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Matthew 28 & Psalm 16

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

Reflections on Matthew 28:

‘They were afraid, but they were filled with joy’.

The fear from Mark 16 is offset with joy in Matthew 28. Jesus is present in this resurrection narrative and comes to the disciples when ‘some still had their doubts’ (v.17). A sense of security is provided and Jesus reinforces this with his promise to be ‘always with you, to the very end’ (v.20). Perhaps the fact the women did not enter the tomb this time means Matthew 28 is a less gothic account than Mark’s. Instead, they ‘went to look’, with no mention of spices ready to be used on the body (v.1).

However, a similarity is kept between the passages as the forceful command of the Angel to the women to ‘Go’ is repeated (v.7). In fact, it is amplified in Matthew as Jesus reiterates it: once to the women after he appears to them and again to the men when he tells them to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ (v.19).

While the imperative mood emphasises the theme of commandment it is interesting that there is also an action which happens spontaneously, without any prompting. After seeing Jesus for the first time both the women and the disciples ‘worship him’ (‘They came to him, took hold of his feet and worshipped him’ v.9). An analogy could be the moment at a train station when you see reunions between loved ones. There is no moment of comprehension which comes before the kisses and hugs; they flood out automatically. Likewise, when the resurrected Christ is met no questions come in-between the display of love. The cropped nature of these scenes leaves a lot to the imagination while still being instructive for our faith.

Reflections on Psalm 16:

Patience and I select opposing words: safety and suffer.

Security is at the heart of the psalmist’s experience of God: ‘LORD, you alone are everything I need. You make my life secure’ (v.5). They find solace in the “noble ones” and stress that they will never give sacrifices to, or run after, ‘other gods’ (v.3-4). On one level we detect a calm and undramatic tone that emits warmth, safety.

Another aspect comes into light when the psalmist seems to imply their sense of security is conditional upon the material comforts God has ‘given’ them (v.6). They also state that God is at their right hand instead of it being the other way round. These seemingly ego-centric lines give way to a dramatic final stanza. The verse is made up on five consecutive pledges about what God will do for the psalmist:

You will not leave me in the place of the dead.

You will not let your faithful one rot away.

You always show me the path of life.

You will fill me with joy when I am with you.

You will make me happy forever at your right hand.

In our reading the shift in address gave off a sense of desperation in the psalmist. From being confident in their faith they all of a sudden start reminding God about the things they expect, the things they desire. Is the author approaching death? Have they realised that they are separate from the noble ones and that it has not been enough to define their identity purely in opposition to the ‘other gods’, but rather they’d have to do something more than just be comfortable themselves? According to the psalmist it is the idolaters who are meant to ‘suffer more and more’, yet it seems like they suffer too.

A right relation is struck in the last line: ‘You will make me happy forever at your right hand’ (v.11). It inverts the previous claim in verse eight that God is at the psalmist’s right-hand. Coming to realise the relation of dependence we all have with God quells the harshness of tone and adds to the vulnerability of this Biblical voice.

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