Matthew 28:1–8 (NKJV, also appearing in Mark 16:1–11; Luke 24:1–12; John 20:1-10, 18)
28:1 Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4 And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.Matthew 28:1-8
5 But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.”
8 So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.
In the Matthean account of the resurrection, it is unclear whether the women actually saw the stone rolled away, or if they came just after it was rolled away and saw the angel who actually rolled the stone. Either way, the account of the soldiers and their fearful incapacitation was recorded, and the angel’s comforting of the women was recounted here as well. What an awesome experience this must have been! The soldiers fell like dead men, while they were guarding the one Who was presumed dead. The angel instructs the women to see the empty tomb, and report back to others that Jesus is risen as the first evangelists and witnesses to the resurrection. The work of Christ is complete and the new era of redemption has begun.
The parallel passage in Luke speaks of two angels, which may have just been omitted in the other two accounts. The women are also reminded of the prophecy of Jesus that He would rise again in the Lukan passage. Luke also includes the record of Peter going to the tomb and seeing the graveclothes lying by themselves. In the account of John, Peter and John were present at the tomb to witness the resurrection after being told of it by the women.
These stories relate the great news of Christ’s resurrection. They tell of the confusion and elation of the disciples of Christ, and speak to the power of His resurrection. When soldiers came to arrest Him, they fell backwards. When they saw the darkness at midday and felt the earthquake, they marvelled. When they saw the angel and the empty tomb, the fell like dead men. The power of Christ is unlimited and awesome. Whether in death or resurrection, the power is too great for man to contain!
Artwork from http://www.oneil.com.au/lds/pictures/empty_tomb.jpg