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After all of the studies in the Book of Matthew, in this text we come to the victorious climax = the Resurrection of Jesus Christ that proves His identity as Messiah-King and shows that the Father has accepted Him as the propitiation for our sins.

Grant Osborne: The antithesis between the actions of God and those of human beings continues, as the guards and the women react to the reality of the resurrection. Both are filled with fear, but here the similarities cease. The guards faint, while the women become official witnesses to the disciples of the turning point of the ages.

Donald Hagner: None of the alternative explanations of the resurrection of Jesus—whether a stolen body, a Jesus who only “swooned,” or a mistaken tomb—is adequate to explain the total range of phenomena that must be explained. Although outside the range of the historian, the best explanation historically—i.e., that provides a comprehensive account of what happened—is the reality of the resurrection of Jesus. . .

The empty tomb, for all of its impressiveness and importance, is not sufficient evidence in itself for the resurrection of Jesus. What alone can be decisive is reliable eyewitness testimony that Jesus had been raised from the dead. The women, the two Marys, are not only given the first responsibility to convey the message that Jesus had risen from the dead but are also given the privilege of being the first to see the risen Jesus himself. When they encounter him, they respond with unalloyed worship (contrast v. 17). They worship him not so much because he had come back to life but because his resurrection vindicates all that he had said and done during his ministry. And now it must have become exceedingly clear that this was not a special man among fellow humans but the unique manifestation of God’s grace and wisdom, who now reflected the new order of life that would be the portion of all his followers in the consummation of the eschatological age.

Jeffrey Crabtree: Matthew summarized the resurrection day events around witnesses and testimonies. The women told the Eleven and other disciples that they had seen Jesus alive and He would meet them in Galilee. The guards told that a glorious angel had descended from heaven, rolled back the stone, and that now the body of Jesus was gone. A bribe was enough to get them to change their story and tell that Jesus’ disciples stole His body while they all slept.

R. T. France: We are not told at what point between the burial on Friday evening and the opening of the tomb on Sunday morning Jesus actually left the tomb, though the repeated “third day/three days” language (and even more the “three days and three nights” of 12:40) presuppose that he was in the tomb for most of that period. What matters to the narrators is not when or how he left, but the simple fact that now, early on Sunday morning, “he is not here.” (v. 6)

David Turner: There are multiple witnesses to the resurrection in this passage. The Father is the ultimate witness because his power is the presupposition of everything that happens here. The Father’s agency is implied by all the passive verbs that describe Jesus’s resurrection and exaltation (28:6–7, 18; cf. 16:21; 17:2, 9, 23; 20:19; 26:32). The glorious angel announces the resurrection as the Father’s agent (28:6a). The empty tomb itself says nothing but signifies everything about the resurrection (28:6b). The faithful women hurry to announce the resurrection to the disciples (28:8). Jesus himself meets the women on their way and reiterates that he will meet the disciples in Galilee (28:9–10). Even the guards are unintentional evangelists; their announcement to the leading priests confirms their worst fears (28:11). Beyond these direct witnesses to the resurrection, there are two additional factors. The earthquake that rolls away the stone is a portent of an epochal event (28:2). Even the religious leaders’ conspiracy to deny the resurrection bears indirect and ironic witness that it is true (28:11–15).

Michael Wilkins: Matthew’s concluding chapter climaxes the amazing story of Jesus Messiah. He was conceived in a miraculous manner as the Savior of his people. He lived a sensational life in the power of the Spirit, announcing the arrival of the kingdom of heaven. But he was tragically betrayed by his own people and crucified by the Roman government. Will that be the end of the story? Indeed not! On the third day after his crucifixion, Jesus Messiah is found missing from his grave! Various explanations have been set forth, but Matthew tells in convincing fashion that the only explanation for the empty tomb is that Jesus has been raised, just as he predicted. The angels announce the resurrection, his women followers are the first to witness both the empty tomb and the risen Jesus, and all of his followers now have the commission to proclaim the invitation to enter into a relationship with the risen Jesus as his disciples.


A.  (:1) Arrival at the Tomb

  1. Timing of the Arrival

Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week,

  1. Two Women Featured

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary

  1. Their Expectation

came to look at the grave.

They did not come expecting to find an empty tomb.  They were discussing how they would be able to roll the stone away to access the dead body of Jesus.

William Hendriksen: Although it was still dark when the women started out, the sun had risen when they arrived at the tomb.

Warren Wiersbe: The women who had lingered at the cross came early to the tomb, bringing spices that they might anoint His body.  They thought He was dead.  In fact, they wondered how they would move the huge stone that blocked the entrance to the tomb (Mark 16:3).  It is remarkable that they did not believe in His resurrection when He had taught this truth repeatedly (Matt. 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; 26:32).

B.  (:2-3) Angelic Presence at the Tomb

  1. (:2) Mighty Earthquake Event

And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord

descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it.

Stu Weber: The stone did not need to be moved for Jesus to emerge.  We know from the other Gospels that his resurrection body was capable of traveling through walls and closed doors.  Rather, the stone was rolled away so others could look in and witness the empty tomb.

Leon Morris: Matthew’s characteristic And look introduces a note of vividness; he wants his readers to see the scene at the tomb. He says that there was a great earthquake (for “earthquakes” in Palestine see the note on 27:51; only Matthew has this reference). For introduces a reason for this one: an angel of the Lord came down from heaven.  It is not easy to be clear on just what happened when the women came to the tomb. Matthew has one angel, Mark speaks of a young man sitting on the right-hand side (Stendahl thinks that he is the angel in Matthew, for “angels had no wings in the 1st cent.”), Luke has two men in dazzling clothes, while John refers to two angels in white. It seems clear that all these are references to angels; the small differences should not disconcert us unduly. Each of the Evangelists is saying in his own way that when the women came to the tomb they encountered an angelic visitation.  It is not surprising that they speak of what happened in slightly different ways, for different people may well have had different perceptions.  The important thing is that there were unusual angelic visitations and what the angels said concerned Jesus’ rising from the dead. . .

Mark tells us that as they came to the place they discussed the problem of rolling the stone away, as well they might, for it was a great stone (27:60). But when they arrived, they found their problem solved; the angel had done it for them, and having rolled the stone away he sat on it. What had been an insuperable obstacle for the women was no more than a place to sit for the angel.

Robert Gundry: The present quaking reprises the recent earthquake that split open the rocky tombs at the resurrection of sacred people from the past (27:51b–53). But this time not only is the quaking “great,” but also an angel of the Lord opens the tomb where Jesus has been lying. The angel’s rolling away the stone, previously described as “large” (27:60), causes the earthquake. As in 1:20, 24; 2:13, 19–20, the angel gives both an explanation and instructions. “Out of heaven” points to their divine origin. “Rolled away the stone” exposes the tomb’s emptiness. And “was sitting on it [the stone]” indicates there’s nothing more for the angel to do except for giving the explanation and instructions.

  1. (:3) Majestic Appearance – Brilliant and Pure

a.  Like Lightning

And his appearance was like lightning,

b.  White as Snow

and his garment as white as snow;

Jeffrey Crabtree: Glorious angels celebrated Jesus’ birth (Lk. 2:9-14), and they celebrated His resurrection.

Grant Osborne: The appearance of the angel draws on apocalyptic descriptions in Dan 10:6 (the man dressed in linen had “his face like lightning”) and 7:9 (the clothing of “the Ancient of Days” was “as white as light” (17:2).  Since the transfiguration was a harbinger of the resurrection, this makes sense.

C.  (:4) Angst of the Guards at the Tomb

and the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.

Angst” – feeling of deep anxiety or dread

Donald Hagner: The irony is not to be missed: the ones assigned to guard the dead themselves appear dead while the dead now have been made alive.

Leon Morris: That they became like dead men points to the paralysis that overtook them when they were face to face with an angel. They had probably been prepared to face human opposition of some sort; why else would they have been assigned their task? But a striking heavenly visitant who manipulated the great stone with ease and whose appearance was like nothing they had ever seen was something else altogether.


A.  (:5) Reassurance to Calm Their Fears

And the angel answered and said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid;

for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified.’

Stu Weber: Jesus will forever be known as the crucified one (cf. 1 Cor. 1:23; 2:2; Gal. 3:1). The salvation he wrought through his death, the victory he won, and the obedience he displayed will stand for eternity.

Daniel Doriani: God designed angels to deliver messages, and Matthew shows that they are skilled at their duty. The Father is pleased when angels do what he made them to do (see 1:20–24; 2:13–19), just as he is pleased when we do what he made us to do. Their announcement has three parts.

First, the angel calls attention to Jesus’ prophecy: Jesus “is not here; he has risen, just as he said” (28:6). The resurrection proves that Jesus is all that he had said he is. Through the course of his life, he had claimed the roles of prophet, priest, and king. As king, he reigned from the cross, by defeating our greatest enemy. As priest, he offered the final sacrifice for our sin. As prophet, he foretold that he would die and rise. With the little phrase “just as he said” the angels invite us to meditate on all this (see 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; with 12:40).

Second, the angels call attention to the evidence: “Come and see the place where he lay” (28:6). These messengers are no purveyors of blind faith.

Third, the angels commission the women, so joyful, to announce the resurrection: “Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.Now I have told you” (28:7). The soldiers were three times afraid: they feared the earthquake, the angel, the punishment. But the women are four times joyful: Jesus’ tomb is empty. He lives. Every word he said is true. Then, crowning all their joys, they see Jesus with their own eyes (28:8–10). The angels were wise to commission the women. Even if their culture said they were invalid witnesses, the angels knew better.

B.  (:6) Reality of His Promised Resurrection

He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said.

Come, see the place where He was lying.

Stu Weber: Matthew used the Greek imperfect tense to show that he had been lying there for some time. In Matthew’s abbreviated account, he did not record whether the women actually looked into the tomb, but we can be sure they did. This strengthened their faith and prepared them to serve as eyewitnesses to the disciples.

Leon Morris: The angel goes on, “as he said,” which should remind them of the predictions that Jesus had made and that apparently none of his followers had taken as they were meant. But the predictions were important, and the angel draws their attention to them. They were not facing a situation in which Jesus had undergone a totally unexpected fate and had then experienced an unanticipated deliverance. He had prophesied both his death and his resurrection, and it was important that his followers should come to understand that the wonderful happening that had just taken place was in fact no more than what Jesus had prophesied during his lifetime.

C.  (:7) Reporting Mission

  1. Call to Bear Urgent Witness to the Disciples Regarding the Resurrection

And go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead;

Grant Osborne: This is certainly one of the proofs for the historicity of the resurrection; no one would ever make up a story with women as the official witnesses, since women were not allowed to be witnesses in a legal sense.

Donald Hagner: Note the structural device of the five parallel imperatives spoken by the angelic messenger: do not fear, come, see, go (an imperatival participle), and tell.

  1. Context for Seeing the Risen King Jesus in Person

and behold, He is going before you into Galilee,

there you will see Him;

Grant Osborne: Galilee is the place where Jesus developed and trained his disciples, so Jesus has stressed that as the meeting place where the disciples will be reinstated.

  1. Confirmation by Authoritative Proclamation

behold, I have told you.

Donald Hagner: The added words ἰδοὺ εἶπον ὑμῖν, “look, I have told you,” function to call attention once again to the angelic, and thus heavenly, source for this revelation, thereby emphasizing the authority of the words.

R. T. France: The angel’s final words to the women, literally “Look, I have told you,” are reminiscent of the frequent OT formula, “The Lord has spoken” (Isa 1:2; 25:8; Joel 3:8 etc.) or “I, the Lord, have spoken” (Num 14:35; Ezek 5:15, 17, etc.). The formula marks an authoritative pronouncement (perhaps even that the angel speaks for God), and also functions now as a call to action. The message has been delivered, and now it is up to the women to act on it.


Richard Gardner: Brief as it is, the report of Jesus’ appearance to the women makes several important points (cf. Meier, 1980:364).

  1. First, the resurrection of Jesus has a bodily dimension. The women are able to take hold of Jesus’ feet.
  2. Second, the resurrection renews the family relationship of Jesus and his disciples. Jesus speaks of a reunion with my brothers.
  3. Third, Galilee is named again as the place where this reunion will occur. The reason Jesus chooses Galilee will become apparent shortly (cf. 28:16-20; 26:32).
  4. Finally, the One who names us his sisters and brothers is also our Lord. He is One whom the women worship when he meets and greets them.

A.  (:8) Emotions of Fear and Great Joy

And they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy

and ran to report it to His disciples.

Leon Morris: The women made haste to do what they were told. They went away from the tomb quickly; the place of death no longer had any meaning for them. That they went with fear indicates that they were in the grip of the awe that had been aroused in them by their contact with the visitant from another world. But they were not simply scared; they went with great joy. They had come to that place mourning the death of their great leader and dear friend; they went away knowing that he was dead no longer. Well might their emotion be great joy. They had been told to go quickly and tell the disciples, and they took the injunction literally. They ran to tell his disciples. Such good news should be spread abroad quickly, so they certainly made haste.

Stanley Saunders: Fear and great joy here go together as differing dimensions of a singular and wholly appropriate response.

B.  (:9) Encounter with Jesus and Response of Worship

And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them.

And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.

Grant Osborne: Throughout Matthew Jesus is to be “worshiped” as Lord (2:2, 8, 11; 8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 15:25), an act that centers on his divine glory as Son of God.  Jesus is not a spirit but has been raised bodily – but with new meaning.  Before there were resuscitations, but those raised had to die again.  Jesus is raised for eternity.

Leon Morris: They had been last at the cross and first at the tomb, and now they are the first of whom Matthew writes that they had the joy of seeing their Lord. From what the angel had told them they would have expected that no one would see Jesus until the appointment in Galilee. But now as they went on their way to do as the angel said, look (the word makes it vivid), there was Jesus before them. Matthew says little about the manner of the meeting, simply that Jesus met them. It is not easy to convey the force of his greeting in English. I have tried with “Greetings,” but this is not a usual way of greeting someone we meet, though it was quite a normal thing to say in the first century. The Basic English translation renders it literally, “Be glad”; GNB reads “Peace be with you,” which was a normal Jewish greeting and may convey something of the meaning. But it was not what Matthew wrote. However, we should not engage in a lengthy discussion of this word as though it were important. The women clearly were not concerned with such matters. They were simply filled with joy at seeing Jesus himself, so they came to him.

R. T. France: The women’s touch, like the invitation to touch him and the eating of food in Luke 24:39–43, demonstrates to the reader the physical reality of Jesus’ risen body: he is not a ghost.

C.  (:10) Encouragement and Reminder of Their Reporting Mission

Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid;

go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they shall see Me.’

Grant Osborne: “My brethren” – This expression connotes acceptance and fellowship (cf. 12:48-50; 25:40), and in light of their desertion of him it connotes forgiveness and restoration.  Jesus restores them before they have even repented!

Craig Blomberg: He now calls the disciples his “brothers,” the only such place in the Gospels (but cf. Rom 8:29 and Heb 2:11), disclosing keen psychological insight. Not only does he show himself as still loving and accepting those who had abandoned him, but he even treats them as equals! In other words, they remain laborers with him in the work of the Father.  Jesus is neither denying his uniqueness nor deifying the disciples. But he is portraying the church as a brotherhood that manifests more equality than hierarchy, even if some functional differentiation between leaders and followers is clear from other Scriptures (e.g., 1 Pet 5:1-5; Heb 13:17).


Albert Mohler: As the women (who are the first to see the risen Jesus) report to the disciples, guards from the tomb report to the chief priests.  The religious leaders conspire together once again, fearing the potential threat to their power base if the truth of Jesus’ resurrection becomes public.  They pay the guards to circulate a false story among the Jews that negatively casts Jesus’ disciples as conspirators deceiving the people with the news of Jesus’ resurrection.

A.  (:11) Confession by the Guards to the Chief Priests

Now while they were on their way, behold, some of the guard came into the city

and reported to the chief priests all that had happened.

Leon Morris: They might have been expected to go to their own officers, but Pilate had placed the guard at the disposal of the Jewish authorities (27:65) and accordingly it was to them that they reported. In any case, they may well have hesitated to go to their own officers because they would have to confess that they had not prevented the removal of the body from the tomb. It is true that the body had not been stolen, but it might have been difficult to convey the truth of what had happened to skeptical Roman officers. Perhaps it was better to postpone facing certain military punishment as long as possible and to try any other course that seemed open. In any case, the Jewish authorities had been the ones who had understood the necessity of the guard, and some of the guard accordingly thought that the first approach should be made to the chief priests.

Charles Swindoll: Matthew pauses his account of the miraculous, bodily resurrection of Jesus in order to turn attention to the lie that gave birth to a counternarrative  Having walked us through the eyewitness accounts of he women at the tomb and their encounter with angels as well as with Jesus Himself, the scene suddenly cuts away to drop in on Jesus’ opponents as they tried to turn the good news into fake news.  To the critics and enemies of Jeus, what really happened to the soldiers at the tomb was beside the point.

R. T. France: It is in Jerusalem that Jesus has been rejected and killed, as he had predicted, but with his resurrection that part of his story is now over. It will be far to the north in Galilee that the final phase of the story will begin in v. 16. But before the scene transfers to Galilee, we are given a last glimpse of the discredited Jerusalem régime, as the guards report back in “the city.” The chief priests and elders who have seemed to hold all the cards and who have so smugly celebrated their triumph over the northern prophet (27:41–43) are now in total disarray. Their careful plans to get rid of the new Galilean movement have unraveled, and they are left with an embarrassing failure to explain. The best thing they can do is to concoct a cover-up story, backed by bribes to the guards and, if necessary, also to the governor. So the last view we have of Jerusalem is of its leaders engaged in a sordid face-saving exercise, while the women are summoning Jesus’ disciples to meet their risen Lord back in the home territory of Galilee. Jerusalem, which has throughout the gospel been a symbol of opposition to God’s purpose and of judgment to come, can be left to wallow in its own discomfiture, while the reader turns with relief to Galilee, the place where once again light is dawning (4:14–16).

B.  (:12-15a) Counsel of the Jewish Religious Leaders

  1. (:12)  Bribing the Soldiers to Coopt Their Testimony

“And when they had assembled with the elders and counseled together,

they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers,

Robert Gundry: The chief priests and elders have no excuse for their unbelief. From unprejudiced eyewitnesses (some of the guardsquad) they now know that Jesus has indeed been raised from the dead, that the sign of Jonah, which he promised to give the scholars and Pharisees (12:38–40), has now been given. Furthermore, the soldiers’ report included “all the things that had happened.” So the chief priests’ and elders’ unbelief runs counter to full information as well as unprejudiced eyewitness. . .  The bribery of the soldiers exposes the Jewish authorities’ lack of honesty, and the large size of the sum it took to silence the soldiers argues for the truth of Jesus’ resurrection and the falsity of the rumor concocted by those authorities and about to be circulated by the soldiers. Moreover, “the considerable sum of silver coins” given the soldiers contrasts with the paltry sum of thirty silver coins given Judas Iscariot to betray Jesus. By paying more to the soldiers than they did to Judas, the Jewish authorities show greater concern to squelch the news of Jesus’ resurrection than they did to get him killed.

John MacArthur: So, those were the three resolutions.

  1. Bribe the soldiers,
  2. tell them to preach that the disciples stole the body
  3. and cover the soldiers if they get in trouble with Pilate.

Now, that is a planned resolution voted on and passed in the Sanhedrin. And what it tells us and what Matthew intends it to tell us is that the apostasy of the nation of Israel was final. Here their Messiah has risen from the dead and they are not the least bit interested in affirming whether or not it is true. They know a supernatural event occurred because an angel was there and an earthquake was there and the phenomena that occurred communicates that. They are not interested in investigating that. They don’t want to know anything about that. They are obstinate in their apostasy and they willfully reject Christ no matter what the evidence is. . .

What Matthew is showing us is anything but the resurrection is an absurdity. It offends our reason. It offends our logic. It offends the facts. And thus does Matthew prove the resurrection by the lie. Men had to be paid to say the disciples stole the body. It’s a lie for which bribery was necessary. They had to say an absurdity. We know the disciples came and stole the body while we were asleep which is an absolute contradiction – makes no sense.

The simple testimony of Scripture and the complex testimony of Scripture is that Jesus rose from the dead and Matthew is telling us here that you can take the testimony of His friends or you can take the testimony of His enemies and you’re going to come up with the very same conclusion. And he includes the testimony of His enemies, as I said, for two reasons. Reason number one, it shows us the depth and the totality of the apostasy of Israel. And secondly, it is the most convincing evidence. Simon Greenleaf, a Harvard professor of law, some years ago wrote, “All that Christianity asks of men is that they would be consistent with themselves, that they would treat its evidences as they treat the evidence of other things and that they would try to judge its actors and witnesses as they deal with their fellow men when testifying to human affairs and actions in human tribunals. The result would be an undoubting conviction of their integrity, ability and truth.”

And as I said last time, it is the assessment of those who study the resurrection that there is no other historical event that is as truly and thoroughly attested to as the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The Lord arose. The folly of this hopeless explanation only demonstrates the reality of the resurrection. And because He lives, He gives life to all who believe in Him.

  1. (:13)  Fabricating an Explanation for the Empty Tomb

and said, ‘You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night

and stole Him away while we were asleep.’

Charles Swindoll: Just as His opponents and critics wanted Him dead when He was alive, they still wanted Him dead after he rose.  They concocted fake news in an attempt to countermand the great news of the Resurrection.  Then they paid a bribe to promote their story.

Donald Hagner: There is a comical aspect to these final two words since it simultaneously shows them to be irresponsible (some soldiers of the guard were supposed to have been awake through the night; the penalty for failure could amount to capital punishment) and raises the awkward question of how they knew what happened if they were sleeping, not to mention the fact that they would have had to be sleeping extremely soundly if they were not able to hear the large stone being rolled away from the door of the tomb.

  1. (:14)  Promising Protection from Political Reprisal

And if this should come to the governor’s ears,

we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.

Stu Weber: The guards were reluctant to agree to this solution. “What if the governor hears our false report? He will have us all killed!” So the Jewish leaders, the masters of deception, assured the guards that if Pilate heard the false rumor and sought to execute the guards, the Jewish leaders would intervene on their behalf: We will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.

Leon Morris: The guards must have taken some persuading to say that they had slept on the job. That was a serious offense and could bring down on them the heaviest of penalties. Moreover, they were to say that their slumbers had enabled the followers of Jesus to steal his body, though if they were asleep when the nefarious deed was done it is not easy to understand how they would know what had happened.  The guards were thus placing themselves in a hazardous position by putting out the story the chief priests had concocted. But they were also in a hazardous position if they did not do this. There was no denying that they had been put on guard to prevent the theft of a body. There was no denying that the body had been in the tomb when the stone was sealed. There was no denying that the body was no longer there. So on any showing they had failed as guards. They could, of course, have told of the coming of the angel and of what he had done. But who would believe them? Angels are not often seen by mortals, and this could well sound like a story concocted to cover up their failure. So they ran a risk. But they may well have thought that if they did as the chief priests suggested, at least they would have some people in high place who had an interest in making sure that their story was accepted.  If they refused, they were on their own.

C.  (:15a) Compliance of the Soldiers to This Scheme

And they took the money and did as they had been instructed;

D.  (:15b) Communication of This Fabricated Story

and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.

Charles Swindoll: The story’s effectiveness as propaganda is proven by the fact that when Matthew published his Gospel around AD 65, the story was still being spread among the unbelieving Jews (28:15).

William Barclay: It is interesting to note the means that the Jewish authorities used in their desperate attempts to eliminate Jesus.

  • They used treachery to lay hold of him.
  • They used illegality to try him.
  • They used slander to charge him before Pilate.
  • And now they were using bribery to silence the truth about him.

And they failed. Magna est Veritas et praevalebit, ran the Roman proverb; great is the truth and it will prevail. It is a fact of history that not all the evil machinations devised can in the end stop the truth. The gospel of goodness is greater than the plots of wickedness.