Above five hundred brethren at once. More than five hundred Christians or followers of Jesus at one time. This was probably in Galilee, where the Lord Jesus had spent the greater part of his public ministry, and where he had made most disciples. The place, however, is not designated, and of course cannot be known. It is remarkable that this fact is omitted by all the evangelists; but why they should have omitted so remarkable a proof of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus is unknown. There is a slight circumstance hinted at in Mt 28:10, which may throw some light on this passage. After his resurrection, Jesus said to the women who were at the sepulchre, "Go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me." And in Mt 28:16 it is said, "The eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them." Jesus had spent most of his public life in Galilee. He had made most of his disciples there. It was proper, therefore, that those disciples who would of course hear of his death, should have some public confirmation of the fact that he had risen. It is very probable, also, that the eleven who went down into Galilee after he rose would apprize the brethren there of what had been said to them, that Jesus would meet them on a certain mountain; and it is morally certain that they who had followed him in so great numbers in Galilee would be drawn together by the report that the Lord Jesus, who had been put to death, was about to be seen there again alive. Such is human nature, and such was the attachment of these disciples to the Lord Jesus, that it is morally certain a large concourse would assemble on the slightest rumour that such an occurrence was to happen. Nothing more would be necessary anywhere to draw a concourse of people than a rumour that one who was dead would appear again; and in this instance, where they ardently loved him, and when, perhaps, many believed that he would rise, they would naturally assemble in great numbers to see him once more. One thing is proved by this, that the Lord Jesus had many more disciples than is generally supposed. If there were five hundred who could be assembled at once in a single part of the land where he had preached, there is every reason to suppose that there were many more in other parts of Judea.
The greater part remain unto this present. Are now alive, and can be appealed to, in proof that they saw him. What more conclusive argument for the truth of his resurrection could there be than that five hundred persons had seen him, who had been intimately acquainted with him in his life, and who had become his followers? If the testimony of five hundred could not avail to prove his resurrection, no number of witnesses could. And if five hundred men could thus be deceived, any number could; and it would be impossible to substantiate any simple matter of fact by the testimony of eye-witnesses.
But some are fallen asleep. Have died. This is the usual expression employed in the Scriptures to describe the death of saints. It denotes
(1.) the calmness and peace with which they die, like sinking into a gentle sleep;