Some years Easter slips up on me. Maybe it’s because the date is different from year to year. Also, spring break at my girls’ school isn’t tied to Easter. While we have a few traditions that involve baskets and chocolate bunnies, I want to always, always keep the focus at this time of year on Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.
My favorite Easter passage is Matthew 28:1-8.
In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.
His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:
And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.
And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.
He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.
And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.
There are so many players here – the women, the angel, the keepers, the disciples. I love to think about how the scene unfolded from each of their perspectives.
The Women at the Tomb
First we meet the women, feeling sorrowful, coming to anoint the body of Jesus. They’d seen Him heal physical bodies, heard Him tell men and women that their sins were forgiven, felt the love and compassion He’d offered. Mark 16 tells us that this group came very early in the morning, wondering how they were going to get that big stone rolled away from the entrance of the tomb.
Yet when their eyes first glimpsed the empty spot where His body had been, what were their thoughts? I would imagine there was confusion, dismay, maybe a glimmer of hope as the angel reminded them of Jesus’ words about rising again. Talk about going from sorrow to joy in a moment of time! According to verse eight above, their joy was mixed with fear. And with turmoil in their hearts, they left the tomb at a run.
The Angel of the Lord
Next on the scene we meet the angel. What a privilege it must have been to make the triumphant descent from heaven, roll the stone back from the tomb, and be the one telling the glorious news of the resurrection to those who loved Jesus the most. “He is not here: for He is risen…” Which angel wouldn’t have wanted that job – to share Christ’s victory over death with the world!
The Keepers of the Tomb
What about the keepers, who actually saw the angel, felt the earthquake, and passed out in fear?! This job was unlike any they’d ever been assigned before! Later in the chapter, we read that they were bribed to tell a lie about what had really happened to Jesus’ body. Yet how often in the years following did they relive that morning in their minds? Did any one of them ever come to accept the Messiah as their own Savior?
Then there are the disciples, every one of whom fled when Jesus was taken as a prisoner in the garden of Gethsemane. But now they hear from the women that Jesus is alive, that an angel told them He is risen. Likely their initial reactions mirrored those of the women. Fear. Hope. Joy. We know there was a healthy dose of disbelief, since Luke 24:11 says, “And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.” However, we read that Peter and John took off at a run to the tomb, desperate to confirm or deny the tale that these women told.
The Risen Savior
Then there’s Jesus, the One Who died for the sins of the world, for yours and for mine. How thankful we are that Jesus wasn’t in the tomb that morning!! He gained the victory over death that day. Because of His resurrection, all who trust in Him have that same glorious victory.
So what is our response to Easter this year? As Christians, let’s be filled with the same joy that those women felt when they realized that the Messiah was alive. There’s no angel to proclaim the news to us, but we have the written Word of God and the Holy Spirit to proclaim in our hearts the truth of the resurrection.
Over this weekend especially, I want to meditate on the love that drove Him to the cross, the sacrifice of Himself He willingly made, the power He demonstrated in His resurrection, and the place of honor He now inhabits in heaven. Because of Jesus, I can live forever.
Praise God; He is alive!!