Risen and Worshiped

1 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. (Matthew 28:1-9)

The two ladies mentioned in Matthew’s gospel account, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, were two who had been a part of Jesus’ life and earthly ministry. They loved him dearly. Not only did they walk with Him and hear His teaching and receive His comfort in their lives, but they were also there with Him in His darkest moment as He hung on the cross on Good Friday.

55 There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, 56 among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. (Matthew 27:55-56)

These ladies did not run from Jesus or His accusers, or His murderers. They stayed with Him until the end, until His death on the cross. These ladies had great respect for Jesus when He was alive with them. They were not fair weather friends of Jesus. They did not love Him simply for what He could give them, but they loved Him as a friend. In fact, what we see in this passage is that even after all seemed lost, even after Jesus had died, they still respected Him, they still loved Him, they still wanted to serve Him.

As with the other followers of Jesus, they were in a state of confusion. You know how it is for sure. When we are hurting, when we are highly emotional, when we are grieving and consumed with a great loss of some kind, whether the loss of a person or even the loss of a dream, we can move from sound thinking and judgment to confusion. But even during these ladies’ darkness of loss, they wanted to reach out to Jesus, even in His death they wanted to minister to Him if it be only His dead body. They had taken spices with them that would have been used to anoint Jesus’ body. We see this from Luke 24:1: “But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.” They seemed set on doing whatever they could do to show their love and appreciation to Jesus. So there they were at the tomb in the extreme early morning hours with their spices. They did not come to see a risen Savior, they came to pay respect to His dead body.

Their expectations were far from the reality of the next moment! A series of events, incredible, never before experienced events began to unfold before them. Things that they could not have anticipated began to actually happen. They could not have prepared themselves for what was to come. Life can be that way, life in Christ can be that way. Their grief and mourning turned into a “what is happening now” event!

The passage tells us that something unexpected happened, the earth shook severely. Verse 2: ”And behold, there was a great earthquake.” This was the second earthquake that was associated with Jesus’ death and burial. The first one happened at the time of His death. I’ve never experienced an earthquake but I know some of you have. It must be an odd feeling. What we think of as stable, the ground we walk on, all of the sudden begins moving, rumbling. But God shows us as mankind, from time to time, that even those things which we think are solid and sure, that even those things can crumble and fall. All that is completely sure and reliable is God Himself. An earthquake is an attention getter, it is a display of God’s power and might and control and sovereignty over the earth and all material things. He is God, and if He chooses to rock this world, the ground we stand on, then He does it. He did it in this case.

Something else unexpected happened, something glorious – “And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven.” So an earthquake and now an angel of the Lord! It is shaping up to be quite a momentous morning for these ladies. God continues to show His glory. An angel from the Lord appears! These are miraculous events. An earthquake and angel, and then the stone is rolled away. This angel rolled back the stone and he sat on it. The stone was big, it was heavy, it would have taken many people, many strong men to budge it, but it only took one angel to move it.

Angles are not like what we see as typical Christmas decorations. They are not like little children or dainty figurines. They are instead warriors, they are strong, they do the work of God, they are mighty servants for the Lord. This angel rolled that massive stone away from the tomb opening.

We even get a glimpse of his appearance in verse 3 – “His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.” This appearance like lightning must have been from the glory of God. Remember when Moses saw God’s glory and afterwards his face was different?

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. (Exodus 34:29)

Being near God changes even the appearance of Moses, and the angel had the appearance of lightning. This messenger reflected His Master’s glory. His clothes were white as snow. This suggests purity, holiness, he represented God before these to whom he appeared.

I said that angels are mighty warriors, they are powerful servants, not dainty figurines like we might imagine. We see more evidence that this is true when the soldiers see him.

And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. (Matthew 28:4)

Remember these guards, these soldiers were ruthless men. They were not cowards, they were trained killers, and as we can see from the events leading to Jesus’ death as He was beaten, these soldiers were skilled at inflicting pain. For them to tremble and fall away like dead men was major. They became paralyzed with fear for what they saw.

While the brave strong soldiers succumbed to fear and trembling, the angel quickly sought to comfort and assure the women who loved Jesus. This strong and capable angel spoke words of assurance to the ladies who were there. He did not come to frighten them, though he knew this could be a frightening experience for them. Verse 5 – “But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid.” It must have been like, “I know this may look frightening, I know the normal reaction here would include fear. You are seeing, experiencing the extraordinary, but really, don’t be afraid!” Why? “for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen.”

The angel did not come to scare Jesus’ followers but to deliver to them a message full of hope and peace and grace and comfort and joy. “You came to pay your respects by preparing His body, but something else has happened. He is not there in the tomb, for He is alive.” This one whom they loved, Jesus, not only had power while alive, but He had power over death.

17 “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18)

Jesus had the power to raise Himself from the dead. What kind of power is that? The Bible also is clear that God the Father also had that power. Galatians 1:1 says, “Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead.” And the Holy Spirit too was involved. Romans 8:11 – “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” We see the full participation of the Godhead – the Father, Son, and Spirit – working in unison bringing Jesus alive from the dead.

The angel adds, “as he said.” Jesus prophesied of this happening. This was not a last minute idea by the Godhead; this was the plan, it was always the plan. This defeat of death Jesus spoke of, and in Luke 24:8 we read that at that time “they remembered his words.”

The angel invited them to see the proof of his words, saying, ”Come, see the place where he lay.” Look at the proof, look for yourselves. If the earthquake, the angel, the fear in the soldiers, the comfort of all of this is not enough, then look here, look where He had been. He was not there. He was no longer there.

This may be the ultimate example of what God does for us. He takes what seems most difficult for us – tragedy, dismay, hopelessness – and He redeems those things for His glory and for our good. We see here death, what often seems like the ultimate end, give way to what? To life. This is the experience of every believer only because of Jesus’ experience here. We die, physically, and we are then alive, forever alive with Christ with a new body, in a new realm of perfection, with new sinless desires and ways, we have eternal life in Christ because Christ gave Himself to die for our sins and He rose again for our benefit.

This whole account that we have seen so far, this was not for a few ladies. This was for the world to take note of and to embrace. The angel instructs them to do what? To go and tell what they have seen.

7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. (Matthew 28:7-8)

The message is the same now as it was on that day: go and tell. If you think about these women we can say, “Well yeah, what else would they do?” A day like they just had, just a morning really, an early morning! Of course they will go and tell what has happened. What about us? If we have come to Christ and believed on Him for our salvation, if we have repented of our sins and are living our lives not just for ourselves but for Him who has saved us from eternal punishment and pain, if we have been given a new life, a life at peace with God, a life that will be spent eternally as recipients of His lavish love and kindness, if we have this then our response ought to be, “Yes, I will go and tell. I will tell others what it means to know this one who was raised from the dead.”

If we are in Christ, if we have embraced His life, His death, His resurrection, then this now describes us, this is us in Romans 5…

1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:1-11)

As the women were told to go and tell what had happened to Christ, so are we to do the same.

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Now, they were told to go and tell, but let’s see what happened even before they were able to tell their story.

8 “So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.” (Matthew 28:8-9)

Here is what I want us to see from these last two verses. When the ladies left they did so in fear. That is understandable given all that they had just witnessed and experienced. At least they could still function. Unlike the soldiers, the angel helped them with that and of course the Spirit of God. They also had great joy, and that too is understandable. They certainly had a story to tell. But what we see next is that it wasn’t just all about, like, “You won’t believe what we just saw!” It wasn’t all about just being hyped up about all the miracles and strange events. There was much more to it than that, and that is what we see next.

As they were on their way, they actually saw Jesus. Jesus greeted them. This became the culmination of the morning’s events. They actually see Him face to face, and seeing Him what did they do? “And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.” They worshiped Him! Their excitement was much more than having a story to tell, it was relating to Him in worship. They worshiped Him.

Worship means ascribing glory to Him. It means adoring Him for who He is, for what He has done, for what He has promised. It is adoring Him more than any other thing. It is saying, “You Lord are the one worthy of my worship, I will adore and love you most.” It is honor and adoration toward God.

28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:28-29)

Our understanding of Jesus, who He is, what He has done, should stir within us such a sense of gratitude that we will, because of that, worship Him with reverence and awe.

I wonder this Resurrection Sunday if we are sufficiently stirred to worship our Savior and our Lord. Are we so enthralled with Him that we lay aside our simple desires for things and people and dreams, and whatever else, that we will worship Him in spirit and in truth? Are we meeting Him daily in our studies and prayers and meditations in such a way that we worship all day long? Are we putting aside distractions and all those things that tempt us to worship lesser, worldly gods, and focusing intently on Him? Do we stop and worship Him along the way of life, or do we hurry past Him on our way to other things?

Our Lord is risen. He rose so that we might live, that we might live an abundant life leading to eternal life with Him. We are made to worship. Don’t pass Him by, don’t be distracted. Stop, take hold of Him and worship!

1 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. (Matthew 28:1-9)