I write on the Saturday of Easter weekend (as the westernised version of events has it) and it is no coincidence I am sure that in my recent re-reading of the gospel of Matthew I arrived today at the final two chapters, the account of the trial, crucifixion and resurrection of the Son of God.
As always, the bible text itself corrects so many popular bible myths that have been introduced over the centuries. We must not base our beliefs on myths or religious paintings, but the word of God.
Why The Stone?
In Matthew 27:62-66 we read that it was the chief priests and Pharisees (the ones who had called for Jesus to be crucified) who begged for a guard on the tomb, and who sealed and protected the tomb of Jesus with a large stone.
They knew, as did the people (whom they feared) that Jesus had promised to rise again after three days and three nights in the “heart of the earth” (Matt 12:40). And by the way, there are many articles and videos tackling the ‘problem’ of the supposed Friday crucifixion which does not allow for three days and nights – so I won’t cover that again, having researched it intensely for my own article.
The religious leaders in the time of Jesus were so afraid that they might be proven wrong, that they made absolutely sure – with guards and a physical seal on the tomb – that nobody could interfere with the body. (Thus, in a small way they provided more evidence for the miracle of the resurrection by making the alternatives impossible.)
So, when an angel – described as clothed in a garment white as snow and with a face like lightning – descends from heaven to move the stone from the mouth of that tomb, imagine the surprise and dismay of the guards!
They had a story to tell their grandchildren, that’s for sure. However, to suppress the truth once more, the antagonistic elders bribed the guards with a “large sum of money” not to talk about what they’d seen, and to invent a cock-and-bull explanation for the missing body (28:13), a story that still circulates today.
Nevertheless, those guards DID see an angel, and the stone WAS moved. But why?
Again, religious mythology and paintings seem to imply that the angel arrived to let the risen Jesus out of the tomb.
NO, the angel moved the stone to allow the disciples INTO the tomb, to demonstrate that (as the angel testified) “He is RISEN”.
Jesus had been raised immediately after the third night ended, and by the time the angel came, Jesus was making his way to Galilee as He had told them he would (Matt 26:32).
It may seem a small niggle, but it is important to know that Jesus did not NEED help to escape from the tomb! The angel did not move the stone to let him out, but to let the disciples in.
We are told then, in Matthew 28:16-18, the disciples went to Jesus on the mountainside where they had been asked to gather, and saw and heard him. What further proof of the resurrection do we need? Yet, even so “some doubted” (verse 17).
Let us not be those who doubt, or question. We need to be encouraged in the facts of the resurrection, and to know deep in our hearts the truth that Jesus has been given “ALL authority in heaven and on earth”. (verse 18)
Having defeated death itself, released the prisoners of the underworld, and risen with authority to provide salvation to all who trust in Him, the Risen Christ is HERE (and will never leave us) with full authority over all the works of the devil.
We need to TRUST the Risen Christ with all our hearts and dedicate our lives to him afresh, as we think about the consequences of these scriptures.