Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 27:62--28:8.
And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it (Matthew 28:2).
Just as Matthew described four wondrous attendant circumstances atthe death of our Lord on the cross (see Matthew 27:50-54), so the inspired Evangelist makes note of at least four initial wondrous attendant circumstances at his resurrection:
First, the earth convulsed (v. 2a: “And, behold, there was a great earthquake [seismos …. megas].” If the earth convulsed with grief and groaning at his death, it now leaps with joy at his resurrection, just as in Psalm 114:4 it speaks of the mountains skipping like rams and the hills like lambs at the presence of the LORD.
Second, the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it (v. 2b). We know from the other Gospels that there were in fact at least two angels who were there (cf. Luke 24:4; John 20:12). The angel of the Lord was there at his birth (Matthew 2:13, 19), and now, like a bookend, at his resurrection. Notice that the angel sat upon the stone, just as Christ will be seated at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19). You sit down when the work is done. It is a visual declaration of the finished work of the resurrection.
This angel is described in his glory and power in v. 3a. His countenance (the Greek word is idea) was like lightening. His raiment was white as snow (v. 3b). This speaks to the purity of God’s faithful angelic servants whose robes were never spoiled by the stain of fall or rebellion.
Third, the soldiers who were watching the tomb became as dead men (nekroi) (v. 4). The irony is that they were stationed there to guard the tomb of a dead man; but now Christ is alive, and they are like dead men.
Fourth, the angel answered and spoke unto the women (vv. 6-7). This angel becomes the first recorded herald of the resurrection, saying, “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said” (v. 6a). He then invites the women to investigate and see for themselves the empty tomb: “Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (v. 6b).
That same message continues to be proclaimed today: He is risen; come and see (cf. John 1:39).
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle