It is amazing the things we will believe today. There are people who believe in ghosts but scoff at the resurrected Jesus. There are people who believe in the ability of the stars to forecast their future but deny the one who holds the stars in the palm of his hand. There are others who trust the reading of a bunch of cards or a person gazing at their hand but who consider the tested and proven Scriptures to be trash. We believe scientists who only discover the truths of the created world but ignore the one who put those truths into place. We trust in a financial system that can collapse in a heart beat but consider it laughable when someone suggests we trust the only unchanging force in all of creation. We trust in leaders who have lied and failed us time and again, yet we say that we cannot trust the only one who has never lied to us. We rely on our own unreliable strength and totally reject the one who is so strong he tells us to lean on him.
It is amazing the things we will believe today but we won't believe the events surrounding the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The angel, the rock rolled away, the empty tomb, the paralysed guards, the appearance of Jesus, all seem to be a bit much for some people. More like a children's fairy tale some people claim as they open their news readers to the latest political promises:
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. (Matthew 28:2-4)
Perhaps the real problem is that we find it hard to accept that the Creator does what he wants however he wants to do it. Perhaps he is just too supernatural for us. Or perhaps it is the fact that he does supernatural things using very natural tools. Why would there not be a reaction in the natural every time something supernatural occurred? Look at what happened in the natural world as Word Made Flesh died on the cross:
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. (Matthew 27:51)
As well, Luke writes of the darkness that had come over the land. This was a major event that was taking place and creation was reacting. So too at the resurrection. Some believe that it was at the moment of the earthquake that death was defeated and Jesus rose. An earthquake at his death and an earthquake at his resurrection, makes sense.
I can understand why people might scoff at first. It is all very weird and strange. The fact that God would even care enough to go through all this trouble for people like me seems a bit much. However, the one thing that stands out for me in this is the one familiar consistency that we find in the women's account of these events. Everything is new here. Never before has there been a resurrection like this. Death was being defeated here just as sin was defeated on the cross. This was the birth of the new creation and Jesus was the first born. The decaying flesh was being replaced by the permanent resurrected body. Incredible things were taking place but there was one thing that has always grabbed my attention and anchored these events in its accuracy. We find it in the angel's greeting:
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified." (Matthew 28:5)
Do not be afraid. Anyone who is at all familiar with Scripture will recognize this greeting as the first words spoken by angels when they encounter man. Read any of the encounters from the Old Testament. Look at the angel's greeting to Mary, Joseph, Zechariah. It's only natural. If I suddenly encountered this large supernatural being, all shining white, somewhere in my day, the first words I would want to hear is, "Do not be afraid".
The reason this is important to me is because I find that God always speaks to me through the familiar. The greatest comfort to me is that our God never changes: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8) It means that when everything is going crazy in my life I can look for the familiar hand of God because it will be there. So when I see a pattern, when something rings as a God-thing because I have seen it many times before, I grab hold of it. This is why the psalmist in Psalm 23 referred to the rod and staff of God being a comfort to him; it was familiar to him. This simple greeting from the angel on top of the rock makes everything that followed it seem all that much more legitimate and true for me:
“Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” (Matthew 28:5-7)
I love the consistency and continuity of the Bible. Sixty-six books with 40 different writers spread over 1,500 years of history and it all flows seamlessly together. Yet what a funny people we are, considering it all lies and fairy tales with the purpose of controlling people by means of fear and manipulation. We will believe in the science of our day but not in the author and perfecter of our faith even though we have as much evidence of this truth as we do the sciences we lean upon. Just because an eye witness wrote his account two thousand years ago does not make it an illegitimate account. In fact, it makes it more powerful as it has stood the test of time and remains a shared testimony of believers today. No, I find great comfort in the familiar and consistent things of God's Word, including greeting of the angel of sat on the large rock at the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It reminds me that despite all the silly beliefs of man over the centuries, our God remains consistent in his approach and love of man. Be encouraged my friends: Jesus is risen!