Insert text here.
The empty tomb seemed like empty talk, until these women actually saw Jesus alive! Afraid yet filled with joy, they worshiped and then returned to tell the others.
Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. There was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. The guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.
The angel answered and said to the women, "Do not be afraid, I know you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
"Go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him." So they went out from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.
As they went, behold, Jesus met them, saying, "Rejoice!" So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me."
Matthew 28:1-10 NKJV, condensed
Looking for Jesus
Matthew grabs our attention with an earthquake. He also noted one when Jesus died. When the earth is rocked to its foundations, we rework our priorities and do not live life as usual anymore. On Easter morning those with power, the guards, fell down like dead men. Those without power, the ministering women, spoke with an angel and met the risen Christ.
When the stone is rolled away, Jesus is already gone! The rolling of the stone is not to let Jesus out, but to let us in. We are invited to come and see where he lay. The angel sits like a victor on the stone that once blocked our view.
The Gospels differ slightly in their accounts of the resurrection. But all agree that a few early-bird women were the first on the scene, the boulder moved sufficiently to reveal an empty tomb, the followers of Jesus weren't expecting anything but a dead body, belief is difficult, and most important of all--Jesus rose victorious over death.
We also know the only way for the life and teachings of Jesus to survive into future generations is for his followers to spread the news of his resurrection. To do so, we must name our fears, shed the sadness, and REJOICE. Joy, especially in a cemetery, attracts attention. Joy implies hope. People wonder, "How can you be happy in a graveyard?" The answer is, "Because Jesus is alive!" In this context, rejoicing is connected to the promise of seeing Jesus.
As the two Marys went in faith to do what the angel said, Jesus came to them in a form they never expected. And greeted them with a word they thought they would not experience that day. It was so unreal they spontaneously did something they had never done before. They grabbed his feet. Falling at someone's feet implies humility and the need for mercy, or maybe adoration, reverence, awe, or gratitude. We worship that which we deem to have the highest possible value. We grab hold of that which we do not want to lose. Never again did these women want to be separated from their Lord and Master, their Savior and Friend.
These women couldn't explain what happened that day. Their thoughts both thrilled and frightened them. It was all so new and incomprehensible. But still they hurried to tell the others what they had seen, heard and experienced. They felt it. They knew it. Jesus was alive! But could these women persuade anyone else to believe them? Joy is a winsome trait. Everyone wants to be happy. But emotionally the followers of Jesus had been severely burnt by the events of his crucifixion and didn't want to invite further harm. Grief and distrust obstructed their vision. They did not dare believe in a living Lord.
"Go to Galilee!" Galilee was the place to get reconnected. Returning to their familiar stomping ground should not be misconstrued as a return to the good old days. It wasn't about resurrecting the old images of Jesus. Remember--God is doing a new thing. True, they were going to Galilee to regain their faith and rekindle their hope in the kingdom of heaven. But more than that the disciples needed to open heart and mind to the Easter message of resurrection and rebirth.
Something must die, or be given up, in order for new life to come into being. A tiny seed is planted in the dark earth and in its time pushes upward toward the sun a totally different entity. Larvae spun into a camouflaged cocoon break forth as butterflies. So is it any wonder that God's children emerge from the graves of defeat, desolation and disappointment and rise on wings like eagles to sing an alleluia song? It's the Easter refrain played over and over again. We cannot explain the mystery; we can only share with others how and where we have seen evidence of the risen Lord.
What does the resurrection of Jesus mean to us today? For one thing it means that people who never knew Jesus when he walked this earth, can know and love Jesus just as fervently as those who did. The ever-living presence of the Christ is not restricted to 33 years in a small region of middle-eastern culture. Jesus, alive in spirit, supercedes the boundaries of physical realities, and conquers all the limitations of the historic Jesus. In spirit Jesus can be everywhere at once! To those who take notice and welcome his presence, he comes as Healer, Teacher and Friend. Now add to that the resurrection theme which the disciples were soon to learn, "Behold, I make all things new."
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: "Go to Galilee"--the angel said it; Jesus said it. What words do you need to hear repeatedly?
Was the earthquake simply a natural event? Was it the effect of Jesus rising from the dead or the advent of the angel? Was it the force which helped the angel roll the stone from the doorway to Jesus' tomb? What do you think?
The guards became like "dead men" in the presence of God's messenger. In what ways are we guilty of being unresponsive to the good news of God?
Like a victor, the angel sat on the stone that once blocked our view. Do you have a "stone" that prohibits you in any way? What does it prevent you from seeing, understanding or doing? What would it take for you to sit victoriously on that stone?
Where and how do we seek the living Jesus? Where do you see evidence that people are searching for God?
Discuss the women's reaction of great joy mixed with fear. How is it possible to experience fear and joy at the same time? What filled them with joy? What made them shudder with fear?
The disciples were told to return to Galilee. In times of fear and doubt, grief and disappointment, how and where do you regain your footing?
Craig Barnes wrote, "No one is ever ready to encounter Easter until he or she has spent time in the dark place where hope cannot be seen." Do you agree we must go through a time of darkness before we can see the dawn of Easter? Explain your answer.If you were asked to express what Easter means to you, what would you say?Share a personal story that will encourage others to believe the Easter message.
A resurrection story arises when someone discovers new life where only darkness and death existed before. (For example, parents who lost a child to accident or sickness decide to volunteer at a local hospice facility.) Share some resurrection stories that stand out in your mind wherein people turned tragedy into triumph.Resurrection stories often involve forgiving--either God, others or ourselves. How does forgiveness relate to renewal?Did the disciples need to forgive anybody in order to experience Easter? If so, who did they need to forgive?