On the mount where Jesus was transfigured, after the voice out of heaven had knocked Peter, James, and John to the ground, Jesus commissioned them as the LORD had commanded Joshua: "Rise, and have no fear."
The concluding chapters of Matthew are both harrowing and inevitable. Jesus is taken from the house of the Chief Priest to the Governor’s mansion. The chief priests and elders hurl accusations that don’t stick. Pilate knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up and was amazed that Jesus would not answer in His own defense. He even gives the crowd a chance to let both himself and the elders off the hook.
But Matthew knows what’s going on: “… when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves." The rest of the chapter is a blur of props and images: a scourge; a scarlet robe, a crown of thorns, and a reed; a cross, a written charge, and cast lots; Golgotha, earthquakes, opened tombs, and one tomb, sealed with a stone.
There is also a procession of characters: Judas, whose return to the chief priests is just as cryptic as his initial visit; the aforementioned Pilate, a spectacle of political calculation; a man of Cyrene, Simon by name, who finds himself thrust into the passing whirlwind; a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus; the soldiers, robbers, and bystanders; and many women, among them Mary Magdalene, and the mother of James and John – present until the very end.
As chapter 28 opens, on the morning after the Sabbath, two women approach the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.
But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid…”
Our verse for this week is Micah 6:8: He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Matthew 27 and 28. Now let’s read it!
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?