Holy Week Reflection: Saturday (Matthew 27:57-66)
St Matthew’s Gospel brings us another perspective on Jesus’ being placed in the tomb but also gives us a glimpse of the perspective of his adversaries.
You might think that a public execution would be enough for them. Strangely, they seem to recall Jesus speaking of rising again, in a way that his own followers do not dare to hope for (v63). They call him ‘that impostor’, and even now they have apparently defeated him, they will not let the matter go.
In writing to the church in Corinth, St Paul later calls Jesus’ followers ‘ambassadors for Christ’ (2 Corinthians 5:20). An ambassador is a kind of permanent representative. In the letter St Paul outlines the sufferings that might be faced by Christians and then says “We are treated as impostors, yet are true.” (2 Corinthians 6:8). At this stage in Matthew’s gospel, however, nobody is behaving as Christ’s ambassador.
An impostor is someone who pretends to be something they are not. Jesus was treated as an impostor. His adversaries, this passage shows, were perhaps a little too keen to reinforce the idea, not even leaving him alone in death. Perhaps, in the grief and emptiness following his death, his followers were beginning to wonder whether he had really been who they thought he was.
‘That imposter’ is how Jesus’ adversaries wanted him to be remembered. If there is an antidote to being seen as an imposter, it is probably authenticity and integrity. There is always a chance that, as Jesus’ representatives, people may see us as impostors, as hypocrites. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to persuade someone with words that already doesn’t trust you to change their mind. It could be, however, that they will be persuaded with consistency of character; behaving as you said you would do.
Some see the current time, in which we are unable to attend church or meet publicly for worship, as being a bit like a very long Easter Eve (or Holy Saturday). In the absence of our usual church services, would it look to others like Jesus is still important to you?
When our current isolation is over will you be like those in the crowd who had welcomed Jesus with palm branches but by this point had turned on him or abandoned him? Will you be like the twelve, who at this point are nowhere to be seen but will return? Or will you be like Mary Magdalene and the other Mary? There at the cross. There at the grave. And still waiting with a sense of devotion, perhaps even hope, when to others it seems all is lost.