Monday, May 20, 2019

Matthew 28:1-15: A comparison

I taught a Sunday lesson a couple of weeks ago based on Matthew 28:1-15.  This is the resurrection story in Matthew. Sometimes, we forget that while the story is in all four gospels, it is different in each one - kind of like we forget that the Christmas story told in the two gospels is different, and we combine them into one giant Christmas play in our head.

Don't ignore the differences,  Don't try to explain them away.  They can tell us something about the message that each Gospel writer is telling us.  Below are my notes from the Sunday school lesson.  Parts of these notes are taken from Feasting on the Gospel - a section written by Barbara Brown Taylor on this passage.
  1. Only Matthew allows the reader to watch the opening of Jesus’ grave.  In the other gospels,  the door of the tomb has already been opened when the women arrive.  We aren’t left to  wonder if a grave-robber or a soldier did it.  An angel of the Lord did it – it was done by a  divine act.  Question:  What is gained by knowing how the tomb was opened? What is lost?  (Aren't those interesting questions?  How do you answer them?
  2. The women who arrive are different in each gospel:
    • Matthew - Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
    • Luke – a group of women including Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and  the other women
    • Mark – Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome
    • John – Mary Magdalene
  1. The angel in Matthew is very different from the young man in Mark.  In Luke, there are two  men in “dazzling clothes”
  2. Only Matthew mentioned Roman Guards at the tomb.  Maybe this was important to  Matthew in order to refute common rumors of his time.  Maybe it is to echo Daniel: when  the king orders Daniel to be thrown into the lion’s den, a stone is brought to seal the mouth  of the den, and the king seals it with his signet.  Matthew is written for a largely Jewish  audience, so Matthew often references the Hebrew scripture, so this seems to fit his  purpose
  3. Only Matthew tells that the women were the first to see, touch, and worship Jesus. And the  Disciples go to Galilee as the women tell them to, so they must have believed them – at least  enough to follow their instructions.
    • Luke – the women received instructions from the two men, but no one believed  them.
    • John – Mary sees and speaks with Jesus, but isn’t allowed to touch him. Although  she is alone with him, the disciples do seem to believe her.
    • Mark – Jesus first appears to Mary Magdalene, but no one believes her.
Question:  Does the role of the women bring any questions to your mind?  Barbara  Brown Taylor writes, “…how (could) a church so dependent on the primary ministry  and witness of women ever come to debate their gifts for congregational leadership?”



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