The scene which forms the text for today is found only in Matthew’s Gospel. Immediately after the women leave the empty tomb, to obey the command of the angel to tell Jesus’ disciples about his resurrection, Jesus himself meets them and thus, they are the first to see the risen Christ. Through this appearance of the risen Christ, Matthew stresses a point he made earlier through the Emmanuel prophecy (1:23) in the Mission Discourse (10:40) and in other parts of his Gospel, that Jesus would accompany his disciples on Mission. His presence with them would be a constant presence. The risen Christ, who is simply Jesus, thus stressing the continuity with the crucified Jesus, repeats the command of the angel. However, in Jesus’ command, the disciples become “brothers,” indicating that they now belong to the family of Jesus and that all the past has been forgiven. Thus, the women, besides being communicators of the good news of the resurrection, are also commanded to communicate reconciliation. Though Jesus appears as he would have in his life time, he is, nevertheless, the risen Lord as is evident in the response of the women who take hold of his feet and worship him. The risen Jesus is real but he is also new.
The second part of the text (28:11-15) narrates the bribing of the guards and interrupts the flow of the story. However, it also completes the story begun in 27:62-66 in which the chief priests and Pharisees ask Pilate to make the tomb secure and Pilate responds to their request by asking them to place their own guards, which they do. Though the guards had seen the same events as the women, they do not come to faith. They narrate to the chief priests “everything that had happened.” The height of the irony is that the chief priests and elders become the perpetrators of the very story that they accused the disciples of Jesus of possibly fabricating. The soldiers are instructed to fall in line with the story fabricated by the chief priests and elders and money is used as the lure.
The presence of Jesus is an eternal presence. It is a presence that is always there even when we try to deny it like the Pharisees did or even when we cannot feel is as tangibly as we would like. This is not only because of the promise of Jesus to his disciples and us, but also because of the fact that whenever love is made present Jesus is, whenever concern for another is shown, Jesus is and whenever we reach out in love and forgiveness, optimism and hope, Jesus is and continues to be.