by Mike Ratliff
Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. (Matthew 28:1-4 ESV)
Jesus is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! According to Paul in his first epistle to the church in Corinth, the doctrine of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the lynchpin of our faith.
But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:13-14 ESV)
If the resurrection of Christ is not true then Christianity is based on a myth and our faith is in vain. Therefore, we must hold tightly to the fact that our Lord is Risen. On the morning of our Lord’s resurrection there were several people who witnessed different aspects of it. Their responses to it varied drastically.
Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. (Matthew 28:1 ESV)
We know from the other Gospels, (Mark, Luke and John), that these two Marys were not alone. In Mark 16 we see that Salome was also present. In any case why did they come to the tomb early on Sunday morning? Jesus had been buried hurriedly because the Sabbath was beginning and no one was allowed to do common work until it ended. This included embalming and preparing corpses. They had prepared spiced to anoint the body of Jesus. What was their motivation? They loved the Lord and were devoted to Him. They wanted to be wherever He was. Isn’t this the heart of all genuine believers? All whose hearts have been touched by the Grace of God want more than life itself to be with their Lord. This is what motivated these women to attempt to do this. This will also show itself when these women meet the resurrected Lord face to face in vv8-10.
And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. (Matthew 28:2-4 ESV)
The next response to the resurrection of our Lord was the guards terror and the dread of the Jewish religious leaders. The Sanhedrin had placed the guard there to make sure no one stole the body of Jesus to make it look like He had rose from the dead. They dreaded that event more than anything because it would mean that Jesus was who He claimed to be and their resistance to His ministry would make them His enemies. Well, that part was true wasn’t it? When the guards saw the angel who rolled the stone away they became so frightened that they fainted.
But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” (Matthew 28:5-7 ESV)
The angel’s presence and his message caused confusion and fear in the women. The last time they saw Jesus, He was dead and being placed in the tomb. Now, the tomb was empty and an angel whose appearance was like lightening was telling them that Jesus was risen. He also gave them a message to deliver to the disciples. If we looked at every encounter between angels and people in the Bible the first thing that would come out of the mouth of the angel would be, “Fear not!” These grieving women suddenly come upon the miraculous and this caused them both fear and confusion.
So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:8-10 ESV)
The women left the tomb quickly in both fear and joy. What a interesting combination of emotions. They had been given the news, but they had not yet seen the Lord. Then they met Him face-to-face. What did He say to them? The ESV renders it as “Greetings!” The Greek word here is ‘χαιρετε’ or ‘chairo.’ It is simply a greeting that is meant to encourage. It was as if Jesus met them and said, “Rejoice!” What was their next response? They fell at His feet, grabbed Him, and worshiped Him. This is based in these events as well as their love and devotion to Him. I have thought about this a great deal. What will I do when I first see my Lord face to fact? Well, I believe I will do exactly what these women did here. Jesus gives them a message to deliver to the disciples that is the same one that the angel gave them earlier.
While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day. (Matthew 28:11-15 ESV)
In this passage we have the response to the resurrection of our Lord by the guards and the chief priests. We see here that even though they knew the facts of the resurrection, they still resorted to manipulation and deception. When we share the Gospel with people today don’t the vast majority of them scoff and refuse to believe?
The Gospel must be freely given to all people. Each person must be given a chance to believe. Those who believe are those who see their sin and how it separates them from God. They see the offer of salvation and then believe in Jesus, receiving Him as Lord and Saviour. On the other hand, most people hear the Gospel, but reject it because they perceive that if they believe they will have to change their lifestyle. The tragic thing in our day is the move to make the Gospel relevant by taking away the offense of the cross and need to repent. This way people can believe that they are Christians by becoming religious without changing their lifestyles.
What is your response to the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ?