The Sabbath was over, and it was almost daybreak on Sunday when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. Suddenly a strong earthquake struck, and the Lord’s angel came down from heaven. He rolled away the stone and sat on it. The angel looked as bright as lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards shook from fear and fell down, as though they were dead.
The angel said to the women, “Don’t be afraid! I know you are looking for Jesus, who was nailed to a cross. He isn’t here! God has raised him to life, just as Jesus said he would. Come, see the place where his body was lying. Now hurry! Tell his disciples that he has been raised to life and is on his way to Galilee. Go there, and you will see him. That is what I came to tell you.”
The women were frightened and yet very happy, as they hurried from the tomb and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and greeted them. They went near him, held on to his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid! Tell my followers to go to Galilee. They will see me there.” (Matthew 28:1–10)
The first person to know that Jesus was the Messiah was a woman. Likewise, the first person to know Jesus had been resurrected was a woman. That women are the first witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection is significant. Had the gospel writers been just making up the stories, they would never have chosen women the first witnesses. In the first century, in both Greek and Hebrew society, women were not regarded as reliable witnesses. No man would have ever picked them as the leading characters in the foundational event of Christianity.
It makes sense that the first words from the angel to the two women were “Don’t be afraid.” Everything they thought they knew had been overthrown. They’d just experienced an earthquake that had shaken the land, but the resurrection of Jesus was an earthquake in their souls.
The women left the angel happy, but still frightened. That was when Jesus met them. Suddenly they had not just the words of an angel, but the words of Jesus himself. Any doubts they might have still harbored were gone.
Though the angel told the women to not be afraid, they were still frightened. But when Jesus came, their fear finally went away for good. Jesus can take away what scares us. He is alive again and ever with us.