Matthew 28: 1-10 NRSV
After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 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, ‘He has been raised from the dead,” and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
Odd that a passage for Good Friday would focus on resurrection rather than the crucifixion. Then again, it’s quite appropriate. The Good News of Jesus does more than presuppose the cross; it positively entails it – in surprising ways. Mary Magdalene, the other Mary, and the guards have just crossed paths at Jesus’ tomb. Suddenly, a powerful earthquake dissolves the taken-for-granted-ness of solid ground. A messenger of God crackles down. He does not swing the sword of paradise-lost; he just sits there on the rolled-away rock. I imagine this angel with a look of bemused calm. The hardened guards collapse. The women stay upright. The angel tells them that Jesus has kept his word and that he is not bound by death. They immediately obey the angel, setting off to convey his message to the other disciples. Actually, the women mostly obey the angel, for even in their hasty, joyous departure, they haven’t heeded the very first command: “do not be afraid.” Then the crucified Jesus meets them on the way! He is not bedraggled, he is not bemoaning the recent ordeal. He simply says, in joy, “Greetings!” – just before reminding the women, indeed, not to be afraid. The cross was the apex of a tedious story of predictable dread. Made partakers of Jesus’ life, the women can see through the cross to a world of new, expectant wonder.
Lord, thank you for the Good News of Jesus! Thank you even for the cross, which upends fear at last. Thank you for being our resilience, our openness to surprise, and the joy of hope that stands when all else falls!