Often times, even seasoned believers can find themselves in some sort of stupor or state of discouragement that they cannot seem to shake. Failing to remember the promises of God and His enduring presence are two carcinogens that inevitably contribute to the spiritual cancers of confusion and loss of hope. In these moments, God alone is capable of shaking His people free from despair and jarring them loose from their complacency. Failure to remember Jesus' promises and God's enduring presence is what contributed to the women's grief as they approached the tomb early Easter morning. With sunken heads and sullen expressions, their despondency would soon be annihilated by a glowing messenger. In their darkest moment, the angel of the Lord provides supernatural encouragement and comfort to these morose matrons through four proclamations that continue to bring encouragement to believers today in the midst of their bleak hours of testing.
FEAR NOT!-Matthew 28:5
As the grieving women approach the tomb, the angel shocks them with the first proclamation, "Do not be afraid!..." (28:5). However, when one considers what they had just experienced and what they now witnessed, one cannot help but believe that this is an unfair request.
Everything pointed to disparity for these women. Not only had they witnessed the most gruesome form of torture invented by the Roman Empire, reserved for the most heinous crimes, but it was their Friend, Son, Teacher, Healer, Savior, and Messiah that had been nailed to the cross just a few days ago. On top of this experience, the women now beheld an angel whose "appearance was like lightning and his clothing as white as snow..." (28:3). Against all natural responses to these events, the angel prohibits their fear with this initial proclamation. Although it may seem unfair, this glowing messenger's command reveals that he recognized what the women failed to realize about what had taken place earlier that morning.
WONDER NOT!-Matthew 28:6
After describing the passion these women had witnessed (28:5) and the death that they had grieved, the angel calls their attention to the empty grave, stating the arrestingly obvious detail that Jesus was no longer in His assigned burial plot. While a cause of concern for these faithless women (who probably speculated that His body had been stolen or discarded in some way), the angel quickly reveals that "He had risen!" (28:6).
The nature of this verb suggests the culmination of an event or process. Indeed, Jesus' resurrection had validated His ministry, fulfilled His redemptive work, and ushered in a new era altogether. Through His resurrection, Jesus defeated death, sin, and the world system. This act implies that those who belong to Him through faith can necessarily conquer these elements as well. Death no longer has sting! Hell has been defeated! Sin is no longer binding!
However, this whole miracle should not have come as a surprise to these women. In fact, Jesus resurrection happened exactly "as He said" in Matt. 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; 26:32. All throughout the gospel, Jesus desires to be taken at His word, Jesus accompanied His resurrection with plenty of evidence lying behind, "see the place where he was lying" (28:6). So much evidence is given that even Harvard Law professor Dr. Simon Greenleaf states, "according to the law of legal evidence used in courts of law, there is more evidence for the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ than for just about any other event in history." FEAR NOT! WONDER NOT!
TARRY NOT!-Matthew 28:7a-c
Instead of calling the speechless women at the graveside to worship in light of this miracle or stand in awe of the situation that had transpired, the angel tells them to leave and tell other the best part of the good news of the gospel, Jesus had risen. Interestingly, the theme of "going" and "telling" is carried on throughout the rest of the final chapter of Matthew. The angel in verse 7 calls them to go and tell, Jesus speaks of "going" to the brethren and in order to "take word" in verse 10. And finally, in the commission given in 19-20, Jesus commands his disciples to "go into all the world" and "make disciples."
It would seem that the natural and assumed response to Jesus' completed work of redemption involves movement, not complacency, communication, not silence, and intentionality, not laziness. This message of the resurrection would have brought comfort to the disciples these women were called to engage and in much the same way, this message continues to bring similar comfort to the world. FEAR NOT! WONDER NOT! TARRY NOT!
WORRY NOT!-Matthew 28:7d-f
Much trepidation may have come upon these humble women at the empty tomb at this point. In first century Israel, women were not seen as credible witnesses, and yet, these were God's chosen messengers. Hesitation is what makes the fourth and final proclamation of the angel so important.
In an effort to encourage these women, the angel brings their attention to Jesus' movement. Already, as they were encouraged to go and tell, Jesus was running ahead of them into Galilee where the disciples waited. The messenger's suggestion that Jesus' presence would precede their arrival would have brought much peace and excitement to these women as they made their way. Oh what a joy it would have been for Mary and her friends, who at the beginning of the day anticipated attending to a corpse and now anticipated a lively and glorified body (28:7).
For these women, the call to go and tell would lead to an unprecedented experience with the presence of Jesus. Similarly, Jesus' presence is promised to anyone who goes and tells later in Matthew's gospel (28:20).
If you do not know this Jesus, will you trust Him at His Word? He has disclosed to the world all that it needs to know of Himself in order to receive His resurrection power over sin and death. Will you believe in Him today?
Christian, will you be faithful to go and tell other about Him? How great a gift we have been given through the cross! How great a Savior we have living within us because of His resurrection! What a message to proclaim and share with the whole world!
If we really believe our God was killed and then raised from the dead the way the Bible reveals, what are we doing sitting quietly on our hands? Perhaps we are worried. Perhaps we are discouraged. Perhaps we are confused. Perhaps we are run down in life. However, the same message that should be proclaimed to unbelievers is the message that brings hope to believers in the midst of any stupor or struggle. No longer are we playing a man down. No longer are you and I working while wounded. No longer is failure an option! We have the resurrection power of God within us! The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is active in your life! That alone is enough to do wonders we could never imagine.
Be encouraged believer--FEAR NOT! WONDER NOT! TARRY NOT! WORRY NOT! Jesus is risen ! He is risen indeed!