The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest event in the history of the world. It is the very foundation and heart of the Christian faith. Everything that we are and have and ever hope to be - is based on the reality of the resurrection. There is no Christianity without the resurrection. In fact we would be without hope and foolish indeed, if Christ has not risen from the grave.
We are going to briefly look at the Gospel of Matthew’s account of the resurrection. Each of the Gospel accounts; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, uniquely record in their own way the resurrection of Jesus. Each account has its own ‘flavour’ that ties in with the purpose of its author. So Matthew for example focuses in on the response of the women who were the first witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus. Please read Matthew’s account and note the responses of the women to the resurrection. And my prayer is that we too will be able to identify with these responses as we encounter the living Saviour by faith today (Read Matthew 28:1-10).
The first response was that these women were grieving at the death of Jesus. They loved Jesus more than anyone else. They had served Jesus in Galilee. They had attended to his needs. They had journeyed with him to Jerusalem. They were at the cross and the place where he was buried (Matthew 27:56,61). They were loyal, devoted and loving. Matthew’s account identifies two women; Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (Matthew 27:56;John 19:25). The other Gospel accounts add; Mary the mother of James and Joses, and Salome (Mark 16:1), Joanna (Luke 24:10), and possibly others. They arrive at the tomb at sunrise on Sunday morning. They had come to see the grave. They came with spices to anoint the body of Jesus. Their purpose was not to see a resurrection but to anoint a corpse. For one last time they wanted to reach out in love and sympathy to the One they adored. This was an act of compassion. Mark’s account tells us that as they were walking along they were discussing how they were going to remove the stone. What they lacked in faith and understanding, they made up for in love and courage. We could ask, “Where were the disciples???”
The second response is fear. No sooner do they come near the tomb and their grieving quickly turns to fear (v.2). Something dramatic had happened. A great earthquake had taken place, caused by an angel who had descended from heaven to open the tomb. The angel opened the tomb not to let Jesus out for he had already risen but to let the women in and then later the disciples (John 20:26). The women arrive and see the tomb open and the guards like dead men on the ground! Mary Magdalene possibly leaves at this point to rush back to Jerusalem to tell Peter and John (John 20:3). Not only had there been an earthquake and the tomb was open but also an angel of the Lord is sitting on the stone (v.2-4). His appearance was like lightning and his clothes as white as snow, radiating the glory of God. Whereas the guards had shaken and become like dead men; the women, although terrified, were sustained by the angel himself (v.5-7;Luke 24:3-4,8;Mark 16:5-6). 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... Those who seek Jesus need not be afraid. Luke tells us that a second angel was present as well (Luke 24:4).
Their fear turns to joy. They were afraid, yet filled with joy so they ran to tell the disciples (v.8-10). Can you appreciate the sense of simply being overwhelmed with this good news about Jesus? Their heartbeats are racing at a rate much more than 100mph! Suddenly Jesus meets them - Greetings he said (v.9). Jesus meets them, alive from the dead. In his resurrection glory, the Son of God who has just conquered death; in a simple, warm and human way, simply stops these women whom he loves and with tenderness says - Hello!
Their joy now turns to worship. Immediately in recognizing Jesus this group of women fall prostrate before Jesus clasping his feet and worshiping him (v.9). Jesus quieted their fears (v.10) and commissions them to tell the disciples that they should go to Galilee where he would meet them again. Jesus refers to the disciples as my brothers (John 20:17;Matthew 28:10). This shows not only the spiritual relationship he had with them but also his affection for them and acceptance of them - even though they had deserted him. Worship leads to our final response from the women in this passage - Hope. It is our response too.
Worship leads to hope and hope leads to calling. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; they will see me there’ (v.10). Hope is defined as something tangible - they will see Jesus again! But hope here is also expanded in meaning to become something global. They would see him in Galilee - the place of the Gentiles - not Jerusalem. We have the setting for the great commission; the message of the risen Saviour was for the people of all nations. The risen Saviour, the hope of the world! And so off they ran with this new message for the disciples. Yes - Jesus is alive and we have got a job to do!
And so we have seen a whole range of progressive responses, when the women met the risen Saviour; from grief to fear, then joy to worship, and then finally hope. What is your response to the risen Saviour today? It is only when we also respond in faith, that we also move from grief and fear to joy, worship and hope. Yes - that is our first response today - faith!
That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.’ (Romans 10:9)
May you have a blessed Easter!