Bible Study 3.26.12, 3.29.12, 4.1.12 For Worship 4.8.12Posted: March 22, 2012
Bible Study 3.26.12, 3.29.12, 4.1.12 For Worship 4.8.12
Matthew 28:1 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the sepulchre.
2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.
3 His appearance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow.
4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.
5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.
6 He is not here; for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.
7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. Lo, I have told you.”
8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Hail!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.
10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”
The gospel accounts of the empty tomb do not agree with one another. The only two details of the empty tomb story that all of the gospel agree upon is that the tomb was empty, and Mary Magdalene one of the first persons to visit the tomb that day. We should also note there is no mention of an empty tomb in any of Paul’s letters. Some scholars think that possibly the empty tomb is a later tradition developed to try to explain the early church’s experience of the Living Christ after his death and burial. Whatever the first disciples’ experience after the resurrection it probably wasn’t a resuscitated corpse. Easter is not about the zombie Jesus.
Matthew presents the most dramatic account of the angel who rolls the stone away, and actually names the figure who speaks with the women at the tomb as an angel. The other gospels speak of someone wearing white without calling it an angel, but we can understand that in First Century parlance a mysterious figure wearing bright white or dazzling raiment was intended to be an angelic presence.
We might also note that only in Matthew and John does the Risen Christ appear to the women near the tomb. In Matthew he appears to both Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, and in John just to Mary Magdalene. An interesting difference between John and Matthew is that in John the resurrected Christ tells Mary Magdalene not to “cling” to him, while in Matthew the two Mary’s took hold of his feet and worshiped him.
The early church had a hard time working out just what those first disciples experienced on Easter morning. Even the disciples themselves may not have fully understood what they were experiencing in their encounters with the Risen Christ. Did he have a physical body, or a spiritual body. Was he a corporal entity or a vision. The different post-Resurrection stories are not at all consistent. The risen Jesus can pass through locked doors, but then asks for a piece of broiled fish to eat. The disciples on the road to Emmaus don’t recognize the stranger until he breaks the bread, and then he vanishes out of their sight. About all we can affirm with any certainty is that the Jesus they had known and loved was brutalized, killed and buried, and then they experienced him as a living presence among them. And that motivated them to continue the ministry he had begun among them.
Matthew has the most extensive account concerning the guards at the tomb. Matthew was writing to a Jewish audience, and part of the Jewish response to the resurrection narrative of the early church was to claim that the disciples had stolen the body. Matthew 28:11 While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place.
12 And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sum of money to the soldiers
13 and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’
14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”
15 So they took the money and did as they were directed; and this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.
The polemic between the Temple, the synagogue and the early church may have led to elaborations upon the initial Easter stories. The most important part of the Easter narrative is not even the empty tomb, but rather the message: ” he is going before you.” This message is even true for the church today. The cult of the empty tomb is a way of trying to limit Jesus. If we focus on the empty tomb, we can locate him in time and space, and then we can try to control him. But Jesus is not there, he has risen and he is going before us into the world. We cannot stop him, we cannot tame him, we cannot control him, we cannot place limits on the activities of the Holy Spirit. All we can do is run as fast as we can to catch up to where Jesus is going before us into the world.
The resurrection is a Parable for the church. For too long we have huddled behind the safety of the walls of the church. Maybe one reason for the decline of the church in America today is to motivate us to go looking for where Jesus has gone on before us into the world. Jesus doesn’t care very much whether our particular way of doing church survives. Jesus is too busy looking for the hurting, the least and the lost. He is going before us. Let’s run to catch up. Again let’s reference Albert Schweitzer’s summary of the call to discipleship: “He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lake side, He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same word: “Follow thou me!” and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfill for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal Himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.”
LET’S ASK SOME QUESTIONS OF THE TEXT
1. On what day did the two women go out to the tomb?
2. Who were the two women?
3. What time of day were they going to the tomb?
4. According to the text, what were they intending to do?
5. What extraordinary event occurred as they approached the tomb?
6. Was anyone guarding the tomb?
7. Who greeted the women at the tomb?
8. What was the message for the women?
9. After the women left the tomb who did they encounter?
10. What additional message were the women given, and to whom were they to deliver the message?
LET’S ALLOW THE TEXT TO ASK QUESTIONS OF US
1. If you had gone out to the tomb on that first Easter, what might you have been feeling?
2. If you met an angel, who told you Jesus’ tomb was empty, what would you feel?
3. Do you think someone stole the body?
4. If an angel said to you, “Do not be afraid,” what do you think would be the meaning of the message for you?
5. What do you think the message, “he is going before you,” means to you?
6. Do the women appear to have any difficulty in recognizing the Risen Jesus?
7. Why do you think the Risen Jesus said, “go to Galilee, and there they will see me?”
8. If Jesus said to you, “do not be afraid,” what would be the meaning of his message to you?
9. Have you ever sensed Christ as a living presence in our life?