After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 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.”
8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened.12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Hallelujah he is risen! Happy Easter everyone! I hope you have a joyful day on this day of commemorating Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus is always with us – to the very end of the age, as he says, but in Lent (and Advent) we recognize our “apartness,” if you will, from Christ, and it is always a good spiritual feeling to reconnect. I have a few short, disparate thoughts that don’t really form a cohesive blog post, but I wanted to share them with you anyway because I believe they’re all worth mentioning.
First, let’s talk about the Marys. Jesus had his disciples, but there were also women in his life, and I just want to take a moment to recognize all the wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, and girlfriends who do the hard emotional and physical work of caring for someone. It isn’t just women’s work – I know some incredibly caring men, but it seems that more often than not the role of caretaker falls to women. I watched my mother-in-law take care of her mother for five years, when she broke her hip at 99 to her death at 104. Her mother had been living with her before she broke her hip, but was then incapacitated to the point of my mother in law having to help her dress, bathe, make all her meals, and truly care for her mother’s every need. She did this with such grace and love, and it really left an impression on me. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joses suffered one of the hardest ordeals someone can go through: standing helplessly by while someone you love dies – not only dies, but suffers and dies. But they did not turn away. They stood by, offering their presence, their witness, as whatever small comfort they could to Jesus on the cross. Then, as soon as it was possible for them to do so – dawn of the day after the Sabbath – they went to sit vigil at Jesus’ tomb. It was very possible the guards there would have harassed them – they had been posted to make sure none of Jesus’ followers messed with the body. But risking abuse they went anyway. To all the women out there tending to hard needs of others – the needs of an ailing child or spouse or parent, making funeral arrangements for someone recently passed, dealing with a loved one’s addiction, or whatever your personal challenge may be, I offer you a heart-felt blessing on this Easter Sunday.
Second I want to point out vv. 11-15 as another example of Matthew’s careful, legalistic writing style. This account of the guard’s report only occurs in Matthew. I think he was sure to include it as a way to refute any evidence or rumors a contemporary reader might bring against Jesus’ resurrection. Matthew, once again, is making sure to cover all bases here.
The last bit of Matthew, v. 16-20, are called the Great Commission, and I like this ending best out of all the gospels. It is succinct and forthright-mostly. I’m afraid “go and make disciples out of all nations” may have been perverted throughout history to forcibly convert people, such as in the Crusades. But, if we remember what Jesus said in John 13:34,35: “Love one another. As I have loved you…by this all men will know that you are my disciples,” then really, the Great Commission is a simple request. As the oldest child, my mother always taught me that I had a great responsibility to lead by example for my younger siblings. Well, we all have the great responsibility to lead by example. And if we lead a life filled with love, guided by love, then not only will we positively impact those with whom we come into contact, we set a shining example for those watching us: our children, our neighbors, our coworkers and friends. So, dear friends, on this Easter Sunday I remind you of our Great Commission: our duty to obey everything Jesus commanded us, and our duty to teach – by example – of God’s love. Jesus is with us until the end of the age, let’s make sure everyone else knows.
I’ll be taking a quick break for the rest of the week, and returning next Sunday. We’ve read about a third of Matthew already, so I’m going to spend the next few weeks finishing the other chapters, starting with chapter 4. Happy Easter, see you next week!