After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the LORD came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Matthew 28:1-8
These verses always make me smile (sorry!) The men, the guards at the tomb, fainted dead away at the sight of the angel and the earthquake. But, when the angel turned to give the good news to the women, they were still standing. Not only did the women not collapse in fear, they were able to make their legs work to run and give the disciples the angel’s message.
But I think the reasons behind why the men and the women were there at the tomb gives the clue to their respective responses to the angel. The women were there out of love for Jesus, to serve him one more time. They had been there with him in his life; they had followed him and listened to him and saw his love and care and healing touch. At least one of them had received healing herself. But, they had both heard Jesus say he would rise again.
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Matthew 16:21
They were there to take care of his dead body, but in the back of their minds must have flickered that great hope of the resurrection. In spite of the hopeless situation, they clung to that hope. And when they saw the angel, that hope must have flamed up.
The guards were there because they had been told to keep the tomb secure. It was a assignment, nothing more. They may have seen and heard Jesus, they definitely had heard about him. But, they didn’t know him. They had not put their faith and hope in him as the women had. It reminds me of a couple of verses.
Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 2 Corinthians 3:12 (NIV)
Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10 (NIV)
Hope gave the women boldness to stand before the angel. Joy gave them strength to run with the message. Let us also boldly run with joy to carry the Good News!
For love is as strong as death… Song of Songs 8:12
He is not here; he has risen!
He is risen indeed!
Image in the Public Domain: He is Risen, the First Easter by Arthur Hughes (1832-1915)