Matthew’s account of the events that day, the day of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, varies from that of Mark and Luke, and while we can discuss that some other time, I would point out that Matthew’s account carries forward His emphasis throughout the narrative of both Kingdom and the messianic mission of Jesus; in fact, these two themes are virtually inseparable: Jesus’ messianic mission was to establish His kingdom, which is not of this world. No, I haven’t forgotten that Jesus came to die on the cross for the redemption of Mankind; rather I am asserting that He did so in order to establish the Kingdom as a present reality.
Early on the first day of the week, which is the day after the Sabbath (Sunday), the women come to see the tomb. Unlike Mark and Luke, Matthew doesn’t get into the exact purpose for this. They arrive and then God springs into action again: There is a violent earthquake, as the angel of the Lord comes down and rolls the stone away from the tomb, and sits down on it and speaks to the women.
If you recall, we have seen the angel of the Lord speaking before in Matthew’s Gospel, way back when it was time to announce the birth of the Lord. Here he is again, only this time he bears an even more exciting message: He has risen!
Notice in verse 2 the contrast between that stone which was sealed and guarded at the behest of the Jewish authorities has now been thrown open and the angel sits on it, making clear the futility of the actions of the Jewish leaders to suppress God’s purpose. Notice also that the guards were still there and saw the whole thing and ironically fall down as though they were the dead ones, while the dead One had just risen from the grave. That’s some nifty writing if you ask me!
The angel quickly interprets the events for the women, gives them instructions, and invites them to see for themselves; they look in the empty tomb and hurry off. We shouldn’t pass this by without taking notice that God set events into motion so that women were the witness to all of this. In those days, few would likely believe a couple of hysterical women, but the only men present were the guards, who lay terrified on the ground: Interesting point to consider.
As the women hurried off, who do you suppose they would run into?
Well Jesus, who else? He tells them not to be afraid, and confirms their instructions…
Those guards were still back at the tomb with a really tough decision to make; could they possibly tell the truth about what had happened, who would believe them? I must say that at first, they made the courageous choice; they went to the high priests and actually told the truth. Now, the chief priests were on the spot: What would they do?
It was as though they now had one last chance to turn things around, for here were two terrified guards, veterans of brutal war, tough guys, who had just witnessed the resurrection of Jesus. The chief priests could have believed them, and it would seem that they actually did believe them, but rather than repent before God, they came up with a plan to deceive Mankind.
And to think that just the other day, they had asked for guards to be posted to keep the “deceiver” in His grave. Who was really the deceiver? In fact, “deceiver” is an interesting choice of words, for is not Satan the “Deceiver”?
They bribed the guards to tell a lie, and then bribed Pilate not to have them killed for falling asleep on guard duty. As if their actions hadn’t sunk low enough in having Jesus murdered, now they actually found a way to sink even lower; you might want to keep in mind next time you read the book of Acts, that the chief priest really knew the truth about Jesus, and we can prove it, for if they hadn’t believed the guards, then why they need to bribe them?