Playing Dead

Matthew 28: 1-7

Early on Sunday morning,as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb.

Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.

Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”

Scripture is full of so many hidden gems. Even the most familiar stories hold small treasures, Easter eggs, if you will. The passage above is read nearly every Easter morning in churches all over the world. I heard it again this morning at home and there I was, faced with the truth of my own faith walk.

This story is often told with a focus on the women and the tomb or Jesus, himself, who is now risen. But what about those Roman guards? Those men were the fiercest fighting force of the day. They wreaked havoc on the Jews and were known for their brute force and fearless nature. On this morning however, one of God's fierce freedom fighters brought them to their knees - they were so terrified, they played dead so as not to draw attention to themselves. I imagine them to be somewhat like Darth Vadar's Storm Troopers - missing every shot and running for cover. If you thought angels are chubby babies with feathery wings, think again. Angels are mighty warriors who always bring God's truth.

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These guards reminded me of myself. In the narrative of my life, I'd say I've been caught playing dead a few times. I've been called out for bad behavior or shown where I fall short and I've done nothing. I've witnessed wrong and not stepped in. I've had the opportunity to witness and share the Gospel and I've clammed up. My M.O has been stay silent and still so nobody sees me or forgets I'm there. Sit quietly and do not respond for fear of being held accountable.

Think about it. How many times have you read God's word and you skipped over a hard truth because it meant making a change in your life? Has God ever sent a messenger to you who had insight into your life and you ignored them? Have you sat in church, heard a sermon point and felt like the pastor was speaking specifically about you? Instead of writing the point down to remember, you checked your phone for text messages? We probably get caught playing dead more often than we'd like to admit.

Those guards missed out. They didn't get to be part of the message. History remembers them as big wimps. Instead of hearing directly from God and witnessing the miracle of the resurrected Lord, they fainted with eyes, ears, and hearts shut tight. Think of how brave and bold those women were to stand there and face the truth and obediently run and tell others. I dare say their lives were forever changed for the better and once those guards "woke up" they went back to blindly serving the wrong king.

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I pray that when God sends His messengers, no matter how fearful we may be, we stand and listen like those women. No matter how unbelievable; even if we tremble because Jesus promised us life, not death. John 10:10 tells us He came so that we will not only have life but an abundant one. Let's leave playing dead to opossums and Roman soldiers.