A journey with the Apostle Matthew has taken us on a circuitous route, or sinuous if you like. It has been fraught with danger, and filled with expectation of what lay beyond the next bend. We have journeyed in and out of Israel, found those who are faithful and those who are not. It is as we say journey of highs and lows but with the Messiah always in charge. Today in Matthew 28 will be no different. Today we will see that what men contrived for evil God will turn to fulfill His ultimate plan that all nations would hear, all men would decide for or against, all believers would have the promise of “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Matthew tells us that it is in that the semi-darkness women have left their beds to walk to a cemetery to “look” at a tomb. Matthew leaves us wondering, yet wants us to focus in on the miracle unfolding. He points to the earthquakes, both as Jesus uttered “It is finished,” to the timing of the resurrection. Just as God dispelled darkness and ushered in light so too here God dispels the darkness with a stroke of light along with an earthquake and the moving of a tombstone as if it were a pebble. The messengers of the Lord who announced the coming Messiah come now to announce His resurrection. He is no longer wrapped in the cloak of death but is risen “just as he said.” Matthew Henry wrote: “On the first day of the first week God commanded the light to shine out of darkness. On this day did He who is the Light of the world, shine out of the darkness of the grave.”
In this same time frame there are guards who see the miraculous of the tomb opening, an angel whose appearance was like lightning and faint as dead men. Upon awakening from this faint, they rush to the side of the religious leaders to share the news only to be given large sums of hush money with the promise of “we will protect you.” Instead of the truth just say the disciples came while you slept and stole the body. It reeks with the breaking of yet another commandment: “do not bear false witness.” The religious leaders had asked Jesus for a sign from heaven, yet when given, they add insult to injury and deny themselves and others the right to eternity. Truly Jesus was right when he said: Mat 23:13 “But woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You keep locking people out of the kingdom of heaven! For you neither enter nor permit those trying to enter to go in. The plainest evidence will not affect the hardest hearts of men without the illumination of the Spirit of the living God.
Thus the guards’ fear along with the religious leaders denial and total rejection of God’s sign will be to encapsulate them like the grave shroud that Jesus shed. It will encase their minds and physical being and will remain with them until they face eternity where they will hear God’s voice utter: “I never knew you.”
In contrast the fear that the women face is quickly discarded with a stroke of light as it illuminates not just an angelic being but an empty grave. Their fear turns to joy when they hear two times “do not be afraid,” first from the angel and then from the lips of our risen Lord. Their immediate fear is banished by God’s messenger and His Beloved Son in whom He is well pleased. That is what happens to us when we accept the Risen Savior as the Resurrected Christ, our fear turns to joy and unlike the guards who cowered in fear we shout and praise God: “Hallelujah.”
As you ponder all of this closing segment of Matthew, may you also search your heart. There is a principle we would gather here: When we come with pure hearts, we are given great and mighty blessings. When our hearts are defiled those blessings are withheld not only now but for all eternity.