Matthew’s gospel comes to an end with these verses. The other gospels spend more time with Jesus and his disciples after the resurrection. Matthew skips right to the point. Jesus answers the question “how will the disciples move forward in their new reality?” We can take the message to heart as well. Our reality is also having a relationship with a resurrected Lord.
So, let’s unpack these verses a little bit to see what it tells us. First of all, the disciples obeyed. They went to the designated place in Galilee to meet up with Jesus. Think for a moment about how they must have been feeling. Talk about a roller coaster of emotions! Over the last number of days (and the text doesn’t tell us for sure how many) they had experienced confusion, fear, disbelief, sorrow, hopelessness, and unspeakable joy. Can you relate to these emotions? Imagine all of them within the course of a few days!?
If you’ve been a Christian for as long as I have (or longer), you’ve heard the resurrection story over and over. It never gets old, does it? Jesus’ victory over sin and death is the basis for our faith. If there was no empty tomb, our faith would have no basis. The religious leaders certainly wanted us to forget about Jesus. Their sinfulness continues as they bribe the guards to make up a story.
But the two Marys saw it all. They felt the earth tremble. They saw the angel move the great stone away. What a radiant creature this angel was. While the women were surely afraid, their fear was nothing like the soldiers on guard who fainted dead away. They certainly weren’t expecting that were they? They had been expecting the disciples to sneak up and take Jesus’ body away.
It was the Sabbath. The religious leaders were on a mission to make sure that the tomb Jesus was in was secure. Would they have thought it wrong to be “working” on the Sabbath? They always gave Jesus a hard time with that. What did you think about their request?
It was interesting that they remembered what Jesus had said about what would happen in three days. Why were they so concerned? Did they secretly believe that Jesus would actually come back to life?
God’s plan is moving along, and Jesus’ life as a man has now ended. The sins of the world were atoned for in this moment. Did any of the details Matthew recalls surprise you? There were a couple for me. I hadn’t recalled the dead being raised and leaving the cemetery. And, I was surprised Matthew didn’t mention Jesus’ mother directly as being present at the cross. She had to have been there, right?
Let’s look a little at the torn veil or curtain in the sanctuary of the temple. This is significant, and we might just miss the beautiful imagery of this moment. Up to this day, the temple had been a hub of gathering for the faithful Jews, where animals were sacrificed, and where worship took place. The laws Moses introduced from God had prescribed how this facility would be used.
Oh the bullying that went on that day! From the over the top arrest, to the laughable trial, to the mockery and treacherous abuse. Now we see people down right bullying Jesus. What does he do? He takes the ‘high road’ and avoids the confrontation. God knows the truth. But oh for the disillusioned people!
Reading about Jesus’ crucifixion always elicits extreme emotion for me. Whether I see it enacted on the screen or simply read the words, I am moved. Many times, I’m moved to weeping. The “ugly cry” you might say. “God love me that much,” I think to myself. How do we respond to a text such as this?