"Do Not Be Afraid . . . The Tomb Is Empty!" Bible Study on Matthew 28:1-10
April 9, 2020, 1:27 PM

Dear Members & Friends,

It's Maundy Thursday in the yera of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Normally on Maunday Thursday, we would gather to celebrate Jesus' Last Supper with his disciples and to remember the events leading up to Jesus' crucifixion.  Given our present crisis, I would like to look ahead to Easter Sunday through the lens of Matthew's resurrection account.

Matthew 28:1-10 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Resurrection of Jesus

28 After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 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. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he[a] lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead,[b] and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” 8 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

This Easter Sunday, the Church throughout the world asserts that the resurrection is the foundation of and the motivation for mission, that is, spreading the good news that the tomb is empty.  Jesus is alive!  The Risen Christ is walking with us at a time of great uncertainty.  But we might also be prompted by Matthew to note that according to the story, Jesus always used thoroughly flawed people in his mission.  Where does Jesus go after the resurrection?  He goes to Galilee.  Galilee is not only at the border between the Gentile and Jewish world, but it is also the place where Jesus' mission began.  If his disciples are going to meet and be with the Risen Christ, it will have to be first in Galilee, the home region of all of Jesus' twelve disciples.

Galilee is therefore the hometown of twelve disappointing failures at discipleship.  When the goining got rough, all of the disciples fled into the darkness in that night between Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.  All of the disciples betrayed and disappointed Jesus in one way or another.  And now, in his resurrection, they are to meet him in Galilee.  By meeting them first and by meeting them in Galilee, Jesus bodily hows that they are forgiven their failures.  When Jesus refers to them, he calls them not "my would-be, but not really (because of their failures) disciples," rather he tenderly calls them his "brothers" (Matthew 28:10).  They betrayed Jesus and deserted him; but he does not desert them.  He restores them as his ambassadors and entrusts to them once again his good news to bear into the world, representing Jesus to the world.  We are called to do the same.

We can't prove the resurrection of Jesus.  Here is an event beyond our ways of understanding and explaining the world.  Most of us think about things on the basis of our human experience -- what we see is what we get.  But the resurrection is, by its nature, something quite beyond the realm of human experience and therefore of human explanation.  The women are sent out by the angel, and then by Jesus, not to explain Easter but rather to witness to the reality of Easter.  It's an inexplicable mystery, to be sure, but Easter is also a reality.  While Easter was unexpected by the first witnesses, it is a surprise that in retrospect was in keeping with the rest of the Trinity's dealings with humanity.  The God who loved and stuck with Israel is a God determined to love us not only in this world, this life, but in any life to come, determined to defeat anything that might hinder God from loving us all the way into eternity.  For a God of eternal, undying love, nothing less than eternity will do.

What a blessing it is to represent a God who sends us forth to proclaim that the tomb is empty!

Abundant Blessings,

Pastor Greg Rupright


04-09-2020 at 8:33 PM
Pat May
Another excellent lesson which makes us think far beyond Easter...
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