Devotional Thoughts on Matthew 28:1-10
March 30, – April 5, 2015
Monday, March 30, 2015
“After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, went to see the tomb” (Matthew 28:1).
The neighbor’s barking dog woke Juanita from a fitful night’s sleep. She did not want to get up. The memory of burying her husband of thirty-seven years yesterday still hurt too much. She did know how she was going to live without him. Sargent Kent Andrews only remembered the blinding flash of light and the thunderous roar that day on patrol. Now he looked down the hospital bed and saw the outline of only one leg. He wondered how he was going to cope with the challenges the faced. Sarah walked toward the front entrance of the high school. It was her first day of school since she moved, leaving her friends and the life she had known for sixteen years behind. She was alone and scared not wanting to see what the day would bring.
The two Marys were up early. Perhaps they wanted to finish the hurried-up embalming on Jesus’ body from Friday night. They may have only desired to go to the tomb and weep. They didn’t know what the future held but they expected to find only death and grief. They trudged on, however, there was nothing else they could do.
We are journeying through Holy Week while reading the gospel lesson for Easter Sunday. So often our lives are like this. We have heard the good news of Easter, but we still need to slog through the death and grief in our lives. It doesn’t work to wish time would hurry up and get to Easter morning. Nor is it helpful to put on a plastic smile and pretend that everything is fine. Rather, we are invited to experience life fully with an Easter perspective—only to the resurrection surprises that the day may hold.
Wonderful Lord, Life is tough sometimes and every so often it is overwhelming. Give us the strength to endure and to never lose sight of the Easter good news. Amen.
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
“And suddenly there was a great earthquake” (Matthew 28:2).
There is an old say that goes, “It never rains but it pours.” Ain’t that the truth! Mary was running late for an appointment when her car developed a flat tire on the freeway. She called emergency roadside assistance. She sipped from a cup of coffee that she had with her while she waited and spilled the coffee on her blouse. Mary missed her appointment but was able to reschedule under better circumstances. Raul was badly hurt at work and had to be taken to the Emergency Room. While taking the battery of tests that were needed to treat him, an abdominal growth was discovered. A biopsy was taken. Raul was still recovering in the hospital when he was told that the growth was cancerous. The cancer was caught in its early stages, though, because of his injury.
That first Easter morning was not an easy one for the two Marys. They were weighed down with grief and their minds awash with confusion. They knew it would not be a good day. While they were walking to the Jesus’ tomb an earthquake hit. Their day suddenly went from bad to worse. Fear and foreboding was added to their grief and confusion. Little did they know the surprise that lay behind the earthquake.
When the sprinkles of life turn into downpours we can change from being wet with discouragement to being soaked with hopelessness. Yet, in the “holy week” of our lives we can still experience the surprise and hope of Easter morning.
Almighty God, we confess that we are tired and out of breath. Breathe into our hearts strength and hope that we might faithfully and boldly follow you. Amen.
Wednesday, April 1, 2015
“For an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it” (Matthew 28:2).
Matthew is the only gospel that describes an angel descending on Easter morning and rolling the stone away from the entrance to the tomb. There are many reasons offered up for why this scene is included in the gospel. It might be that Matthew wanted to point out that things like Jesus’ resurrection, healings or exorcisms don’t just happen. They are the result of divine intervention.
Most of us have not seen angels—at least the heavenly kind. Yet, we will attest to the fact that we have seen God’s movement. Sometimes we see God in coincidences. Someone said that coincidences are miracles when God wants to remain anonymous. We see God’s movement in healed relationships, softening hearts, protection from tragedies and peace in the middle of turmoil. Of course there are the “big” events like miraculous healings. Whatever the form these divine interventions take, they remind us that God is active in our world.
It’s important for us to keep our eyes open and be observant. We can never tell when we might see an angel sitting on a rock next to an empty tomb.
God of creation, give us eyes to see your presence in our world—the times you intervene and the miracles that you accomplish. Amen.
Thursday, April 2, 2015
“For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid’” (Matthew 28:4-5).
Being fearless is not necessarily a good thing. In the slash and dice horror movies, those teenagers who are huddled in the living room together should be fearful of going into the basement or up to the attic. Fear can protect us.
The Roman soldiers had good reason to fear. They were standing against the Lord; attempting to prevent God’s will from being accomplished. The early Christians enjoyed telling this story of how the powerful and cruel Roman soldiers trembled and fainted in fear. There was no doubt that they had met their match in the angel of God.
The women did not need to fear, though. They were children of God who were seeking to do God’s will. God was with them. The Lord was their fortress and their protector. Disciples of Jesus Christ do not need to fear today, either. Though we may face challenging and at times dangerous situations, God is with us. Celebrating Holy Communion at today’s Maundy Thursday worship services (or any communion celebration) proclaims this truth to us. This knowledge empowers us to live boldly—even fearlessly.
Oh Lord our God, by our baptism you have called us to serve you. Inspire within us the courage and the strength to be faithfully obedient to you. Amen.
Friday, April 3, 2015
“He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said” (Matthew 28:6).
Before written contracts with endless pages of legalese, there was a saying, “A man is as good as his word.” A person who kept their commitments and promises were accorded honor and respect. It was disgraceful, though, to break your promises. Some people made great sacrifices in order to keep their word and the promises they had made.
On that first Good Friday, it looked like the promise of God’s kingdom had vanished. The excitement of Palm Sunday was crushed. The hope people had placed in the man from Galilee evaporated with his final words, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” But Jesus had made a promise and he kept it. He said that after three days he would be raised from the dead.
“He is risen!” is an affirmation of faith that we will proclaim in a few days. It is the reality in which we live—even on good Fridays of our lives—today. The Lord has kept his promises in the past and God will keep his promises as we step into the future.
Faithful Lord, you have never broken your promises to us. May this truth comfort, empower and inspire us as we live to love you and serve others. Amen.
Saturday, April 4, 2015
“So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy” (Matthew 28:8).
Colin walked out of the doctor’s office in a daze. For two years he had battled cancer. He had undergone surgery and had battled the side effects of radiation and chemo therapy. When the cancer had been first diagnosed he had not been given much hope for long term survival. Colin, though, was determined and for two years his focus had been on battling the cancer and surviving the day. Now the doctor told him that his cancer was in remission. As he looked farther than the end of the day, he wasn’t sure what the future held, but he was excited to find out.
The grief and mourning of the two Marys had suddenly been changed into joy. Jesus was not in the tomb; he was not among the dead. Jesus was alive! After having been told by the angel not to fear, their fear which Matthew records might have been more like the wondering and questioning of a new future—not quite sure what was in store for them.
No matter how safe and secure we may feel our lives are at this time, none of us know the future. That fact may stir a little fear in some of us. It doesn’t need to, however, because of the overwhelming knowledge that Jesus lives. No matter what happens Jesus is with us and we will never be separated from him.
Living Lord, guide us today, walk with us through whatever the day holds, inspire us with your presence and use our lives to honor you. Amen.
Sunday, April 5, 2015
“Then Jesus said to them; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee” (Matthew 28:10).
Ten year-old Lisa could hardly contain herself. Her brother, Cody, was going to celebrate his seventh birthday and Lisa knew what his parents were going to get him. They were going to give him a puppy. Lisa wanted to tell Cody what she knew. Miguel received a raise and a promotion and he could hardly wait to get home and tell his wife. Good news is hard to keep to ourselves.
We have good news to share. Jesus has been raised from the dead! Jesus lives! This isn’t just some historical fact. It is a life changing reality. Just like the two Marys were told to tell the disciples, we as disciples of Jesus Christ have been giving the instructions to go and tell the good news to those around us. No one else will do it, if we don’t.
This morning we will greet each other with the words, “He is risen.” And, we will respond with, “He is risen indeed.” This is news that should not be confined inside the walls of our churches. By our words and our actions, we can lovingly and boldly share truth with others.
Living Lord, empower us with your Spirit so that we might share the good news of your resurrection with others who have not heard. Amen.