He is not here, for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has been raised from the dead (Mt 28:6-7a).
On what would be the final Sabbath of the old covenant age, Jesus’s shrouded dead body lies silently resting in a sealed tomb covered with a large stone. Quietly, this final Sabbath will pass, giving way to the most earth-shaking day in human history. Though all seemed hopeless, neither a lifeless body, deceptive guards, a large stone, or a sealed tomb could frustrate the power of God. With the dawn of the first Lord’s Day, all the human efforts to eliminate Jesus from the stage of redemptive history are held in derision as the grave, once thought to be unyielding and irresistible, is once-for-all conquered. He has been risen!
The emphasis of Matthew’s account in verses 1-10 of chapter 28 is that Jesus’s resurrection was literal and physical. First the women, and later the disciples, actually see the evidence that Jesus was raised with their own eyes. The angel’s statements, “He is not here,” and “He is going ahead of you to Galilee,” teach that Jesus is still a local presence, not an ethereal spirit; He can be felt, touched, clung to; he has feet to be worshipped at. The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is essential to our Christian faith. Jesus lives! More than just in his remarkable teaching or in his influence as a leader; Jesus is fully, personally and corporeally alive. The entire Gospel rests on these four words in English, “He has been raised,” or one word in Greek, “egerthey.” The truth held in this one word validates who Jesus was and is.
Death conquered, is a message that one would most certainly want to spread to all who will hear; and indeed the risen Christ commissions His disciples to do just that in verse 19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations …” But then wherever this Gospel message of life goes, we can expect that alongside it, there will be a countermission. Like our Great Commission (28:16-20), the countermission (28:11-15) involves going, telling, instructing, and spreading a message. The goal of this countermission is to undermine the life-giving message of “He has been raised,” replacing it with a message of death, “they stole the corpse.”
We ought not be alarmed by any countermission that is raised by our opponents. At the end of the day, “He has been raised” is the only message that matters. Let us not fear to proclaim this beautiful message to all nations!