1 April 2013

Matthew 28:8-15

“Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’” (v. 9)


The account in Matthew's Gospel of the Resurrection (Matthew 28:1-7) is dramatic: a great (New International Version of the Bible: violent) earthquake; an angel descending and rolling back the stone; his appearance like lightening. The guards were shaken and become paralysed, but the women waited to see what the angel had to say. The message was explicit - he is not here, see the evidence, go and tell.

Note that, as they went in fear and in joy, Jesus met them rather than the other way round. Before them stood one with greetings, 'Chairete' ('rejoice' or 'hail'), and saying "Do not be afraid!" (Matthew 28:5). Matthew's Gospel indicates subtly the corporeal nature of Jesus: here were real feet of which to take hold (verse 9)! Significantly, this gesture indicates worship; it was how subjects of an eastern ruler demonstrated obedience and service.

Matthew's Gospel records the Magi worshipping the infant Jesus (Matthew 2:11), and goes on to note that, when the disciples went to Galilee as directed by Jesus, they too worshipped him (Matthew 28:17). Apart from these incidents in Matthew's Gospel, only at John 9:38 is it said that Jesus was worshipped during his earthly life time. But there were those who doubted (Matthew 28:17) - this was part of the debate in the Church of Matthew's day.

Only Matthew's Gospel records the plot on the part of the religious authorities to cover up the events at the tomb (verses 11-15), including the payment of 'hush' money to the agents of the occupying power. For a second time in the story of Jesus' passion, death and resurrection, there is collusion between representatives of religion and representatives of the state. Such collusion is not unheard of in the twenty-first century and it can seriously affect those who would proclaim the gospel (good news about Jesus). How is it that what is seen by one group of observers at the tomb as incredibly good news is perceived by another group as disastrously bad news?

To Ponder

  • "Jesus met them." How/when has Jesus met you at times of crisis in your life?
  • When state and religion collude, it can be disastrous for those who challenge the claims of either. This was true for Jesus. How do you see it in today's world?

Bible notes author

Gillian Kingston

Gillian Kingston is a local preacher on the North Tipperary Circuit of the Methodist Church in Ireland and a part-time university chaplain. She is interim Vice-President of the World Methodist Council.