Yep, we begin with a Carole King homage, and it is beautiful! In Matthew’s Gospel, we really can feel the earth move under our feet, and it sure beats the Walking Dead reference after all! What in the hey?! For centuries, Matthew’s Gospel enjoyed the pre-eminent position as the First Gospel. After all, Matthew is prominently mentioned as a disciple early in the story, and quite overtly Matthean vocabulary, internal organization and intention recalled the familiar and comforting Hebraic ground from which the Good News emerged. We know now that Matthew followed Mark’s lead closely, frequently embellishing but rarely contradicting Mark. Matthew expands his Markan source with his own materials, making his church’s unique perspective on Jesus as the Messiah a poignant and brilliant narrative.
We are then not surprised to turn to Matthew’s final chapter, chapter 28, to discover a distinctly Matthean signature to the First Gospel’s resurrection narrative. Today we’ll visit Matthew 28:1-10, and the rest tomorrow. Take a moment in your prayer space to encounter Matthew’s dramatic narration. Oh and don’t miss 27:52-54 for the bonus Matthean Easter features, namely a corporate localized resurrection and an earthquake??!! Whhaatt?! For Matthew’s church the sheer dynamic explosive power unleashed by Jesus’ sacrificial death liberated nearby souls from death’s grip, at least momentarily, so visibly that the earth shook and astonished onlookers could see them rise! Wow!! A second earthquake erupts when the angel rolls back the stone and the Roman guards are frozen in their tracks, those living acting dead and the dead acting very much alive! Note the stone being rolled back does not initiate Jesus’ resurrection, as Matthew clearly narrates; Jesus has already risen and has already gone forth, so the stone is removed for the benefit of the Maries. All of this reminds us of many Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) instances when God’s appearance occasioned fantastical natural and supernatural spectacles like earthquakes (see Exodus, Judges, Isaiah, Psalms, and Ezekiel) and resuscitation/resurrection (II Kings, Job, Ezekiel 37). In short, the earth moved under our feet!
In the midst of all of this, plus the angel speaking to them, Jesus, finally, appears. I’ve often wondered if He comes right then, and not later in Galilee (like the Markan Jesus), because the Maries were rightfully terrified out of their minds. Both the Matthean angel and the Matthean Jesus repeat that biblical refrain of great comfort: Do not be afraid! And the Maries do the most natural thing in that moment. They fall down and worship Him because they now know He truly is the Son of God.
- Re-read this distinctive and very dramatic resurrection narrative again, or enter it using our Ignatian Spiritual Exercise technique. Make sure to include chapter 27’s bonus features too as you do. Look around, listen, and ponder. How is Matthew’s Easter account different?
- Why? Why does Matthew include these fantastical elements when neither Paul nor Mark do? How does this account inform, expand, challenge or deepen your faith now?
- Matthew also made sure to provide audible, riveting comfort to the Maries and to us. Can we hear the Matthean Jesus, whether by the Empty Tomb or over the howling winds and crashing waves of the Galilean tempest, speaking to our hearts today: It is I, I am right here. Do not fear!