April 17 – Matthew 28:1-10

This isn’t the case for everyone, but the resurrection might be old hat to you. Like many other things about our faith, overwhelming familiarity with the concepts and stories of the Bible can make us less astounded than we ought to be. It might take a little work in your discussion to consider the resurrection in a fresh way, but it’s worth it. Upon Jesus’ resurrection stands every hope the Christian has for this life and the next. “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile.”(1 Cor. 15:17)
This week we’ll look at the experience of the first people on the scene of Jesus’ resurrection, Mary Magdalene and the “other” Mary (see note about the Marys below the questions). This has some important takeaways, which we’ll get to in a moment. Mary and Mary came to the tomb that day fully prepared to mourn and complete proper burial rites for Jesus’ body. With Jesus’ enemies, someone certainly could have had motives for disposing of his body dishonorably.

We’ll take some time in discussion to try to enter their experience here; we’ll try to feel what they felt as they walked to Jesus’ borrowed tomb still grieving his gruesome death and still dazed with disillusionment now that their Messiah was another Roman casualty. We’ll try to imagine what the shock of seeing an angel was like (considering it left a whole Roman cohort catatonic with fear). And we’ll imagine how their hearts must have leapt to hear a voice they thought they would never hear again.

And, though we won’t quite hit this in our discussion, imagine now how big Jesus’ smile must’ve been when he announced, “Greetings!” Imagine how much of a surprise Jesus knew it would be, how aware he was of the joy of his presence, and how delighted he was to see his friends again. All of this, the oppressive shadow of death, the earth-shattering revelation of Jesus’ resurrection, the thrill of hope that God is with us and that all sad things will be undone, all this is a good way to describe the experience of following Jesus, particularly of first coming to faith. Here is, in a sense, the archetype experience of meeting Jesus and being received by him.

As mentioned above, there are some takeaways from Mary and Mary’s experience here. They were the first witnesses to the resurrection, and then Jesus told them to go and inform the eleven apostles. These elements of Jesus’ resurrection are remarkable; in the first century, the testimony of a woman was thought to be unreliable. It was legally inadmissible in a courtroom. Further, women were perceived as second-class citizens, presumably unworthy of the honor that Jesus gave them here. But in the face of these cultural assumptions Jesus gave these women the most precious news. This is the upside-down Kingdom, where God utilizes what the world calls weakness in order to shame what the world calls strength. As much as we are focusing on the resurrection of Jesus and the hope that brings us, we shouldn’t miss God’s heart towards women in this passage.

Lastly, it’s worth pointing out that Jesus specifically calls the disciples his “brothers” in verse 10. Remember, just a few days ago these men had entirely abandoned him. And yet here Jesus calls them his brothers. Jesus only directly calls the disciples his brothers twice in the Gospels, here and in John 20:17, also after his resurrection. In his resurrection there are new realities for the Christian, particularly forgiveness for our rebellion and abandonment of our God, and through the work of redemption we now have access both to the Father and to Jesus as our perfect Elder Brother.
Questions for Discussion
• Could someone read Matthew 28:1-10 for us?

• What stood out to you in the passage?

• What are some of the theological implications of Jesus’ resurrection?

• What do you think this whole experience was like for Mary and Mary?

• Why do you think both Jesus and the angel told them not to be afraid?

• What do you think it was like for them to hear Jesus’ voice again?

• How does their experience at the tomb relate to your own faith journey?

• What’s something about Easter that was significant to you this year?

The Marys

There are a bunch of Marys in the Gospels (four to be exact), so it’s tricky to keep them separate. As you can guess, Mary was a really common name in Jesus’ day; supposedly one in five women in first-century Palestine was named Mary! With all the Marys out there you can see why some of the ones below were identified by their home town, such as Mary of Bethany, or their family relations, such as Mary the wife of Clopas.

So, in the resurrection accounts of the four Gospels (Matt. 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, & John 20), it seems as though the women who visited Jesus’ tomb were:
Mary Magdalene, who Jesus healed from demon possession in Luke 8:2 (and who was not, in fact, the same woman who washed his feet with perfume in Luke 7:36-50)
Mary the mother of James and Joseph/Joses, who is likely also the “other Mary” of Matthew 27:61 and “Mary the wife of Clopas” from John 19:25
Salome, the mother of the two apostles, James and John (who is also Jesus’ aunt, cf.John 19:25)
Some unknown additional women are also possible.

So that’s two of the four Marys in the Gospels; the other two are Jesus’ mother and Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus (who is sometimes confused with Mary Magdalene). Thus there were three Marys at the foot of the cross in John 19:25 (Jesus’ mother, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene) and at least two Marys at the tomb on Easter morning (Mary Magdalene and Mary the wife of Clopas).