Matthew 27:57-66, Matthew 28:1-15
It was a cold, damp, and uncomfortably windy Chicago night. I was walking home from the Gold Coast Starbucks where I worked. It was only a few blocks, but man, at that time of night and during that time of year, the chill could cut you to the bone. I was less than pleased by the entire situation.
To top it all off, John Cusack had visited our store that day, and I had missed him. I don’t know if I was taking out the garbage or cleaning our back room; either way, by the time I came back to the front of the store, I discovered all my coworkers clamoring about our recent celebrity guest. What a bummer. So many questions about High Fidelity and Say Anything that I never got to ask him. Probably never will.
Now, I’m fairly certain that a chance encounter with John Cusack wouldn’t have fundamentally changed my life, but it would’ve been a great story. Definitely a better story than the one I’m telling you now: “The Time I Didn’t Meet John Cusack.”
Disappointing? Sure. Life shattering? Not so much.
On the other hand, missing an encounter with the resurrected Jesus—now that is a big deal. For the life of me, I cannot understand the reaction of the guards at the tomb in Matthew. Let’s quickly recap: an angel shining like lightning appears, he rolls away the stone covering the tomb, the guards are so terrified that they completely pass out.
So far, I don’t fault them. Admittedly, that would have been a startling experience.
Here’s where I do fault them though. When they came to, instead of looking for the resurrected Jesus, they decided to try to help the chief priests cover up the resurrection. WHAT?! Why?
Instead of responding to this divine encounter, they chose to pursue temporal comfort and safety. They knew that not only their jobs, but also their lives were on the line. So they decided to collude with the powers that be instead of pursuing the only power that truly matters.
I missed a chance to meet John Cusack; the soldiers missed an encounter with the resurrected Christ! When they awoke, they had a choice to make. Though they had witnessed an intensely powerful and spiritual series of events, they chose not to pursue spiritual awakening.
What a sharp contrast to the centurion who was witness to the crucifixion of Jesus a few chapters earlier. “When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified and exclaimed, ‘Surely He was the Son of God!’” (Matthew 27:54).
On my best days, I like to think I’m more like the centurion at the cross, who sees Christ and can’t help but utter a confession. However, I know there are times when I walk in the way of the guards at the tomb, who have encountered the power of God, but prefer to pursue earthly comfort and safety.
The temptation we all face in the wake of those encounters is to seek comfort or familiarity rather than seek Christ. When we do this, it makes us temporarily comfortable, but spiritually numb. Don’t make the same mistake the guards at the tomb did! In this season of resurrection pursue hope and life. Draw near to the resurrected and risen Jesus. He alone has the power to set us free.
written by Andrew Stoddard