The following appeared in our local paper last weekend. I adapted it from something I posted last fall
What does it mean to witness Christ’s resurrection? We might wish we were present when Jesus rose from the dead. But would this make us witnesses of Christ’s resurrection? Matthew 28 helps us consider these things.
Roman soldiers were at Jesus’s tomb when he rose. They saw the angel descend to roll away the stone. They shook with fear as the earth quaked at heaven’s touch (Matt. 28:2-4). No doubt they overheard the angel telling the women Christ was risen (Matt. 28:5-6). Perhaps they saw Jesus stop the women as they were running to tell the other disciples what happened (Matt. 28:8-9).
The soldiers reported all they saw and heard to the chief priests; they paid the soldiers to tell everyone the disciples stole Jesus’s body during the night. The soldiers took the money and joined the cover-up.
The soldiers and chief priests saw or heard about Jesus’s resurrection. But can we say they were witnesses in the sense Jesus meant when he said, “You will be my witnesses….” (Acts 1:8)? Then again, should we exptect Roman soldiers and chief priests to be bonafide witnesses of Christ’s resurrection? They weren’t followers of Jesus. Doesn’t that account for their reaction? Matthew 28 has something to say about that as well: “The eleven disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. When they saw Him, they worshiped, but some doubted” (Matt. 28:16-17).