(Please read Matthew 28:1-10.)
MESSAGE: Joy is one of our greatest resources of faith. Our joy comes from the Resurrection.
CONTEXT: The previous section (27:62-66) introduces the Jewish clergy’s conspiracy to make sure there would be no deceit about the resurrection of Jesus. They asked the Roman governor to set a watch to keep Jesus’ disciples away from the tomb. This tells us two things: One, they were aware of Jesus’ promise to rise from the dead. This is important: they knew His teaching to this extent and yet still rejected Him! Two, they were so paranoid they anticipated a situation in which Jesus’ disciples would fake a resurrection.
The following section (MTW 28:11-15) is the conclusion of the conspiracy; the guards were bribed to create a false report, the Jewish clergy circulated the false report as a rumor, and the lie persisted to the days in which Matthew wrote his Gospel.
Matthew’s resurrection account is sandwiched in between these conspiracy notes. So Matthew’s purpose is to expose falsehood of the Jewish conspiracy with the truth.
- The evidence of the Resurrection.
One neglected bit of evidence contrary to the Jewish clergy’s “conspiracy theory” is Matthew’s evidence that there was no plot among the disciples to fake the Resurrection. We see this in all the details that show the disciples were not initially interested in the tomb.
– While travel was forbidden on the Sabbath, the Sabbath officially ended at sundown. If anyone wanted to get t/t tomb at the earliest possible moment, they’d have been there Saturday night. Yet none of the disciples approached the tomb until Sunday. In fact, if you were up to skullduggery, doing it Saturday night under the cover of darkness would make MORE SENSE.
– If anyone HAD tried to steal Jesus’ body, they would’ve run afoul of the soldiers guarding the tomb.
– Only the women approached the tomb. If they’d planned to steal Jesus’ body, it would have been done by a group of men with enough physical strength to roll back the heavy stone that closed off the tomb.
– Matthew tells us that the women went to LOOK AT THE TOMB. This is likely based on the traditional practice of the Jews to return to the tomb of a loved one for three straight days after death to make sure that they were truly dead. (Apparently lots of human cultures have fears of being buried alive.)
– The other Gospel writers tell us that the women brought spices to anoint the body of Jesus. There would be no need for these supplies if they were enacting a grave robbery OR expecting Jesus to be raised from the dead. They expected to find a corpse in the tomb, and had planned to deal with it there, not take it away.
A second bit of evidence is the EARTHQUAKE. Before they could make arrangements to have the stone rolled back, the women experienced a VIOLENT EARTHQUAKE. But the purpose of the EARTHQUAKE is not to roll the stone back; the text clearly says that the angel did that. The purpose is to announce the angel’s arrival and the fact that something important has happened. Notice that the tomb is already empty when the stone is rolled away. This was not done to let Jesus OUT, it was rolled away to let His disciples IN!
The third piece of evidence offered in Matthew’s Gospel is the ANGEL. Matthew’s description of the angel’s appearance offers us insight into the Resurrection. Most Bible descriptions of angels are understated. Matthew and Luke’s description are more supernatural.
– HIS APPEARANCE WAS LIKE LIGHTNING. In Matthew 24:27, LIGHTNING is used to illustrate the suddenness of Jesus’ Second Coming. Two aspects: the dazzling light of the glory of God and the suddenness of His appearing.
– HIS CLOTHES WERE WHITE AS SNOW. This expression was also used to describe Jesus at the Transfiguration (see Matthew 17:2). In Revelation 7:9, the great multitude of Jesus’ followers stand around God’s throne similarly dressed. It symbolizes the purity of the wearer.
– The appearance of the angel was so striking that THE GUARDS WERE SO AFRAID OF HIM THEY SHOOK AND BECAME LIKE DEAD MEN. This explains how the tomb was open without the soldiers being guilty of dereliction of duty.
We can also gain insight from the angel’s testimony.
– “I KNOW THAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR JESUS, WHO WAS CRUCIFIED.” Jesus appears to all who truly seek Him.
– “HE IS NOT HERE; HE HAS RISEN, JUST AS HE SAID” (see Matthew 16:21; 17, 23; 20:18-19 for instances where this promise was made). Though the disciples did not understand or believe them at the time, Jesus kept His promises.
– “COME AND SEE THE PLACE WHERE HE LAY.” The angel made them an invitation to use their physical senses.
– “THEN GO AND QUICKLY TELL HIS DISCIPLES…” QUICKLY is for the sake of the other disciples who were still sick with grief.
– “NOW I HAVE TOLD YOU.” From then on, they were responsible to obey or not.
The fourth and most significant piece of evidence for the resurrection is when Jesus appeared to them.
– SO THE WOMEN HURRIED AWAY FROM THE TOMB…AND RAN TO TELL HIS DISCIPLES. Their feet were propelled by excitement and a desire to obey.
– SUDDENLY JESUS MET THEM. The word SUDDENLY carries a lot of force in the Greek; in English, it might be, “WHAM! There He was!” The most important evidence for the Resurrection is all the people Jesus met after He rose from the dead.
– “GREETINGS,” HE SAID. This typical greeting feels out of place in this atypical situation.
- The women’s response to the Resurrection.
We learn first that they were AFRAID, YET FULL OF JOY. That exact reaction is the most logical one when a person truly encounters God. It sounds and feels like an odd mix, but it can be particularly energizing.
Second, they responded with obedience. The angel told them to “GO QUICKLY” so they RAN. This is a full, literal, and simple obedience. Obedience in time is part of a full obedience. To obey fully is to obey immediately. They were sensitive to how well received this news would be and they were understandably eager to tell Jesus’ BROTHERS (a gracious term!).
Third, worship. This word combines two Greek words; “to kiss” & “to bow.” It is a word picture of the posture and the attitude of worship; deference given to an authority figure. It was customary in that culture, to show respect for someone important to kneel before them and kiss the hem of their robe. While it sounds strange to us that the women CLASPED THE FEET of Jesus, this was the most appropriate behavior in the situation. They expressed complete submission to Jesus.