Matthew 28:1-10 Part 4


When the women approached the sepulchre where, about forty hours before, the men and had entombed the crucified Christ, they immediately saw the awesome appearance of the messenger of God sitting upon the rock which had been rolled away.  It was just beginning to dawn the first light of day; and his appearance, in the darkness, was “as lightning”.  And his “covering white as snow”.

Now, an earthquake having already occurred, and the women – being alone – without protection – moving around outside the city (and now in a cemetery), must have generated some high degree of apprehension.  And now, already frightened, and dreading what they were here to do (i.e., complete the embalming of the body), there is little chance for us to describe the scene that they came upon in such a way as to engender among us the same kind of fear and anxiety that existed between them.  It would be a great literary challenge to “recapture” that; and my capabilities are not up to it.  So I’ll leave it to you.

Needless to say, the “fright and flight” functions of the human psyche were operating to the maximum!

Of “lesser” notice (and maybe not even entering their consciousness at all, at first) were Roman soldiers lying on the ground – having dropped right where they stood (verse four).  Matthew’s record informs us that, through fear of the angel of Kurios (God), they had been made as “dead ones”.  As the dead are unconscious, so this contingent of guards (posted there to guard the tomb of Jesus), were unconscious.  The language is specific here… they had been made unconscious.

At this point the question arises (in the minds of some) (as silly as it seems) as to the nature and capabilities of men versus women.  (It always seems to come up nowadays.)  Some would look at this scene and complain of the inability of the men of the Roman guard to retain their senses at the point of great fear, while seeing that the women were able to stay on their feet and remain conscious!  Psychological “psycho-babble” would be used in an attempt to explain the “fright and flight” syndrome and the state of “incomprehensibility” that results from great shock.

But the text of Scripture provides us with all the answers… without the psycho-babble!  You see, Matthew carefully provides us with the detail that the soldiers were made as “dead ones”.  Through their fear they were rendered unconscious.  Yet the angel of Kurios strengthens the women in his command that they have no fear!  It was a Word from God – through the angel.

So, on the one hand the soldiers have received no strengthening; rather they have been rendered unconscious.  On the other hand the women were not rendered unconscious; rather they have been strengthened!  And the reasons are… that the soldiers were to receive no message from God through the angel; and the women were to receive a message from God through the angel!  (And we’ll look at that message in a few minutes.  It fulfilled the prophetic Word that, at the institution of the New Covenant, the women would prophesy!  First, at the birth of Jesus – we read the prophetic words of Mary and Elizabeth as they sang of Messiah’s advent; then we saw the “daughters of Jerusalem” weeping and wailing due to the ungodliness of Israel and the disastrous consequences of the crucifixion; and now they are there to transmit the message of Jesus’ resurrection to His apostles!  All of these events are “foretold” in the prophets… to occur as God’s history reached the point of judgment and deliverance in the Christ!)

But (back to the scene at the tomb), as we saw last Lord’s Day, Matthew wastes no time in a description of what had happened; and neither did he approach the subject of the women’s “feelings” about what they saw.  Truly it was an awesome and fear-producing sight which, without the strengthening of the angel, would have driven the women into immediate flight – or into a dead “faint” along with the soldiers!

The “glory” and “brilliance’ of the angel is that which proceeds from the presence of God Himself.  It is His glory!  And, on other occasions in which “an angel of Kurios” appeared to man, there has been an immediate reaction of self-disdain and self-contempt.  For example, upon being confronted by the angel, Daniel wrote that his “comeliness was turned in him to corruption”; and he was, immediately, prostrate on his face.

But, as we saw, Matthew’s words, rather than being a literary description of the scene, drive us to inquiry about the meaning of the glorious, prophetic Word of God!  And we examined the word which he used in description of the angel; and we were sent back to the “host” of angelic creatures which make up the “Glory-cloud” surrounding the Judgment-seat of God as He comes, in His creation, in judgment and in deliverance!

This angel was “as lightning”… which flashes from the Glory-cloud, carrying forth the “Word of God”!  Not preaching… but, as messengers, angels are “ones sent” with a specific message.

Then we went back to Psalm fifty-one to do some work with regard to the angel’s “covering”.  Matthew says that his garment, his covering, was “white as snow”.  In the Psalm (fifty-one) David mourns his sin in poverty of spirit.  And he prays to God that he be “sprinkled” with the blood of the sacrifice, and that he be made “whiter than snow” having been washed with pure water… both of these – allusions to the brazen altar and the laver of water in the outer court of the tabernacle.  For it is the work of the Christ (as prefigured in the tabernacle) that satisfies the Father and makes us clean!

Now I want to take you one step further with regard to the angel’s “covering”.  Matthew minces no words; and his description is very meaningful (so, our inquiry into the Scriptures).

And we must go back to the prophecy of Daniel as he receives the visions of the “kingdoms” of the earth (chapter seven).  There are five in number – all of them great, world-wide, culture-changing, language changing, earth-ruling kingdoms; the first being Babylon, then comes the Medo-persian empire, then Greece – Athenian, and then the Roman Empire.  That’s four.

And now as I read from chapter seven of Daniel’s prophecy, listen for the description of the angel’s covering… while paying attention to the institution of the fifth great Kingdom, and Whose it is!  Listen carefully:


“I watched till thrones were put in place and the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow.  And the hair of His head was like pure wool.  His Throne was a fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire; and fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him, a thousand thousands ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him.  The court was seated, and the books were opened.

“I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking.  I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame.  As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.

“I was watching in the night visions.  And behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven!  He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.  Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away; and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.”


As you heard, Daniel’s words concerning his vision included a description of “the Ancient of Days” – God the Father – coming in judgment and in deliverance.  And the four, great, world-wide kingdoms of the earth (in succession) are shattered; and their dominion was taken away.

And there is the institution of the Fifth great Kingdom – one whose dominion will never be taken away!  And Who is it that “comes in the clouds of heaven” to take possession of that Kingdom?  It is the Lord Jesus Christ, Whose work is now completed, and Who receives power and glory and a Kingdom – taking His seat at the Right of the Father!

In his description of the Father – The Ancient of Days – (and His appearance in judgment and deliverance), Daniel reveals His appearance as white as snow”!

And how does Matthew describe this creature – the angel – sent form God (verse three)?  “His appearance was as lightning, and his garment white as snow.”  And Ancient of Days (setting up thrones, as Daniel sees) sends out, as lightning from the Throne, an angel whose “covering” is the Glory of God!  And he “streaks out” from the Glory cloud to deliver a message at the empty tomb!

Matthew is referencing the vision of Daniel at the event of the resurrection of the Christ!  The connection is so perfect that it must not be missed.

The atoning work of Jesus Christ now complete, the Christ of God, having arisen from death, is now ready to come in the clouds of heaven (the angelic host) and receive dominion over the creation of God!

So now you can see that this creature/messenger from God, whose appearance is “as lightning”, comes directly from the Glory-cloud/Presence of God to speak God’s message to those at the tomb.  “He has arisen as He said.”  His covering speaks of the salvation of God’s people in the work of Christ, and the dominion and rule of the Lord Jesus Christ in the fifth great Kingdom, which is about to be instituted!

So although Matthew’s account is very short, his words are the glorious language of the prophetic Word of God.  And when we inquire into them we plunge ourselves into the height and breadth and depth of the mind of our Sovereign God and His great salvation.

As we go in to look, now, at verse four… listen once again:


“And the ones who were watching were shaken from the fear of him, and they were made as dead ones.”


Matthew, of course, is reporting the scene as it appeared at the point when the women arrived at the tomb.  The angel, whose appearance was “as lightning”, had rolled the stone away and was sitting on it.  And the soldiers who had been stationed at the tomb were all lying on the ground!

Matthew’s language is specifically in the passive voice… they were “shaken” by the fear of him, and they had been made “as dead ones”.  The word “shaken” is exactly the same word as Matthew used in verse two… “and there had been a great ‘shaking’”.  An earthquake!  The word is “seismos” – shaking!

The soldiers, who had been placed there by the priests and elders of the Sanhedrin to guard against Jesus’ disciples taking His body, were shaken!  From fear of the angel!  His presence and appearance was awesome indeed!

And they were made “as dead ones”.  This is a common occurrence in the Scriptures as men, who are dead in sin, come in contact with the Glory of God.  Isaiah said, “Woe is me, I am undone!”  Ezekiel was immediately made prostrate on his face.  Daniel fainted at the vision of the Throne-room of God.

The Glory and Holiness of God causes men to be “repelled”, for the “sin nature” which is ours can’t exist in His Presence!  God’s Presence is fearsome to those in sin.  Man distances himself from the overwhelming holiness of God, for sin can’t exist in His Presence!  (That’s why the Christ came… to atone for the sin and to satisfy the wrath and holiness of God, and to provide His people access into His Presence!)

Daniel said that his comeliness, (i.e. his great beauty), was turned in him to corruption in the Presence of the vision of God.  The nation of Israel, at Mt. Sinai, begged Moses to allow them to stay away from the mountain as the Glory-cloud of God engulfed it… for fear it was too frightening for them!

The holy of holies in the tabernacle was a fearsome place of death and judgment for those who ventured too close; and the ark of the covenant was untouchable without the effect of immediate death!

And this angel-creature, the Word of God, a representative of the Glory-cloud/Presence of The Lord of Hosts, so “shook” the Roman soldiers (depraved mankind), they were driven to the ground in senseless unconsciousness – “as dead ones”.  They were dead!  Dead, depraved, cursed mankind who could not, in any way, exist in the Presence of a holy God.

We are reminded here of the tendency (as we’ve witnessed many times) of men and women (and even children) who so detest the Word and its preaching, and so resist being in its presence, that they will “banish” themselves to another place in order to avoid it.

The “Light” of the Word is terrifying.  The glory and holiness of God and His Word so “illumines” the sin of men, bringing it to the Light, that they “draw back” and retreat!  They “flee” in fear – hating what they hear… and they will locate themselves and their families in places where there is “less light” to illumine their sin!  They may even go to another Church… one in which there are activities and fellowship, but very little Biblical preaching.

Or they may decide to go to the lake, or play golf, or work… or just “sleep in”.  But by whatever means they choose, they are “escaping in fear” that which they know to be true.

But all of this is illustrated by these Roman soldiers who were fear-stricken by the formidable holiness of this creature from the Glory-cloud/Presence of God.  They were rendered unconscious by Glory, brilliance, and Holiness.  They were shaken, and made “as dead ones” in the Presence of holiness!

But the women were strengthened.  By the gracious Words of God through His messenger, they were given composure.  At their initial approach the angel immediately said to them, “fear you not”.  It was from God.  And it was like the breath of God in their nostrils; their consciousness was retained, and their legs held them up.  They were enabled to see and to listen.  They were to hear the message sent from God, and they were to “convey” it to Jesus’ disciples.

The angel then said to them (verse five),


“I know you are seeking Jesus – the One Who was crucified….”


After strengthening them the angel gives them some assurance.  His mission is with regard to Jesus – the One Who they have followed and loved and ministered to.

And even in such shock of being in the Presence of this holy angel of God, how they must have “perked up” their ears at the mention of His Name.  “I know you are seeking Jesus….”

How did the angel know that?  He knew that because he came directly from God!  Angels aren’t omniscient!  They don’t know the minds of men – except from observation of behavior.  They don’t know the future; and they can’t read minds.  But he gave the women information about themselves and their mission; and it was for the purpose of assurance that this one was from God!  There was only one place the information could have come from – from God Himself.  Therefore this creature was here for a purpose; and that purpose was to give them a message from God.

And that message, which concerned Jesus, includes a wonderfully constructed word.  He says,


“I know that you are seeking Jesus the One Who was crucified.” 


To get a little technical here, “the One Who was crucified” is a perfect passive participle set in the accusative case.  Since it’s set in the accusative, it is Jesus Who is the direct object of the sentence.  And the perfect passive participle, if it’s translated in all of its “richness” would sound like this:


“I know you seek Jesus the One Who is now in a state of having been crucified.”


You see, the angel’s message from God is not in the “past tense”!  His existence is not ended!  The message is in the “perfect tense”.  Jesus now exists in a state of having once been crucified!  That message is one of present life and existence!  The Lord Jesus Christ is alive!  He was crucified; but now He lives in a state of once having been crucified!  See the glory of this language?


“He is not here!”


Why isn’t He here?  Because


“He was raised according as He said!”


He was crucified; but now He is living in a state of once having been crucified!  He now is the One Who was crucified.  Now He is alive… having been raised from death according as He said – the angel’s message includes what Jesus said!... According as He said!

The “Greater Jonah” said:


 “…an evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.  For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”  (Matthew twelve, verse thirty-one)


Later on Matthew writes:


“…From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.”  (Matthew sixteen, verse twenty-one)


And then this:


“Now while they were staying in Galilee, Jesus said to them, ‘the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up.’”


And lastly,


“Now Jesus, going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples aside on the road and said the them, ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify.  And the third day He will rise again.’”  (Matthew twenty, verses seventeen through nineteen)


“According as He said….”  The insinuation is that the women had come to finish embalming Jesus, for He had been crucified.  He was dead.  They had not believed Him when He said over and over that He would be raised the third day.

And mournful and dejected and sorrowful (and now very frightened) they had come to embalm His body for permanent entombment.  “He is not here”, the messenger of God said; “For He was raised according as He said.”

Next week, we will begin with looking at the last part of verse six.  So we will stop right here with one word regarding the necessity for the resurrection.  It was necessary that Jesus come up out of death, for there had to be a new creation!  There had to be a defeat of death and a rebirth into life.

Without the Second Adam all mankind is dead and hopeless; but with Christ arising from death, there is new creation – new life – in Him.

It is my hope that not a single one of us is so blind to this reality that he remains in his sin and death to his eternal destruction.  But that all of us have the hope of final resurrection in Him.  For, as the angel said, “He is not here.  For He was raised as He said.”