Environmental Stewardship Commission (MEESC)

Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota

Lectionary Reflection All Years, First Service of Easter, Gospel Reading

Matthew 28:1-10
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you." So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."

Reflection on Matthew 28:1-10 by John G. Gibbs, PhD

This section is a transition pericope that points toward Matthew's climactic pronouncement: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (28:18). The authority of Jesus Messiah (1:1; 19:28) is the foundation of the Apostles' authority over the Church, true Israel: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing.and teaching them. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (28:19-20). What God started to do in the royal house of David has been fulfilled in Jesus, and on that account God has given "all authority" to Jesus Lord. Though the two women do not see the resurrection event, for they went "away" from the tomb rather than "out" of it, they witness the attending events. Whereas Mark ascribes only great fear to the women, Matthew adds that they were also filled with joy (28:8). That combination of fear and joy drove them to run "tell his disciples." Apparently they did reach the disciples, for Matthew's last section (28:16-20) reports that the eleven remaining disciples went to the Galilean mountain that Jesus had designated for their reunion.

The authority of Jesus over heaven and earth is the fact that Matthew wrote his gospel to attest. It was "the victory of God" in raising Jesus from the dead that established that position of power and authority (quoted phrase from E. Schweizer, The Good News According to Matthew, pp. 521-25 (Atlanta: John Knox, 1975). The Apostle Paul's opening statement to Christians in Rome had earlier said much the same thing: ".the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead" (Rom. 1:3-4).

We easily recall a famous Easter hymn:

All hail the power of Jesus' Name! Let angels prostrate fall; Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown him, crown him, crown him, crown him Lord of all!
(Edward Perronet)

Matthew 28:1-10 and the Great Commission to which it points together proclaim the cosmic lordship of Christ. As a very early Christological Hymn proclaimed, it is that lordship which holds together everything that is (Col. 1:17).

Whether the apocalyptic earthquake (28:2) was an actual natural occurrence we cannot establish independently. "The Historicity of the Gospels" is very well discussed by Peter F. Ellis, C.SS.R., Matthew: His Mind and His Message (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1974), pp.156-65). Ellis' approach is based on par. 19 of Vatican II's Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, and on the Pontifical Biblical Commission's Instruction "Concerning the Historical Truth of the Gospels" (April 21, 1964).

To Reflections on other Readings for this Sunday:
Psalm 114
No reflections available
New Testament Romans 6:3-11
Gospel Matthew 28:1-10
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John Gibbs, PhD, a retired theologian, attends Trinity Episcopal Church, Park Rapids, MN. He originally wrote this reflection in 2003. He and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to John Gibbs or any MEESC member, or mail them to:
MEESC Holy Trinity Church Box 65 Elk River, MN 55330-0065 USA

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