Matthew 28:6 - "He is not here, for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay."
Sometimes a scripture stands out to me because I have a question about it. Other times because I have learned more about how important it is to the larger context. This week during my reading, this verse stood out to me because of the amazing grace it demonstrated on the part of God toward these two grieving disciples and it moved me!
Jesus’ body was missing!
The Messiah of these two women had just been selfishly betrayed by one of their own (Matthew 26:14-16, 47-50), and after he received mock trials which broke multiple laws, they witnessed him experience a criminal’s death on a Roman cross (Matthew 27:55-56). These women had followed the preparation and burial of Jesus’ body so they would know where it had been laid to rest (Matthew 27:59-61).
Their plan was to return at an appropriate time to remember Jesus and give his body a more thorough preparation for burial since the first had been so rushed (Mark 16:1).
Every culture has a practice by which they remember their deceased loved ones. To this day, there is a large Jewish cemetery on the western slope of the Mount of Olives. Family and friends go to these burial sites to remember the dead and place a rock on their graves denoting that their loved one has not been forgotten (the earliest graves were piles of stones placed on top of a body).
Imagine the friends’ surprise when the first thing they are told is that Jesus’ body is no longer there! I imagine that possibly panic and sadness may have raced through them while, for a fleeting moment, they assumed that someone had desecrated the site and stolen the body. However, the angel did not allow them the opportunity to dwell on that possibility for long, because he followed up by explaining where the body actually went.
Jesus was alive again, as he told them he would be!
Multiple times in the months leading up to his crucifixion, Jesus told his disciples about his impending death, burial and resurrection (Matthew 16:21; 17:9, 22-23; 20:19-19). During his ministry he had demonstrated power over death by raising other people, including their good friend Lazarus (Matthew 9:18-26; John 11:38-44). For some reason, the early disciples struggled with comprehending or believing that it would happen. But the angel reminded the women that Jesus had predicted his own resurrection, and that is why his body was not inside the tomb.
They were graciously invited to inspect the empty tomb for themselves.
God didn’t have to allow this. He could have asked that the women accept the word of His angelic messenger as fact. However, as the guards stood motionless outside, the angel invited these ladies to step inside the new tomb and see for themselves that the body was gone and that there was no evidence of tampering.
God so graciously understands our weaknesses! He is patient, long-suffering, and amazing. The invitation to these first century disciples reminded me that everyone at some point struggles in their faith. We desire to believe but need to be able to respectfully express sincere questions and doubts. To those people God gently offers an invitation to take a closer, fresh look at what He has already said! The inspired record (the Bible) can handle repeated, detailed, genuine, honest inspection. It is my conviction and personal experience that such an inspection leads to deeper and stronger faith in God and His Christ!
Praying for deeper faith for all those who humbly and honestly investigate the gospel!