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John Lightfoot Commentary on the Gospels

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 Chapter 27
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Matthew 28

1. 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.

[In the end of the sabbath.] In the Jerusalem Talmudists it is in the coming forth of the sabbath; vulgarly, in the going out of the sabbath: On a certain eve of the sabbath, namely, when the sabbath began, "there was not wine to be found in all Samaria: but at the end of the sabbath there was found abundance, because the Aramites had brought it, and the Cuthites had received it"...

[Towards the first day of the week.] The Jews reckon the days of the week thus; One day (or the first day) of the sabbath: two (or the second day) of the sabbath: "Two witnesses come and say, The first of the sabbath this man stole, &c., and, on the second day of the sabbath, judgment passed on him."

The third of the sabbath: "A virgin is married on the fourth day of the week; for they provide for the feast the first day of the week. The second day of the week: and the third day of the week."

"On the fourth day of the week they set apart him who was to burn the red heifer."

On the fifth of the sabbath. "Ezra ordained that they should read the law publicly on the second and fifth days of the sabbath, &c. He appointed that judges should sit in the cities on the second and fifth days. Ezra also appointed that they should wash their clothes on the fifth day of the sabbath."

The sixth day they commonly called the eve of the sabbath: "To wash their clothes on the fifth day of the sabbath, and eat onions on the eve of the sabbath." On the fifth day of the sabbath [or week], and the eve of the sabbath, and the sabbath.

The first day of the week, which is now changed into the sabbath or Lord's day, the Talmudists call the Christians', or the Christian day: On the Christians' day it is always forbidden for a Jew to traffic with a Christian. Where the Gloss saith thus: A Nazarene or Christian is he who followeth the error of the man who commanded them "to make the first day of the week a festival day to him: and according to the words of Ismael, it is always unlawful to traffic with them three days before that day and three days after; that is, not at all the week through." We cannot here pass by the words of the Glossers on Babyl. Rosh hashanah; "The Baithusians desire that the first day of the Passover might be on the sabbath, so that the presenting of the sheaf might be on the first day of the week, and the feast of Pentecost on the first day of the week."

With good reason did our blessed Saviour remove the sabbath to this day, the day of his resurrection, the day which the Lord had made, Psalm 118:24, when now the stone which the builders refused was become the head stone of the corner. For,

I. When Christ was to make a new world, or a new creation, it was necessary for him to make a new sabbath. The sabbath of the old creation was not proper for the new.

II. The kingdom of Christ took its beginning principally from the resurrection of Christ: when he had now overcome death and hell. (The Jews themselves confess that the kingdom of the Messiah was to begin with the resurrection of the dead, and the renewing of the world.) Therefore it was very proper that that day from which Christ's kingdom took its beginning should pass into the sabbath, rather than the old sabbath, the memorial of the creation.

III. That old sabbath was not instituted till after the giving the promise of Christ, Genesis 3:15; and the rest of God on that seventh day was chiefly in having perfected the new creation in Christ; that also was the sabbatical rest of Adam. When therefore that was accomplished which was then promised, namely, the bruising of the serpent's head by the resurrection of Christ, and that was fulfilled which was typified and represented in the old sabbath, namely, the finishing of a new creation, the sabbath could not but justly be transferred to that day on which these things were done.

IV. It was necessary that the Christians should have a sabbath given them distinct from the sabbath of the Jews, that a Christian might be thereby distinguished from a Jew. For as the law took great care to provide that a Jew might be distinguished from a heathen; so it was provided by the gospel with the like care, that partly by the forsaking of those rites, partly by the bringing in of different manners and observances, a Christian might be distinguished from a Jew. The law was not more solicitous to mark out and separate a Jew from a heathen by circumcision than the gospel hath been that by the same circumcision a Christian should not Judaize. And the same care it hath deservedly taken about the sabbath: for since the Jews, among other marks of distinction, were made of a different colour, as it were, from all nations, by their keeping the sabbath, it was necessary, that by the bringing in of another sabbath (since of necessity a sabbath must be kept up), that Christians might be of a different colour from the Jews.

9. And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.

[All hail.] In the vulgar dialect of the Jews, "The Rabbins saw a certain holy man of Caphar Immi, and said All hail." How do they salute an Israelite? All hail.

[They held him by the feet.] This seems to have been done to kiss his feet. So 2 Kings 4:27. For this was not unusual: "As R. Janni and R. Jonathan were sitting together, a certain man came and kissed the feet of R. Jonathan." Compare the evangelists here, and you will find that this was done by Mary Magdalene only, who formerly had kissed Christ's feet, and who had gone twice to the sepulchre, however Matthew makes mention but of once going. The story, in short, is thus to be laid together: At the first dawning of the morning Christ arose, a great earthquake happening at that time. About the same time Magdalene and the other women left their houses to go to the sepulchre: while they met together and made all things ready, and took their journey to the tomb, the sun was up. When they were come, they are informed of his resurrection by the angels, and sent back to the disciples. The matter being told to the disciples, Peter and John run to the sepulchre; Magdalene also followed after them. They having seen the signs of the resurrection return to their company, but she stays there. Being ready to return back, Christ appears to her, she supposing him to be the gardener. As soon as she knew him, she worships him; and embracing his feet, kisseth them. And this is the history before us, which Matthew relates in the plural number, running it over briefly and compendiously, according to his manner.

19. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

[Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them, &c.] I. The enclosure is now thrown down, whereby the apostles were kept in from preaching the gospel to all the Gentiles, Matthew 10:5. For, first, the Jews had now lost their privilege, nor were they henceforward to be counted a peculiar people; nay, they were now become "Lo-ammi." They had exceeded the heathens in sinning, they had slighted, trampled upon, and crucified the Creator himself, appearing visibly before their eyes in human flesh; while the heathens had only conceived amiss of the Creator, whom they neither had seen nor could see, and thereby fallen to worship the creature. Secondly, Christ had now by his blood paid a price for the heathens also. Thirdly, he had overcome Satan, who held them captive. Fourthly, he had taken away the wall of partition: and fifthly, had exhibited an infinite righteousness.

II. Make disciples. Bring them in by baptism, that they may be taught. They are very much out, who from these words cry down infant-baptism, and assert that it is necessary for those that are to be baptized to be taught before they are baptized. 1. Observe the words here, make disciples; and then after, teaching, in the twentieth verse. 2. Among the Jews, and also with us, and in all nations, those are made disciples that they may be taught. A certain heathen came to the great Hillel, and saith, Make me a proselyte, that thou mayest teach me. He was first to be proselyted, and then to be taught. Thus first, make them disciples by baptism; and then, teach them to observe all things, &c.

III. Baptizing. There are divers ends of baptism:--1. According to the nature of a sacrament it visibly teacheth invisible things, that is, the washing of us from all our pollutions by the blood of Christ, and by the cleansing of grace, Ezekiel 36:25. 1. According to the nature of a sacrament, it is a seal of divine truth. So circumcision is called, Romans 4:11; "And he received the sign of circumcision, the seal of the righteousness of faith," &c. So the Jews, when they circumcised their children, gave this very title to circumcision. The words used when a child was circumcised you have in their Talmud. Among other things, he who is to bless the action saith thus, "Blessed be he who sanctified him that was beloved from the womb, and set a sign in his flesh, and sealed his children with the sign of the holy covenant," &c.

But in what sense are sacraments to be called seals? Not that they seal (or confirm) to the receiver his righteousness; but that they seal the divine truth of the covenant and promise. Thus the apostle calls circumcision 'the seal of the righteousness of faith': that is, it is the seal of this truth and doctrine, that 'justification is by faith,' which righteousness Abraham had when he was yet uncircumcised. And that is the way whereby sacraments confirm faith, namely, because they do doctrinally exhibit the invisible things of the covenant; and, like seals, do by divine appointment sign the doctrine and truth of the covenant. 3. According to the nature of a sacrament, it obligeth the receivers to the terms of the covenant: for as the covenant itself is of mutual obligation between God and man; so the sacraments, the seals of the covenant, are of like obligation. 4. According to its nature, it is an introductory into the visible church. And, 5. It is a distinguishing sign between a Christian and no Christian, namely, between those who acknowledge and profess Christ, and Jews, Turks, and Pagans, who do not acknowledge him. Disciple all nations, baptizing. When they are under baptism, they are no longer under heathenism; and this sacrament puts a difference between those who are under the discipleship of Christ, and those who are not. 6. Baptism also brings its privilege along with it, while it opens the way to a partaking of holy things in the church, and placeth the baptized within the church, over which God exerciseth a more singular providence than over those that are out of the church.

And now, from what hath been said, let us argue a little in behalf of infant-baptism. Omitting that argument which is commonly raised form the words before us, namely, that when Christ had commanded to baptize all nations, infants also are to be taken in as parts of the family, these few things may be observed:

I. Baptism, as a sacrament, is a seal of the covenant. And why, I pray, may not this seal be set on infants? The seal of divine truth hath sometimes been set upon inanimate things, and that by God's appointment. The bow in the cloud is a seal of the covenant: the law engraven on the altar, Joshua 8, was a seal of the covenant. The blood sprinkled on the twelve pillars that were set up to represent the twelve tribes was a seal and bond of the covenant, Exodus 24. And now tell me, why are not infants capable, in like manner, of such a sealing? They were capable heretofore of circumcision; and our infants have an equal capacity. The sacrament doth not lose this its end, through the indisposition of the receiver. Peter and Paul, apostles, were baptized: their baptism, according to its nature, sealed to them the truth of God in his promises concerning the washing away of sins, &c. And they, from this doctrinal virtue of the sacrament, received confirmation of their faith. So also Judas and Simon Magus, hypocrites, wicked men, were baptized: did not their baptism, according to the nature of it, seal this doctrine and truth, "that there as a washing away of sins?" It did not, indeed, seal the thing itself to them; nor was it at all a sign to them of the 'washing away' of theirs: but baptism doth in itself seal this doctrine. You will grant that this axiom is most true, "Abraham received the sign of circumcision, the seal of the righteousness of faith." And is not this equally true? Esau, Ahab, Ahaz, received the sign of circumcision, the seal of the righteousness of faith: is not circumcision the same to all? Did not circumcision, to whomsoever it was administered, sign and seal this truth, that there 'was a righteousness of faith'? The sacrament hath a sealing virtue in itself, that doth not depend on the disposition of the receiver.

II. Baptism, as a sacrament, is an obligation. But now infants are capable of being obliged. Heirs are sometimes obliged by their parents, though they are not yet born: see also Deuteronomy 29:11,15. For that to which any one is obliged obtains a right to oblige from the equity of the thing, and not from the apprehension of the person obliged. The law is imposed upon all under this penalty, "Cursed be every one that doth not continue in all," &c. It is ill arguing from hence, that a man hath power to perform the law; but the equity of the thing itself is very well argued hence. Our duty obligeth us to every thing which the law commands; but we cannot perform the least tittle of it.

III. An infant is capable of privileges, as well as an old man; and baptism is privilegial. An infant hath been crowned king in his cradle: an infant may be made free who is born a salve. The Gemarists speak very well in this matter; "Rabh Houna saith, They baptize an infant proselyte by the command of the bench." Upon what is this grounded? On this, that baptism becomes a privilege to him. And they may endow an absent person with a privilege: or they may bestow a privilege upon one, though he be ignorant of it. Tell me then, why an infant is not capable of being brought into the visible church, and of receiving the distinguishing sign between a Christian and a heathen, as well as a grown person.

IV. One may add, that an infant is part of his parent: upon this account, Genesis 17:14, an infant is to be cut off if he be not circumcised, when, indeed, the fault is his parents'; because thus the parents are punished in a part of themselves, by the cutting off of their child. And hence is that of Exodus 20:5, "Visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children," because children are a part of their fathers, &c. From hence ariseth also a natural reason of infant-baptism: the infants of baptized parents are to be baptized, because they are part of them, and that the whole parents may be baptized. And upon this account they used of old, with good reason, to baptize the whole family, with the master of it.

[In the name of the Father, &c.] I. Christ commands them to go and baptize the nations; but how much time was past before such a journey was taken! And when the time was now come that this work should be begun, Peter doth not enter upon it without a previous admonition given him from heaven. And this was occasioned hereby, that, according to the command of Christ, the gospel was first to be preached to Judea, Samaria, and Galilee.

II. He commands them to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: but among the Jews they baptized only in the name of Jesus; which we have observed before, from Acts 2:38, 8:16, 19:5. For this reason, that thus the baptizers might assert, and the baptized confess, Jesus to be the true Messias; which was chiefly controverted by the Jews.

Of the same nature is that apostolic blessing, "Grace and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ." Where then is the Holy Ghost? He is not excluded, however he be not named. The Jews did more easily consent to the Spirit of the Messias, which they very much celebrate, than to the person of the Messias. Above all others, they deny and abjure Jesus of Nazareth. It belonged to the apostles, therefore, the more earnestly to assert Jesus (to be the Messias), by how much the more vehemently they opposed him: which being once cleared, the acknowledging of the Spirit of Christ would be introduced without delay or scruple. Moses (in Exodus 6:14) going about to reckon up all the tribes of Israel, goes no further than the tribe of Levi only; and takes up with that to which his business and story at that present related. In like manner the apostles, for the present, baptize in the name of Jesus, bless in the name of the Father and of Jesus, that thereby they might more firmly establish the doctrine of Jesus, which met with such sharp and virulent opposition; which doctrine being established among them, they would soon agree about the Holy Ghost.

III. Among the Jews, the controversy was about the true Messiah; among the Gentiles, about the true God; it was, therefore, proper among the Jews to baptize in the name of Jesus, that he might be vindicated to be the true Messias: among the Gentiles, In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, that they might be hereby instructed in the doctrine of the true God. Hear this, O Arian and Socinian!

IV. The Jews baptized proselytes into the name of the Father, that is, into the profession of God, whom they called by the name of Father. The apostles baptize the Jews into the name of Jesus, the Son: and the Gentiles, into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

V. The Father hath revealed himself in the old covenant, the Son in the new; in human flesh, by his miracles, doctrine, resurrection, and ascension; the Holy Ghost, in his gifts and miracles. Thus the doctrine of the ever-blessed Trinity grew by degrees to full maturity: for the arriving at the acknowledgment of which it was incumbent upon all who professed the true God to be three in one to be baptized into his name.

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Bibliography Information
Lightfoot, John. "Commentary on Matthew 28". "John Lightfoot Commentary on the Gospels". <>. 1675.  


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