By REV. LUNA L. DINGAYAN
SECOND OF THREE PARTS
The angel spoke to the women. “You must not be afraid,” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has been raised, just as he said. Come here and see the place where he was lying. Go quickly now, and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from death, and now he is going to Galilee ahead of you; there you will see him!’ Remember what I have told you.” – Matthew 28:5-7
You must not be afraid
First of all, through our Biblical text, the Risen Christ is saying to us, “You must not be afraid! He has been raised!” These were the words of the angel to the women (v.5). Perhaps, Mary Magdalene and the others were still overwhelmed with fear, when they went to see the tomb of Jesus on that resurrection morning. But we may say that at least they had overcome their fear a little bit. Unlike the men disciples of Jesus, these women were able to muster enough courage to go and see the tomb of this dangerous person, an enemy of the state, even if they knew that soldiers were guarding his tomb. Who would not be afraid after seeing their Lord and Master being arrested, underwent a mock trial, tortured and finally crucified? The disciples had to run for their own lives. Who knows, they might be the next to be crucified.
Upon the imposition of Pax Romana (Roman Peace) under Augustus Ceasar, the Jewish people had been living in fear. Palestine was heavily militarized. The people must have to follow the wishes of the Roman authorities and their local collaborators. Anyone caught disturbing the Roman Peace would be considered a rebel of the Roman Empire and would be meted out the capital punishment of crucifixion. Death was used to instill fear in the hearts of people.
Our Lord Jesus Christ was accused of being a disturber of Roman Peace. As a matter of fact, he was accused of many things. He was accused of claiming to be the Messiah, the one who would come to liberate the people from their Roman oppressors (cf.Lk.24:21). He was accused of claiming to be the King of the Jews (Jn.19:19). And this would mean that he usurped the authority of King Herod Antipas, the one who was appointed by the Roman Empire as King of the Jews at that time. He was accused of misleading the people and inciting them not to pay taxes to the Roman Empire (cf.Mt.22:17). From the eyes of the Roman and Jewish authorities, Jesus indeed was a public enemy number one. And, therefore, he must be crucified.
Jesus was a victim of false accusations and mistrial. The truth of the matter is that he came to proclaim in words and in deeds the truth of God’s Kingdom by curing the sick, forgiving and accepting sinners, giving hope to the poor and outcasts of society, and challenging the hypocrisies of the powers-that-be. His message was so powerful that it had shaken the very foundations of the Jewish religion and of the Roman Empire. Hence, the powers-that-be were threatened by the truth that he proclaimed, and by the life that he lived.
Jesus knew from the very start that faithfulness to God’s mission would mean crucifixion. Many times he was tempted to give up. But every time this temptation comes to him, he would rather say: “Worship the Lord your God, and He alone you shall serve” (Mt.4:10), “Not my will but your will be done” (Mt.26:39).
And now that he had accomplished God’s mission, he was saying to his disciples through the angel, “You must not be afraid!” Jesus was raised from death. This would mean that death, which the Roman Empire used to instill fear in the hearts of people, is not really the end. The life Jesus lived is more powerful than death; it is a life that goes beyond death.
In our time, perhaps no one had ever understood the meaning of this message more fully than the witnesses of big crimes in our country today. The witnesses knew that they might follow the way of death, if they would take the witness stand. But nevertheless they had the courage to stand and proclaim the truth. The media people and political activists, who were killed for exposing the truth, knew the meaning of this resurrection message. They believed that death is not the end. That life is more powerful than death. That truth in the end is more powerful than falsehood.
Perhaps, there would also be a time in our life when we are confronted by the truth, and we are called upon to bear witness to it. When that moment comes, may the God of life, who raised Jesus from the dead, remind us: “You must not be afraid!”
Come and see
Secondly, the Risen Christ is also saying to us through our Biblical text: “Come and see.” The angel of the Lord said to Mary Magdalene and the other women: “Come and see the place where he was lying” (v.6). This was actually an invitation for the women to see for themselves the truth of the resurrection. It is an invitation for them to personally experience its reality. Unless they would be able to see and experience themselves, they may not be able to have the passion and commitment to proclaim it and to live by it.
Belief in the resurrection is not just an intellectual assent. To believe in the resurrection is to live in the power of the Risen Christ. It is to live the life that the Risen Christ had lived.
To live in the power of the resurrection is like the story of the Lost Son, who took his inheritance from his father and went away to a faraway place and spent everything he had in an easy kind of life devoid of meaning and purpose, until he had nothing to eat (Lk.15:32). He had to experience living and eating with the pigs before he was able to realize life’s meaning and purpose in his father’s house. He went back to his father and asked for forgiveness. His father was so gracious enough to accept him, and he said, “Let us celebrate, for my son was lost but now is found; he is dead but now he is alive” (v.32).
To live in the power of the resurrection is like Zaccheaus, the tax collector. He was despised by everyone, because he was a traitor to his own people and a corrupt official of the Roman government (Lk.19:1-9). No one would ever dare to talk with him as a friend, or to come to his house as guests. But when Jesus said to him, “Zaccheaus, I will come to your house today”, he really felt a sense of joy. Then, he said to Jesus, “Lord, I will give one half of my money to the poor, and if I cheated anyone I will pay back four times as much.” He was a changed person! Indeed, he experienced the power of the resurrection.
Resurrection is not something that would happen only after we have died. Rather, it is something that we could experience everyday as we bring hope in the midst of hopelessness, forgiveness in the midst of sinfulness, life in the midst of death.
Hence, the best proof of the resurrection is not the empty tomb, but the lives of countless people through the ages that have been changed by the power of the Risen Christ. If someone would ask us to prove the reality of the resurrection, we must not only point to the empty tomb, but rather we must be able to say like the words of a song, “For once I was lost, but now I’m found; Was blind, but now I see”. This, I believe, is the best proof that Jesus Christ our Lord is alive, indeed!# … continued next week: Last or 3 parts, Go and Tell… nordis.net