Matthew 28: 8-15
8 And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.
9 ¶ And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.
10 Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.
11 ¶ Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done.
12 And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers,
13 Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.
14 And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you.
15 So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.
In Matthew’s Gospel, the truth of Christ’s victory over death is told in an apocalyptic language, laden with symbolic meaning. There is a great earthquake, the angel descends from heaven to roll back the stone of Christ’s tomb, his appearance like lightning, his clothing white as snow. The guards are terrified, becoming like dead men, and the angel announces to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, mother of James, that Christ is risen, that they must go and share the good news with Jesus’ disciples.
The women respond to the angel’s news with fear and joy. They are amazed by what is happening, and they respond with faith. They run to share the good news of Christ’s resurrection. Through belief, they are eager to tell the disciples about Jesus.
It is now that Jesus appears to the women, showing himself to them first, their reward for their faith and constancy. They recognize Jesus instantly and fall on their knees to worship him, taking hold of his feet. Jesus’ now is a glorified body. He is not bound to a particular place or time. He is freed from such limitations. We may look to Jesus’ glorious body with keen anticipation of our life to come. Yet Jesus is also physically tangible to the women. His presence can be physically touched. Now their joy is complete. Mary Magdalene and Mary, mother of James, are chosen by Jesus to go to tell the disciples where they will meet him. They become the first messengers of the good news.
The reaction of the chief priests and the elders of Jerusalem is to propagate a lie in order to try to ensure that the truth of Christ’s resurrection may not be known by the Jewish people. They must know that this is a lie, and so the evil of their actions is compounded further, as it is also by the bribery they must use to secure the soldiers’ complicity. It is saddening to hear of how the Jewish people were kept from the truth of Jesus. The lie spreads, and it is with us to this day on the lips of those who deny Christ.
We are warned by the account of the chief priests’ actions to be alert to those forces in our time which seek to deny Christ. We are asked to respond to the good news of Jesus’ resurrection which such unbounded freedom of faith as Mary Magdalene and Mary, mother of James, show when they meet Jesus and then rush to tell the disciples what has truly happened. We are asked to share with the people we know the truth of Christ.
‘He was led as a sheep to the slaughter, but he was not a sheep; he was as a lamb without voice, but he was not a lamb. The figure has passed away, the reality has come: it is God who has come in place of the lamb, man in place of the sheep, and in the man is Christ, who contains all things.’ Melito of Sardis