The regularity and order of the grave-clothes
rob graves of the bodies of the dead, they do not wait coolly to fold
up the grave-clothes, and lay them carefully by themselves.
(6.) If the soldiers were asleep, how did they, or how could they
know that the disciples stole the body away? If they were awake, why
did they suffer it ? The whole account, therefore, was intrinsically
absurd. On the other hand, the account given by the disciples was
(1.) They account for the reason why the soldiers did not see the Saviour when he rose. Terrified at the vision of an angel, they became as dead men.
(2.) They affirmed that they saw him. All the apostles affirmed this, and many others.
(3.) They affirmed it in Jerusalem, in the presence of the Jews, before the high priest and the people. See the Acts of the Apostles. If the Jews really believed the account which they themselves had given, why did they not apprehend the apostles, and prove them guilty of the theft, and of falsehood: things which they never attempted, and which show, therefore, that they did not credit their own report.
(4.) in regard to the Saviour, they could not be deceived. They had been with him three years. They knew him as a friend. They again ate and drank with him; they put their fingers into his hands and side; they conversed with him; they were with him forty days. There were enough of them to bear witness. Law commonly requires not more than one or two competent witnesses; but here were twelve plain, honest men, who affirmed in all places, and at all times, that they had seen him. Can it be possible that they could be deceived? Then all faith in testimony must be given up.
(5.) They gave every possible evidence of their sincerity. They were persecuted, ridiculed, scourged, and put to death for affirming this. Yet not one of them ever ex- pressed the least doubt of its truth. They bore everything rather than to deny that they had seen him. They had no motive in doing this, but the love of truth. They obtained no wealth by it; no honour; no pleasure. They gave themselves up to great and unparalleled sufferings: going, from land to land; crossing almost every sea; and enduring the dangers, toils, and privations of almost every clime, for the simple object of affirming everywhere that a Saviour died and rose. If they knew this was an imposition—and if it had been, they would have known it—in what way is this remarkable conduct to be accounted for? Do men conduct in this way for naught? and especially in a plain case, where all that can be required is the testimony of the senses?
(6.) The world believed them. Three thousand of the Jews themselves believed in the risen Saviour, on the day of Pentecost, but fifty days after his resurrection, Ac 2:41. Multitudes of other Jews believed during the lives of the apostles. Thousands of Gentiles believed also, and in three hundred years the belief that Jesus rose had spread over and changed the whole Roman empire. Had the apostles been deceivers, that was the age in which they could most easily have been detected. Yet that was the age when converts were most rapidly multiplied, and God affixed his seal to their testimony that it was true.
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