After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he[a] lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead,[b] and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” 8 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
May God bless to our understanding the words that we hear today.
And so we gather together on this third day, on this resurrection day, and in the tradition of Christianity we greet one another with the good news…He is Risen! And we rejoice in the reply He is Risen Indeed and so I say to you…He is Risen…He is Risen Indeed!
Will you pray with me please? May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all of our hearts and minds be acceptable in your sight O Lord! Our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen
All four of the gospels, Mark, Luke, John and today’s reading in Matthew include the resurrection story, all of them are a little bit different in the telling, sometimes the angel is there, sometimes he is not there, sometimes the guards are still there, sometimes they have already fled, sometimes the rock is still in front of the tomb entrance, sometimes it is already rolled away. The details may be different based on the writer’s memory of the event, but there are a couple of things that are the same in every story…It is ALWAYS Mary Magdalene who is there first and Christ has ALWAYS risen!
You know, once we get to that last part, the Christ is risen part do we really need to go any further? That is what we came to church to hear today isn’t it? Something deep down in the depths of our soul calls us out to hear the good news proclaimed again… He is Risen….HE Is RISEN INDEED. And really, isn’t that enough? It feels like it should be… but it can’t be… because the story does not end here…the bloody death, this amazing resurrection, this is not the end of the story. There is much more to tell and That’s the message…
In Matthew’s gospel Mary Magdalene and her friend arrive at the tomb early in the morning. They come broken hearted, they come to grieve, to sit on the ground next to that huge forbidding stone expecting to hold a vigil of mourning. They come prepared to cry and wail and pray, they come hurt and sad and overwhelmed, they come empty and alone and lost, they come not knowing what to do but knowing they had to do something… they come with no expectation of joy, they come thinking they know the answers, thinking they know what they are going to find… and what happens instead?
They are knocked off their feet, literally knocked off their feet as the ground rocks and rolls under them as God’s angel comes down from heaven in a blaze of light and right in front of them rolls the stone away from the entrance of the tomb and sits on it.
Now this version is different from the other gospels where the women come upon an already opened and empty tomb. Part of the message that I think Matthew wants us to see here is that Jesus didn’t need the stone to be rolled away from the tomb in order for him to escape death…the power of God is no match for no stinking stone. How often do we forget that? Over look that? When we have bottomed out, when we think there is no hope… How often to do tend to forget that when everything in our world is going well and we don’t think we need God right this minute?
How often do we forget that most of what we go through in life, the bad and the good, are no match for God? Resurrection day is here to remind us that if even death is no match for the power of God why don’t we let God in to walk with us in all the times of our lives? We do not have an insignificant God… and that’s the message.
I get the sense that God’s angel is a little bemused with the women…how can they be sad, how can they be surprised that he is even here, how can they wonder at an empty tomb “I know you’re looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised…just as he said.”
You know, in the hustle and bustle of resurrection day that is often something we overlook…we should not be surprised at his resurrection, it’s a miracle for sure, but we should not be surprised at it. He told us again and again and again that it would happen. “The temple will be destroyed and rebuilt in three days” He never moved off that message… just as he never wavered in the message that he teaches again, and again and again when we ask what we need to do to insure our OWN ultimate resurrection…you know…Love God, love your neighbor…you know his death and resurrection did not wipe out THAT message, God reinforces it with the biggest in your face moment ever. Why love God and love your neighbor? Because we have a God who can do this, Our God can conquer death and don’t you forget it...THATS the message.
That resurrection morning the angel hardly gave Mary and her friend time to take everything in, he gave them the important news...he is not here, he has risen just as he said AND he goes ahead of you to Galilee and he will meet you there…and Matthew tells us that the women, deep in wonder and joy lost no time in leaving the tomb but they are stopped in their tracks by the sudden appearance of Jesus who greets them with GOOD MORNING! It is a joyful greeting complete with exclamation point as if Jesus had just been waiting for this moment to surprise them.
And in their joy and in their grief and their relief and their fear and their gratefulness they cling to him but he barely comforts them…he tells them not to be afraid but to finish their job, to go on ahead of him to the other disciples and to prepare the way for his return to them.
There is a lot that happens next, but that is a story for another day. Today, today is Resurrection day and Christ is Risen….He is Risen indeed!
He has risen indeed and our job today is to not linger here, just like the two Mary’s we have news to share…our job is to get the heck out of here and go and share the message of the empty tomb. The message that Jesus is not dead but that he lives through the power of God and that he came to share that power with each one of us.
Resurrection is not just something that happened to Jesus, it is something that happens to all of those who follow Jesus into a reconciling relationship with God. It is the message of a new life given to each of us.
The message of the empty tomb is that Jesus is not there, he has risen just as he said and those of us who follow him, who truly give ourselves over to him, to live as his friends and family left in this world, share not only in his name but in this Life to which he is raised. This life of caring for others, this God honoring life, this life in which we die to ourselves in order to live into him. This resurrection life is now the way of life in which we participate. That’s the message…
We are called to live into the daily realization that the very power of God which raised Jesus from the dead is also the very same power which flows in and through us as followers of the Risen Christ. Even as the long dark nights come, even as the daily grind wears at us down, even as the tugs and bumps of the problems of each day come our way, we know that it is not our own strength which sustains us. It is not our own wisdom and cunning on which we must depend. It is not by our own wits and resources that we struggle to survive because we have the message of the empty tomb…he is not here, he has risen just as he said. That’s the message. Christ is Risen! He is Risen INDEED