The Gospel text is from Matthew, who tells the story of the resurrection very differently from John. It’s the only gospel story with an earthquake – in fact, there are two earthquakes, one at the moment Jesus dies, and one here, as Jesus’ resurrection is announced to the women. The news of the resurrection is earth-shattering. It should shake us up every year to be reminded so powerfully that Jesus died and is alive again.
Twice the women, these two Marys, are told, “Do not be afraid.” The angel – who appears out of nowhere and rolls away the stone – tells them, “don’t be afraid.” I don’t know about you, but if I went to the cemetery and suddenly an angel appeared in front of me, I’d be terrified. The roman guards were certainly afraid! I’m not sure that his words, “do not be afraid,” would be any help, either. But, that’s what the angel said. Then he said these startling words, “I know you are looking for Jesus. He is not here. He has been raised from death.”
I think there must have been a longer conversation, as the angel worked to calm the women down so they could grasp what he was really saying. He showed them the empty tomb; he reminded them of Jesus’ promises to return after he died. In the end, the angel tells the women that Jesus would meet them in the Galilee.
On their way to tell the men what they have learned, Jesus himself appears. He also says, “Do not be afraid! Go tell the others that I am alive, and I will see them in the Galilee.” At the end of Matthew, Jesus sends the disciples out to share the good news with all the world, which includes us, gathered here 2,000 years later.
This passage says to us, “Knowing Jesus can shake up our world.” If we allow it, Jesus can shake up our relationships with each other, the way we think about God and our relationship with God. We often need to be shaken from our ruts, from the way we take Jesus for granted.
This passage tells us to not be afraid. If God can raise Jesus from death, God can do anything. If God is with us, there is nothing to fear. We can allow our lives to be shaken up by Jesus and not be afraid of the results.
As Jesus shakes us up, we may be called and sent to new adventures. This text encourages us to go anywhere, and to do whatever we are called to do, because Jesus goes there ahead of us. Jesus meets us in the Galilee, he meets us on the mountains, and he meets us in the valleys. He meets us in our homes, in our daily lives, in the messiness of our lives, in the fearful times, and in the joyous times. He meets us wherever we are, and promises that we should not be afraid, because he is with us always.
Let’s celebrate this day and the resurrection of Jesus by allowing him to shake us up, take us wherever he wants us to go, and go there without fear. Amen
Acts 10:34–43; Psalm 118:1–2, 14–24; Colossians 3:1–4; John 20:1–18
Jesus is risen and we shall arise. Give God the glory, alleluia!
What day is it today? Easter day; the day we celebrate God’s victory over death by raising Jesus from the grave.
What is the emotion most of us feel today? Joy! Hope! Excitement!
Most of us have known, and known about, Jesus all our lives. His resurrection is not NEW, BREAKING, HOT-OFF-THE-PRESS news for us. It’s hard for us to imagine the joy of that first Easter morning. After six weeks of Lenten fast, we have some appreciation, but being there on that day would have been so different, so much more exciting. Let’s imagine we are living in the first century as the Good News of Jesus was spread from one person to another, from one group to another. Can you feel the emotions of that time, of those first believers!? We so often express our emotion in song, I have imagined little songs for each reading. Don’t worry, I’ll just share the lyrics!
We can hear the excitement in John’s Gospel as Mary describes her encounter with the gardener, who is really the risen Lord Jesus. She goes to the tomb to grieve. Her healer, her rabbi, her messiah is dead. She had such hopes that the world would change, and now, he’s dead. Yet, his body is not there. There were angels, telling her that Jesus had been raised from the dead. The disciples don’t believe her; when they see the empty tomb, they don’t know what to believe.
Mary returns to the tomb, and now no one is there, only the gardener. The gardener who knows her by name! The gardener who is the risen Lord! She is so excited she wants to hug him and hold onto him. But he asks her to let him go. I imagine her running back to the disciples singing a little song with every step: Jesus is alive again. Jesus is alive again. Jesus is alive again.
We can hear the joy in the reading from Acts, where Peter summarizes Jesus’ life and death at the hands of the Jews. Jesus healed and preached peace and forgave sinners all over Judea because God was with him. Peter and the others are witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. They have seen him!
And now they are doing as Jesus commanded them – telling everyone about him so they, too, can receive forgiveness of sins. The good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection offers hope to all who will listen and receive it. Peter’ song might go like this: Jesus is alive and he forgives me. He’ll forgive you, too! Jesus is alive and he forgives me. He’ll forgive you, too! Jesus is alive and he forgives me. He’ll forgive you, too!
We can hear the joy and excitement in Paul’s writing to the Colossians, as he encourages his readers to set their minds on the things that are above. He tells us to have God’s glory in our lives because Jesus has been glorified. What can be better than being filled with God’s glory, and then living as if that matters to us? Maybe we should sing a little song: Jesus fills me with God’s glory. Jesus fills me with God’s glory. Jesus fills me with God’s glory.
I hear joy also in the psalm. That’s why this Psalm 118 is always the Easter psalm. The psalmist is filled with joy as he writes these words and gives thanks to God for everything. Give thanks to the Lord, for God is good. The Lord is merciful. This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!
The refrain we sang earlier with the psalm is of course about Jesus, so it wasn’t part of the original psalm. However, it adds to the joy of this morning as we remember what Jesus’ resurrection means for all of us. Because Jesus has been raised from death, we know without a doubt that we can all be raised. Death is not the final word for our lives. We, too, will be raised to new life after we die. This promise gives us all hope as we live today, and for all our days. It is hope worth sharing; it is hope we can be excited about.
For a closing prayer, let us all be filled with joy, hope, and excitement as we sing one more time the refrain to this morning’s psalm. Jesus is risen and we shall arise. Give God the glory, alleluia. [Refrain, With One Voice 674, Brokering]