Matthew 28:1–10, 16–20
I was in seminary before I discovered the historical evidence for the physical resurrection of our Lord Jesus, in an article from Christianity Today magazine. It was a life-changing discovery. I suppose I had assumed the resurrection was something to be taken by blind faith. These days, the books of Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell and others are helping people find the reality of the resurrection and all it means. I strongly recommend Strobel’s “The Case for Heaven.”
In Acts 1:3, Luke says our Lord showed Himself alive after His resurrection “by many infallible proofs.” Among those “evidences” or “proofs” of the historicity of the resurrection is that the first witnesses were women. Given the culture of that day, no one would have made this up.
I love Matthew’s image of the angel sitting on the massive stone he has just removed from the empty tomb. It feels like a bit of celebrating. Matthew tells us the angel’s appearance was “like lightning” and his clothing as “white as snow.” Compare with the angels of Acts 1:10 and our Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration in Luke 9:29 where Jesus’ appearance was “bright as a flash of lightning.” We are reminded that the heavenly abode of our Lord Jesus was in “unapproachable light” (I Tim. 6:16).
We stand in awe, just as the disciples did.
Imagine the honor of being selected as the angel with the privilege of announcing that the Lord was risen! The word “angel” literally means “messenger.” You and I perform an angelic role every time we tell someone the wonderful story of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Have you told anyone lately? So many do not know. Paul asks, “How will they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?” (Rom. 10:14)
The women experienced an interesting combination: fear plus great joy. That, added to the adrenalin pouring into their bloodstreams, drove them out to tell others.
When our Lord “met them and greeted them,” they fell before Him, “took hold of His feet” and worshipped. We understand, don’t we?
I love the line from one of our great anthems: “O Lord, our God, little children praise You perfectly. And so would we; and so would we” (The Majesty and Glory of Your Name by Tom Fettke).
There will come a day when we will worship Him in all His fulness, in the most satisfying ways imaginable. Revelation 5 pictures such a time, and our hearts long for that. Until then, we worship the best we can.
We are unsure of the sequence of all the appearances of our Lord over the 40 days following the resurrection. Paul mentions several in I Corinthians 15. This Galilee appearance was not the final ascension, since Acts 1:12 identifies the Mount of Olives as that site.
We love the honest detail that says, “They worshiped Him, but some doubted.” Those who charge that the early church fathers edited out all the “hard places” in the gospel story are hard put to explain why they left such statements as this. To believers it’s one more reason for accepting the historicity of this account.
“All authority.” Jesus is about to issue a command with sweeping scope, but first He assures us He has the authority to do so. “Make disciples of all the nations” is our assignment. Not converts, decisions, friends or admirers. Not members, associates, helpers, partners or advisors. Disciples are life-long devotees, students and servants forever.
“In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” is one of many references to the Trinity, a word not found in Scripture although the doctrine is found throughout.
A century ago, former baseball player-turned-evangelist Billy Sunday preached a “baseball sermon.” Comparing the Great Commission to the baseball diamond, Sunday said first base was becoming a disciple of Jesus, to “get saved.” Second base was baptism, and third base was where we “learned to observe all He taught us.”
In His own time the Lord will call us home. Sunday noted that in baseball one is out if he tries to shortcut the process and omit any of the steps. It’s a good analogy.
The Gospel of Matthew ends as it began: “I am with you always,” our Lord said. In the opening chapter Jesus is “Immanuel, which is translated ‘God with us’” (1:23). That is the best news ever!
By Joe McKeever
Pastor, writer and cartoonist from Ridgeland, Mississippi.