Summary: Matthew’s account of the resurrection. Matthew’s narrative of e Galilean encounter with the disciples is a culmination to the gospel which accentuates the Trinitarian nature of God and the mission of the believer.
He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.
The gospels each relate the account of the resurrection according to their own purpose, consequently there are considerable differences between the Gospels (refer to the recent bulletin insert for a harmonization of those events), but with all the obvious differences there are several things in common to all the Gospels – the empty tomb, the announcement of the resurrection to the women, and the meeting of the disciples with Jesus. Beyond this, each of the gospels record some additional information about the encounters with the resurrected Christ.
Matthew’s account of the resurrection includes stories of the chief priests securing a Roman guard from Pilate to keep the disciples from stealing the body, the earthquake, the women’s encounter with an angel and the sudden appearance of Jesus to the women. Matthew’s narrative of the Galilean encounter with the disciples is a culmination to the gospel which accentuates the Trinitarian nature of God and the mission of the believer.
As with the other gospels, Matthew begins his narrative of the resurrection with an appearance of Jesus to some women going to see the tomb (Mark and Luke indicate the reason for their visit was to anoint his body with additional spices cp. John 19.39). Their coming to the tomb is contrasted with the Roman guard posted to “protect” the body (keep the disciples from stealing it). In Mark 16.3 one reads that the women inquired among themselves, Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb? The question is answered in Matthew 28.2 wherein he informs the reader that a violent earthquake removed the stone. This was apparently accomplished by an angel of the Lord sent from heaven for this purpose. Opening the entrance to the grave was not for the purpose of releasing Jesus but that there might be nothing to hinder one from peering into the now empty chamber. The purpose of this frightening (Matthew 28.3) angelic visitation appears to have had several purposes. First, it was a heavenly testimony of the reality of the resurrection. Second, the angel gave instructions to the women and, through them, to the disciples as to what they were to do next. Finally, there was a startling contrast between the relationship of the Roman guard to the angel and that of the women. While both groups were fearful in his presence, only the women were comforted in their fear.
The angel’s business, however, is not with the guards, but the women. He assures them that Jesus’ prophesy about his resurrection has in fact come to pass. The reality of this prophetic truth is confirmed by the empty tomb - they can see for themselves that he is not there. While Jesus had clearly prophesied both his death and his resurrection his followers had not comprehended the full magnitude of what he had said. The angel is reinforcing that Jesus should be taken at his word and this event therefore ought to be no surprise.
After reassuring the women the angel assigns them the task of quickly informing the disciples that Jesus has been raised from the dead and that he is going ahead of them into Galilee (cp. 26.32). This does not mean that Jesus will next meet the disciples there, only that they are to go to Galilee for a meeting with Jesus. It is not without significance that Jesus first appeared to the women who comprised a significant part of the coterie of his disciples. One might reasonably expect that Jesus would appear first to Peter, John or one of the eleven. It is evident that the Christian message cut across the accepted cultural customs. John and Luke emphasize the Jerusalem appearances of Jesus and although John mentions the story of the miraculous catch of fish which took place in Galilee, Matthew put more emphasis on the Galilee post-resurrection appearance than any of the other Evangelists.