THEN CAME SUNDAY MORNING
Matt 28:1-4 In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: and for fear of Him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. (Also See Mark 16:1-4; Luke 24:1-3; John 20:1-2)
Friday, the day of preparation, the day Jesus was crucified, had ended; Saturday, the Passover Sabbath Day, a holy day to all Jews, was over; Sunday, the first day of the week, the third day in which Jesus lay in the new sepulchre, which had been prepared by Joseph of Arimathea, was now in progress. This day, according to the Jewish accounting of time, had begun at evening, approximately twelve hours before. Of this day and of the specific time of day, the lesson text tells us that it began to dawn toward the first day of the week. For a portion of Friday, all of Saturday, and a portion of Sunday, Jesus had been entombed. The sun was now coming up in the eastern horizon; it was now the third day!
As the day began to dawn, certain women, followers of Jesus, came to the grave site. Matthew mentions Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, who we know to be the mother of James the less and Joses. Mark adds that with them came Salome (Mark 16:1), known to be the wife of Zebedee and the mother of James and John. At this point Luke did not name those that came to Jesus' sepulchre, and John only mentions Mary Magdalene (John 20:1). Last mentioned in Matthew 27:56, these women had observed the tomb of Jesus from a distance, now they had returned to see the sepulchre. Both Mark and Luke specifically say that the reason for their visit to the tomb was to anoint the body of Jesus with sweet, aromatic spices, which they had prepared (See Mark 16:1; Luke 24:1).
Some think this event occurred prior to the women coming to the sepulchre, and others contend that it took place in the sight of the women. Some bible scholars even say that the angel, referred to here, was already at the tomb site before the women arrived. I prefer to accept this scripture just as it is written. As it reads, it seems that, as these women were approaching the tomb of Jesus, behold, there was a great earthquake. On the preceding Friday, at the exact moment that Jesus yielded up the ghost ...the earth did quake (Matt. 27:50-51). And on this following Sunday morning, there was another quaking of the earth. These convulsions of the ground seem to take place at the same instant the angel of the Lord descended from heaven. In the King James revision, there is no article preceding "angel," and should be read as if were "an angel of the Lord." Although Mark and Luke seem to indicate that the stone had already been rolled back when they arrived at the tomb, it seems possible that this could have occurred in their sight as these women approached the sepulchre.
This seems to be the intent of Matthew's rendering. When the angel descended, the earth did quake; the angel rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. The tomb of Jesus was sealed by the authority Pilate, which was granted to the Jewish religious leaders - the enemies of Christ. The seal was broken by the authority of God, which was granted to His angelic messenger - one of many protectors sent by God to establish the divinity of His Son, Jesus Christ, the promised Savior.
In describing this angel of God, Matthew says that his countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow. The visible representation of this being was not earthly; he was seen by all present and was unmistakably a celestial, heavenly being. The angel's countenance, or his body, had an appearance that was as bright as lightening, and the clothing that covered him was as pure and innocent as the whitest snow. No doubt this angelic being was seen by the women that had come to the tomb of Jesus, but more importantly, it was seen by the soldiers that were stationed to guard the sepulchre. The testimony of these women followers of Christ could be questioned, but not that of these Roman soldiers. What these pagan, irreligious guards observed on this morning brought fear and trembling to the very depths of their souls. Then came Sunday morning, and in mind-stunning awe of what they beheld, they became as dead men.