Scripture: Matthew 28:1-10
Key verses: (12-13) ” After the priests had assembled with the elders, they devised a plan to give a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them, “You must say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’” (v. 12-13)
Reflection: There is a story in the Gospels that we don’t include during Holy Week and Easter. It is full of intrigue and cover-up. It begins in Matthew 27: 62-66. The chief priests and Pharisees went before Pilate and said they thought Jesus’ disciples would steal his body out of the tomb in order to fulfill his last deception about being raised from the dead. Pilate agreed to have guards posted at the tomb. They sealed it and made it secure. In the Gospel of Matthew, the resurrection happens on the first day of the week when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to visit the tomb. When they arrived, there was a great earthquake and an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and rolled back the stone and sat on it. Scripture says, the guards shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women: “He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.” The guards failed at their task and the body was gone even though the tomb was sealed. They made the report to the chief priests and they were paid off to be quiet.
Scholars have determined that this story is not literal history because Roman soldiers would never report back to the chief priests. So, why is this passage included in scripture? Does it help our understanding of the resurrection?
While this story is a “reflection of the controversy that was present between the synagogue and the church of Matthew’s own time”, it is something more. It invites us into the mystery of faith and how God works in the world. Belief in an empty tomb and a risen Lord are not the same as resurrection faith. This is not a one-time event or an accomplishment. Resurrection faith is based on the experience of the presence of Christ in our lives. God does something miraculous that we believe by faith and the testimony of those first disciples. It seems impossible and improbable. But, resurrection faith gives us hope that God continues to work in our world, and this changes everything.
Prayer: Almighty God, we give thanks for resurrection from the dead. Forgive us, because sometimes we doubt, yet we are grateful for the witness of those first disciples who encountered you and shared the remarkable story of an empty tomb and a risen Lord. We thank you for resurrection faith that inspires us to love and to serve. We give thanks for resurrection faith that gives us hope in the midst of despair; faith in the midst of doubt and love in the midst of pain and hardship. Be with us today as we live out our faith. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Author: Deborah Conner
[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].