Scripture: Matthew 28:1-16
Key verse: (2) “And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.”
Reflection: Each of the gospels offers us a different version of that first Easter morning. Mark’s is the most “human,” the most “this-worldly.” When the women arrive at the tomb, the stone is already rolled away, and they encounter a man in a white robe in the tomb who tells them Jesus has been raised. In Luke, the women enter the empty tomb and then are met by “two men in dazzling clothes.” They ask a powerful question, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” John offers the most intimate account, with Mary Magdalene coming by herself while it is still dark, seeing the stone rolled away and running to tell Peter and John that someone has stolen the body. The three run back to the tomb. Peter and John see that it is empty and go home, but Mary stays, weeping. She is met by a man she supposes to be the gardener. But when he says her name, she realizes it’s Jesus.
Matthew offers the most supernatural version of Easter. He tells us about a great earthquake that announces an otherworldly visitor, an angel whom they watch roll away the stone, and perch himself upon it. Beyond dazzling clothes, his appearance is like lighting, his clothing white as snow. In Matthew, there are guards watching over the tomb, but they become like dead men, terrified by what’s unfolding before them. He proclaims the resurrection to them, and they run to tell the disciples. On the way, they run into Jesus himself, who tells them, “Don’t be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” Wow!
What are we to make of these different versions? What can they teach us about resurrection? Perhaps sometimes new life comes to us in quiet ways, in “this-worldly” ways. We’re not even really sure what’s happening, but looking back we realize new life has come. Sometimes new life comes upon us like an earthquake, shaking us to our core, blinding us like a bolt of lightning, leaving us shaking in our boots. All the Easter stories have one thing in common. All share one phrase: “Do not be afraid.” Perhaps that’s the most important message of Eastertide for us. On the other side of every cross we face, new life awaits. Sometimes it’s the cross that frightens us. Sometimes it’s the new life on the other side of that cross. But we need not fear, for new life will always come. New life is what God is all about.
Prayer: We pray for those who face a cross this day, O God. Whatever it is in their lives that represents the end of life as they have known it. In whatever way you see fit, be it quietly or with supernatural force, we pray your resurrection power will bring new life to them on the other side of every cross they face. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].