Jesus was dead. His body had been taken from the cross and laid in tomb hewn from rock. A large stone had been placed over the entrance of the tomb. The Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, had ordered soldiers to secure the tomb and to guard it. Soldiers placed a seal of Roman authority upon the stone to prevent the opening of the tomb and then they stood watch. Pilate made it clear that Jesus’ tomb was not to be disturbed by any man or woman. Jesus’ tomb was not to be touched in anyway.
Then a series of curious things happened. On the third day following Jesus’ death, in the early morning hours, as darkness was just giving way to light, there was a quaking of the ground. That was not unusual, earthquakes happen in and around Jerusalem. But this quaking of the ground was different, it was no ordinary earthquake. It was a violent shaking and quaking of the ground in one spot, the tomb of Jesus. This was the second earthquake in three days. The first one occurred three days earlier as Jesus died. But this latest quake was occurring where Jesus’ lifeless body rested. The guards at Jesus’ tomb were fully alert, anxious that the ground was shaking again, but confident they would survive this quake as well. Then suddenly an angel appeared to the guards. The soldiers saw the angel who appeared in brilliant white searing light; a light so intense it was as it the guards could feel the light. The guards witnessed the angel break the seal on the stone of Jesus’ tomb and move the stone as though it were but a pebble. Then the angel sat upon the stone staring at the guards as if to say, “Yes. I did that. What are you going to do about it?”
The guards overwhelmed by nature’s quaking and the supernatural presence of an angel shook violently themselves. Overwhelmed by the brilliant light of the angel, overwhelmed by the power of the angel to cast aside a large stone, and overwhelmed by the failure of their mission to secure Jesus’ tomb could only respond in one of three ways. They could fight. They could flee. Or they could freeze. The body of the guards would not respond to fight or flee. All the guards could do was freeze and shake in fright. The color from their faces drained away and their appearance became grey and blue as though they were dead.
The guards knew in that moment the fearsome, awesome power of the one true God to cause nature itself to move at his will. The guards’ response is what it will be like for all those who deny God when judgment comes. For those who deny God and thus defy God, there will not be any time for smart words, sassy comments, or questioning of God. There will not be an ability to fight or to flee. There will be just total and complete fright, a violent shaking of their being, at being so very very wrong about God and how they spent their life.
Easter morning, God was revealing that the resurrection of, the presence of the resurrected Christ, was supposed to be an earthshaking and overwhelming event unequalled in history in the history of the world – and it still is.