Wednesday, March 31, 2010
By Brenda Black
“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
“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. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
“The angel said to the women, 'Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 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.'
“So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. 'Greetings,' he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, 'Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.'
“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. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, 'You are to say, “his disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.” If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.' 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.” (Matthew 28)
An earthquake had occurred. An angel did descend. He rolled away the stone and there he sat watching mighty guards tremble in their boots, disabled with immobilizing fear. When they gathered the strength, they cowardly fled to seek help and alliances that would spare their lives from certain death for a job poorly managed.
An earthquake had occurred. An angel did descend. He rolled away the stone and there he sat greeting meek women who stood in awe. When they were comforted with the angel's calming plea, they courageously crept forward to see the place where Jesus lay.
While the guards dickered for their safety, accepted bribes and vowed to lie in order to save their own hides, the women, likewise alarmed and astonished, carried out a more noble plan with “fear and joy.” They hurried to their task and delivered good news.
The contrasting responses to one single, historical event made the difference. The resurrection calls for faith in action, not ignorance, nor indifference, nor antagonism!
You see, the crucifixion was a finished event with continuing consequences. And when the angel stated that the Lord was risen, he indicated that the act was merely a simple, undefined action. No big deal to the God who is able! God did the work and all we have to do is report the truth.
“Go quickly and tell,” the women were instructed. And they followed the edict without hesitation.
Why are we more like the soldiers who have far greater interest in guarding our reputations instead of humbly submitting? Why aren't we more like the ladies who risked accusation of insanity in order to speak the truth? What do we have to fear? “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” (Matt. 10:28) Be not ashamed of the gospel, “because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” (Romans 1:16)
The God who formed man from dirt could easily breathe life into a corpse. That same God who sent His Son as a ransom still keeps His word. If He did this, will He not be faithful to every other promise? The angel assured the women that Jesus was going ahead of them into Galilee, which meant he was leading them forward – out of the tomb, away from the grave and toward life eternal. Just as soon as they consented to believe the promise, they met Jesus face to face and fell at His feet to worship! He does the work and all Christ asks of us is to trust Him and tell others the truth so that they may be led out of death and into life too.
The Resurrection is a relay race, not a one-shot jump religion. God's only plan for spreading hope eternal is entrusted to us, as it was to Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome. “Do not be afraid. Go and tell...” Then, others will see me. Why not begin this Easter.