(Today's post by Adam Cooper)
As I read Matthew 28 in preparation for writing today I realized that the substance of today’s chapter did not lend itself to pithy comments or even a well-constructed attempt at debate. I discuss today’s chapter honestly and directly given the reverence that is required for its subject matter and the time of the year we find ourselves in.
Matthew 28 begins with arguably the most important verses of the Christian faith. Verses 1-10 tell us about Jesus’ resurrection. Christianity is built on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and without this would be no different than any other religion. In these first verses of Matthew 28 we see Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (which in another Gospel is identified as the mother of James) finding the tomb empty and then meeting the resurrected Jesus with a message to “tell my brothers (v.10 NIV).” For the most part the gospels agree on the women discovering the tomb empty although in one gospel there are three women instead of two; but the gospels differ on the surroundings when Jesus appears to his disciples.
Matthew 28 places the appearance on a mountain in Galilee, whereas the others place the appearance inside and possibly around a table. Another difference in Matthew’s discussion of this event is that he is the only one of the gospel writers to include verses 11-15 which discusses the lie that was constructed to explain the absence of Jesus’ body. Matthew’s gospel is believed to have been written between 70-110 AD, 40+ years after the events being discussed. It is believed that these verses about the guard were inserted by Matthew (under the inspiration of God) to serve an apologetic purpose concerning the legend that Jesus’ body had been stolen by his followers.
The final verses of Matthew 28, verses 16-20, are what we affectionately call “The Great Commission”; a portion of Scripture where the disciples, and through them us, are commanded to carry the good news of Jesus to all the world. “The Great Commission” is included in some form or fashion in each of the four gospels; however, it is the most clearly commanded in Matthew 28.
As we approach resurrection Sunday, the day which is depicted within these verses in Matthew, it is important that we see and understand the historicity of the events depicted. Unlike other religions the historicity of Jesus has been established and it is that historicity that Christianity lives or dies upon. Jesus, God incarnate, born to a virgin, all man but also all God, sinless in life, was captured, tried, tortured, and hung on a cross, broken and bloody, where He died. Being removed from the cross he was placed in a borrowed tomb from which He arose three days later as He and others had prophesied. This is why resurrection Sunday is so important to us. This is why the events depicted in Matthew are so important to us.
For you who are reading today I simply offer the Scriptures as written; God inspired and written by men. I also encourage you to read back over the accounts provided in the four gospels of the journey of Christ from His arrest, through His illegal trial and scourging, and subsequent crucifixion. Try to visualize that scene from the words in Scripture and remember the sacrifice and substitutionary atonement that Jesus made for you and all of us who would believe in Him.