You have to admire the courage of the women who went to look at the tomb. Mark’s Gospel includes the detail that they went to anoint Jesus’ body, but Matthew simply says they went to look at the tomb. You have to remember that when Jesus was arrested by a contingent of Temple guards, the Apostles scattered into the night. When Jesus was testifying before the Sanhedrin, Peter is denying him left and right for fear of being associated with Jesus. After the crucifixion, they are all huddle together in a room trying to decide what to do and hoping they don’t end up on crosses too. Meanwhile, the women head right down to the guards who were guarding Jesus’ tomb. They don’t shy away. They won’t run from these Roman guards. They aren’t worried about a stone in the way of the seal placed upon the tomb. They simply know that what they intend to do is right and that it must be done. It’s no surprise that this kind of courageous faith is rewarded with the first appearance of Jesus after his Resurrection. Truly this is a great example of faith that we see in these women in this story.
The text then tells us about the guards reporting what had happened to the chief priests. This is pretty remarkable. Keep in mind that in about 80 days, Peter and John are going to be standing before this same group of men, testifying that they killed the Messiah and that Jesus then rose from the grave three days later. This testimony matches that of the Roman guards who saw the angel and the empty tomb. Not only do the Jewish leaders know that an angel brought Jesus out of the tomb and initiate a cover-up of this fact, but when the Apostles start telling the story they begin to persecute the Apostles. They even go so far as to pay off the Roman guards and assure them that they can take care of the governor if he hears of their failure. These are some pretty serious allegations. This kind of conspiracy makes Watergate look like child’s play.
Finally, Matthew ends his Gospel with the Great Commission, “All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.” This passage is especially important to me as a minister and also as Northwest gets ready to gear up for our March for Missions effort to raise money to do exactly what Jesus challenges us with right before his Ascension.