“And behold, there was a great and violent shaking, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came to roll away the stone. And then he sat upon it.”
“The one who sits in Heaven mocks; the Lord ridicules them.”
And so, as the women are making their way back to the tomb, wondering how the stone will be rolled back, there is seismic activity. In fact, the word that Matthew uses here, σεισμός (seismos), which refers to a violent shaking that can come from an earthquake, a storm, or just a loud thunder-clap, is the word from which we get the modern term “seismic.” The question that remains is whether this was a normal earthquake that God had timed, in his providence, to signal the resurrection of his Son or was the earthquake caused by the very presence of this mighty angel rolling away the tomb to reveal it to be unoccupied. The answer to this we do not know for sure; there is no question, though, though as to the divine purpose of this event — the Son of God has risen and the creation shudders in awe at this reality.
The angel, when he descends and moves the stone, takes his seat upon the stone as if to say, “Ha! What puny powers you humans have compared to the power of heaven.” You can almost see it as a dare to the Roman guards as well, challenging them to stop what heaven is doing — men seek to build their empires, but God can tear them asunder with but a word of power. God mocks those who would stand against him.
And so, the triumph of heaven is proclaimed to these guards first and the women will follow second. Yet, as we read through this passage together, notice the radical difference between the response of these guards and the response of these women. What distinguishes them? Faith.