Welcome! Today is day ten in the ninety-day reading of the New Testament, and today’s reading is Matthew 28.
The final chapter in Matthew is the story of the Resurrection of Jesus. It is the pinnacle of all faith and belief, and yet, it is told by Matthew in just a few sentences. But those verses contain so much substance. And they also contain what may be the saddest verse in the bible.
We find, in Matthew 28, the second episode of an earthquake. The first is recorded in Matthew 27, as Jesus took his final breath. Here is what occurred as Jesus died:
- The temple, which veiled the “holy of holies” in the temple, was ripped.
- The earth shook.
- Rocks split.
- Holy people, long dead, were resurrected.
Seriously. These fantastic, terrifying things, happened. And we rarely notice them. Matthew, though, even without trying, adds flair to these happenings. In just three verses, we have an intense scene surrounding the death of Jesus. Of all the things that Matthew records, I think these verses are the most vivid. Hold on to that thought, though.
To me, there are three different waves of events in Matthew 28. So let’s move to the Resurrection.
The first wave of the three, to me, is all bout the women in Jesus’ life.
We find only two people mentioned during the resurrection narrative in Matthew. Of the sacred and special twelve disciples, one disowned him and another betrayed him. None of their names are mentioned again by Matthew.
Yet Matthew does mention the name of two women, Mary Magdalene and another Mary. Of the hundreds, maybe thousands of followers Jesus had, only two were worth naming. And they were women.
If there is a place in the kingdom, it’s right here.
Jesus commissions these two women to explain to his other disciples, who were men, that he had risen. It’s Jesus’ “I told you so” moment. Let’s remember, too, that the men left Jesus first. The women stayed to the very end, not afraid of attending his death, even in the face of great public scrutiny.
These two women, the first to see Jesus out of the tomb, were to be the heralds of this kingdom.
Is there any greater role in the kingdom than this? If there is, please, please tell me.
And if we would stop defining the kingdom as what happens in our gatherings on Sunday mornings, then maybe we can grasp the idea of kingdom Jesus so often shared in Matthew. His kingdom is much greater than all of world history and all of creation. And it can’t be limited to an hour on Sundays.
It is the heralding of this kingdom Jesus entrusts to women. Not men.
The second wave, to me, happens not in Matthew 28, but in Matthew 27, in the verses above.
At the scene of Jesus’ crucifixion, there were “many holy people” whose tombs broke open, and who were resurrected — brought back to life from the dead. These holy people, according to Matthew 27:53, did not make their appearance in Jerusalem (or the “holy city” as Matthew calls it) until after Jesus’ resurrection. These resurrected people were seen by many.
It’s a timing issue to me. Jesus is one of many who were brought back to life. There was a community of people who had an experience unique to them throughout the whole of history. Dead skin, dead bones, dried blood, decaying bodies — all were made whole. Legs which were wrapped were then unwrapped by moving fingers, and they walked out of tombs.
Jesus’ death and resurrection was a city-wide happening. And the power of love and life could not be contained.
Yet there is one final wave here in Matthew 28. Read, carefully, this verse, which Matthew writes concerning Jesus’ appearance to his disciples in the mountains of Galilee. It is recorded before the great commission at the end of the gospel of Matthew.
When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.
This may be the saddest verse in the bible. There were eleven disciples, standing before a resurrected Jesus, on a mountain. Some of the eleven were worshipping Jesus, and those in the eleven who still doubted saw this worship. They heard this worship.
And they still doubted.
It is chiefly amazing to me that there were some who knew Jesus had died. And those very same men saw Jesus resurrected. He was no apparition — his feet could be grasped (28:9). But there were still doubters.
Perhaps there will always be doubters. Because if you can stand before the resurrected Word of God, and not believe, I’m not sure what could make you believe.
As this kingdom gospel ends, and as King Jesus, the Word of God and the Word of life leaves, may we not be the doubters. May we be the worshipers.
We’ve finished the gospel of Matthew together! Thank you for joining me! You can read each of the posts on Matthew here. Blessings to you as you continue the journey!