Benjamin Cuyp was not a pupil of Rembrandt, however, he repeated Rembrandt’ subjects several times. This dramatic painting of the angel opening Christ’s tomb is a somewhat modified version of Rembrandt’s painting of the same subject. Christ stands behind the angel, but he is no longer a recognisable human being. Instead pure light and energy radiate out of the darkness of the tomb, a theological statement rather than a physical one. In the face of this light, the human beings in the painting tumble into a confused group.
Matt 27 62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, “After three days I will rise again.” 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.’
Psalm 102 In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them
and they will be discarded.
27 But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.
28 The children of your servants will live in your presence;
their descendants will be established before you.’
Life seems to finish in one of two ways. Either we expect the exciting and unbelievable; or like Pilate’s garrison, we watch graves, expecting nothing. These sentries expected nothing supernatural, so they sat up for three days and nights watching for grave robbers. Then when God blew the lid off the tomb, they were traumatised, as silent as dead men. Those who never expected Jesus to live again were shocked by the detonation of joy when he returned—and made all life possible.
In this world, people will either trust and find themselves gaping over the unbelievable things God brings their way, or they will doubt and stumble over the acts of the unbelievable God. Those who doubt are forever confused that the great mysteries of God never blessed them but only stupefied them.
Unbelief sets guards over sealed tombs – guards who expect nothing. Can it be that men and women can love God with a level of passion yet really be ignorant of the awesome possibilities that live in tombs? Yes! Religion sometimes wears a smug and practiced religiosity that is without vitality, expecting nothing. Religious people trade in their dull habit of guarding rocks.
Lord, your resurrection shook the earth. Indeed, it is still shaking it. Even more importantly, it is still shaking my life. As I approach the final week before Easter, may I find myself a grateful recipient of your grace, but even more an awed worshiper at your empty tomb.