Devotional for Saturday, May 30
At the end of each worship service, I “send us forth,” to use the language of fourfold worship. The obvious question is, “Send us forth to what?”
The answer, of course, lies in the word of God.
The Matthew text linked above is typically used as an Easter reading. Easter—the day we celebrate the resurrection of Christ—also is the key to understanding “sending forth.” We’re going to use Matthew’s story of Christ’s resurrection to help us better understand what we’re sent forth to do.
Jesus doesn’t appear until late in the story, but as he is the starting point for all things, we’ll begin with him. Even if you’ve heard this core story of Christianity a thousand times before, try to hear it with fresh ears today.
In the resurrection, Jesus is revealed fully as the Christ, the son of God, the promised gift of God sent to redeem the world. As we understand the resurrection more fully in the context of other holy writings, we see he is God in flesh, God among us.
The human characters in Matthew’s version of the resurrection are two Marys, soldiers assigned to guard the tomb, and Jesus’ disciples.
The two Marys. One is clearly identified as Mary Magdalene, a woman Jesus freed from demon possession. She was clearly devoted to Jesus. The “other Mary” is less easily identified; Matthew would never have referred to Jesus’ mother in such a way. She was likely the “mother of James and Joseph,” identified as being at the cross. Obviously, Mary (Miriam in Hebrew) was a very common female name in Jesus’ day and place.
What I take away from their part in the story is faithfulness, combined with an expectancy that something more was to happen. Unlike the other gospels, Matthew says the Marys merely went “to see the tomb,” rather than going with a specific purpose, such as to anoint Jesus’ body more thoroughly. I think that unlike many of the male disciples, the women had fully heard Jesus’ words about what was to come after his death, and hope remained in their hearts.
Through their faithful attendance to Christ, even when all seemed lost, they became important witnesses to mighty events surrounding the resurrection, standing at an intersection of heaven and earth. They also became the first humans to declare the truth about the remarkable event that changed the world.
The Guards. These likely were Roman soldiers, part of the toughest fighting force on the planet. They represent worldly power, a kind of power that seemed insurmountable to the people they had conquered. But when faced with just one of God’s angels, they collapsed into a quivering mass. The word translated as “shook” in relation to these soldiers has the same root as the word used to describe the earthquake that occurred when the angel rolled the stone away. All that was worldly trembled at the resurrection.
The Disciples. Just as they were Jesus’ primary audience in his three years of ministry, they seem to be his primary audience immediately after the resurrection. The angel told the two Marys to go to the disciples with word of the resurrection. Jesus repeated this instruction when he appeared to the women suddenly, as they ran to the disciples.
Later in Matthew, we’re told something interesting about the 11 remaining key disciples—despite seeing Jesus, some doubted. I wonder if they muttered in Aramaic, “It’s just too good to be true.” Jesus told them to go forth and spread the news of the resurrection, however, baptizing believers in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. It’s clear they finally did believe. After all, we are here on the other side of the planet, worshiping Christ as Savior.
As people who gather to worship Christ, we have the potential to fulfill some of these roles today. Where do you fit in the story?
We obviously don’t want to be worldly and reduced to a quivering mass in the face of the resurrection. At a minimum, I pray we’re like the disciples, following Jesus, even enamored with Jesus.
And yet—doubt creeps in. Can we be more like the Marys? Can we declare what has been revealed to us through God’s word? Can we live as if we expect greater things to happen?
That is what we’re sent forth each week to do. One way or another, we’ve gathered in worship week after week and equipped ourselves through the word. We’ve celebrated what has been declared.
Now, like excited, unhesitating Marys, let’s go share the good news about Jesus Christ with those who so desperately need to hear it!
Lord, regardless of how we worship, may we always leave worship declaring Christ as Savior to all who need to hear. Amen.