John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”
Read Matthew 28:1-10 This is the story of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary going to visit Jesus’ tomb, but not finding Him there. It is noteworthy that considering the status of women in biblical society, that the first people Jesus appeared to after His resurrection were women. It is also evidence in the bible of the truth with which the apostles reported their experiences that they listed these women as being first to see Jesus alive again. Women did not serve as credible witnesses during that time period in any court, yet they were the first credible witnesses listed in the bible to witness Jesus’ resurrection. This is an excellent example of the first being last, and the last being first.
One of the things that we sometimes miss from just sitting in the church and hearing about Jesus’ resurrection is that Jesus did not just rise from the dead and hang around a few days visit all his disciples and then go to heaven. There were far more than just those few people, who saw Jesus and could testify to his resurrection. Jesus was on the earth after his resurrection for 40 days (Acts 1:3) and he appeared to over 500 people who as Paul tells us at the time when the book of 1Corinthians was written down (about 25 yrs later) were still alive to affirm the truth of Christ’s resurrection from death. (1Corinthians 15:6). That is one of the great things about the New Testament…the books were all written within a time frame whereby there were many many living witnesses to the truth of the writings. This means to us many generations later that we can count on and trust that truth.
In Matthew 28:1-10, we are told that the men who were guarding the tomb where Jesus’ body lay saw an angel who appeared suddenly after a violent earthquake and his appearance was like lightening and his clothes were as white as snow. That event was so shocking to the men that they fainted. Personally, I find it entertaining that the angel then sat on the stone that had covered the tomb. If we go and read about other times that God has had angels make an appearance to people they do appear suddenly, but usually, it is accompanied by a “fear not…” In this case, the actions seem more like God demonstrated concretely to the men guarding the tomb and to all of us through the telling of this tale, that he is almighty and definitely in charge, and “don’t you forget it!” It’s like him saying to us all, “Look! I don’t want you to ever forget that I am in charge of death too…this piddling little stone you put in front of the tomb is nothing to me!” The seated angel reminds me that the job of conquering death was completed. The sins of man had been atoned for…there was nothing else that God had to do in the future…he had already sacrificed the best that he had for the sins of man!
You would think that these guards who had this experience would have become believers…wouldn’t you? But if you go ahead and read Matthew 28:11-15 you find that this is not what happened. These same men when they woke up from their faint ran to tell the Chief Priests all that had happened to them. The Chief Priests then told the Elders and they hatched the scheme to hide this miracle from the world. The guards accepted the bribe and agreed to spread the story concocted by the Jewish Elders. The story that Jesus’ body was stolen in the night by the Disciples. Despite the huge impression that the angel made on these men, their sense of survival and greed overtook it. To be fair to them they would have, almost certainly, been killed if they had refused to fall in with the scheme. Guards who failed to guard, generally, were killed for that failure in the Roman army, and with the added problem that these same elders and priests had made sure that Jesus was killed when he went up against them. On the other hand these men could have chosen to believe in God’s power, (and possibly die) rather than continue on the path set for them. After all, it is 2000+ years later, look at the number of people following Jesus and believing in his death and resurrection and the atoning power of his blood…and are there that many people who really believe that his body was stolen by the Disciples? It is obvious that, God definitely made his point! God is the one with the power and nothing that man can devise will stop his plan!
Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand. (ESV)