4/16/2017 Easter Sunday The text is Matthew 28:1-10.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! We can proclaim these words with great joy as we share the greatest miracle and the greatest mystery of all times. We believe these words. We know them in the depths of our soul to be true. But what would you say if you were given the task of proclaiming this good news to the group of fearful and despairing disciples who had run away from their Lord in his hour of greatest need? What would be their response to the good news – Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia and Amen!
In a sense, that is what the women were told to do on the very first Easter. They had been given a great gift – as they saw the stone being rolled away. They had been given the great message – delivered to them by an angel. We would consider this a miracle…for we don’t encounter the type of angel that the women did every day of our life. And yet, the greater miracle was that the women peered into the tomb, found it to be empty and believed. They believed – Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!
But, the lack of Jesus’ appearance at the tomb must have been disappointing. For, don’t we expect more on Easter? Don’t we want to see Jesus robed in splendor, his face shining like the sun, and his garments white as the light? And yet, the women believed, and they ran to deliver their message. Even though they had not seen Jesus, they did not sulk away in sadness – they ran with joy. They did not hide themselves in fear – they glowed with hope. For, they were no longer distant followers, or simple women who could be easily ignored – in faith and in obedience to the will of God, they were witnesses and evangelists; they were the ones appointed to share the good news.
And as they went on their way, suddenly and unexpectedly, the women were a given a great vision. They were surprised by Jesus who greeted them. Jesus didn’t appear to intimidate the women. For, he doesn’t come to terrify, but to comfort and console. And yet, I can see the women, filled with awe, falling to their knees, with mouths frozen in a gasp as Jesus reinforced the message that they were to deliver. If they had doubted the words of the angel and the barrenness of a tomb – the women doubted no longer. They had seen…they had seen with their own eyes… they had heard…they had heard with their own ears…and they had touched his feet and they had worshipped. They knew, beyond a shadow of doubt – “Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!”
Surprisingly, this Easter greeting was not the message that women were instructed to deliver even though I have no doubt that those words rolled off their lips. The women, who were in the know, were to tell the disciples, who were still in the dark – reeling from the events of Good Friday – simply to go to Galilee for there, they would see Jesus.
But, how do you share this kind of incredible news, let alone convince 11 men who are in hiding for fear of the Jews to leave their safe haven and go to Galilee? How do you stop your heart from beating out of your chest and calm down enough to share the fact that Jesus, the one you saw crucified and laid in the tomb, was alive! His body was not in the burial cave! He was not among the dead, but walking, among the living! He has risen! You know this to be true. But, how do convince people that what you saw and heard and touched was real and not some hoax?
You know what the women faced. You’ve gotten the same kind of reaction from avowed non-believers. They see the resurrection as nothing more than a fairy tale – a story made up by people in order to control lives. To them death has the final word. Not even those who believe in reincarnation accept the notion of a soul returning to a dead body.
And yet, the cave was empty. An angel spoke to the women in the same way that an angel spoke to Mary and Elizabeth before them, giving them the good news. Jesus lives! Through Jesus Christ, death no longer has the final word. The final word belongs to God and that word is a word of life!
I can tell you, that with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my being, I believe that God raised Jesus from being dead and I believe that God will raise me and will raise you! Like you, I only have the words of some incredible women and the witness of the disciples – and yet, I am convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt – that Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! And that makes all the difference in my life and in world around me.
But, what do you believe? Do you believe as the women? Do you believe that God broke through the barriers of a sorrow-laden world? Are you able to see the unexpected new things that God is doing among us? And can you rejoice with me as we proclaim – Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed?
May we believe the witness of the women and may we, who are in the know, tell those who do not know – Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! For through faith in the risen Lord, we, like the women are witnesses and evangelists. Let us be bold and share the good news. For, Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia and Amen!
And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.