EASTER SUNDAY -A - 17 MATTHEW 28. 1-10
“Do not be afraid; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has risen, as he said. Come see the place where the Lord lay.”
That is the Easter message the angel delivered to the women who had come to the tomb to mourn the death of their beloved Jesus. Not only were the women terrified by the earthquake, and by the angel’s appearance, but even more so by the fact of the empty tomb. Before they can collect themselves the angel sends them on a mission to tell the disciples that Jesus is risen from the dead and that He will meet them in Galilee.
The angel had rolled back the stone to allow the women to look inside the tomb to see for themselves that Christ had already risen. However, Matthew does not tell us that they did. It seems they took the angel’s word for it and ran away from the tomb as fast as they could with fear mixed with joy. Could it possibly be true, what the angel had said?
That’s when they ran into the risen Lord. Amazingly they recognized him and fell at his feet and worshipped him, still trembling with fear. Jesus tries to quiet their fear by allowing them to touch him and then he sends them on their way to accomplish the mission given them by the angel at the tomb; “go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, there they will see me.”
Matthew’s account of that very first Easter is one filled with fear. The guards were frozen stiff with fear. The women were afraid of the sight of the angel, afraid of the empty tomb, afraid of the resurrection. So they ran away from the scene as fast as they could still afraid of what was said concerning Jesus, and what might come next.
What came next for them was the sight of the resurrected Jesus, and even then their fear was present. What were they afraid of? They were not afraid of the dead, that’s why they had gone to the tomb in the first place to mourn. But it appears that they were afraid of the idea that Jesus had risen from the dead and what that might mean for them.
After hearing this story many times over, we sit here today still amazed at the idea of the resurrection from the dead. The women who went to the tomb were afraid of it and the disciples, when they first received the news, did not believe it. In our own day the very opposite is true. We fear death and are still puzzled at the idea that God can raise the dead. Many still don’t believe it.
Yet we are Easter Christians whose very faith is in Him who died and rose again and in the Hope of the resurrection to eternal life. Are we not here today to celebrate that very idea? That’s what kept the early Christians going in the face of centuries of persecution. They believed that they would one day be re-united with Him who died and rose again.
That’s what keeps us going today, is it not, when we stand at the grave of a loved one or friend. Isn’t it the hope that they will be resurrected with Jesus and that one day we will be re-united with them? That there is life after death?
What keeps us, then, from living the new life that Jesus Christ’ death and resurrection brings to all who believe in him? What keeps us from holding fast to the Hope of eternal life? More often than not our faith is like that of the women who ran from the empty tomb with mixed emotions - of fear and joy? Sometimes I think we are still afraid of the very idea and what it might mean for us.
We want to believe. We want to hope that it is all so true. But death seems so final, even though we go to great extremes to mask it. The angel referred to Christ as the One who was crucified, teaching us not to shy away from death, but to glory in the cross, which is the weapon Christ used to destroy death and the trophy of his victory.
If only we could see Him. If only we could touch Him as the women did on that first Easter morning. The original Christians experienced Jesus in their midst. He appeared to them after his resurrection. He ate and drank with them. Where is our direct encounter with the risen Lord? Where do we meet him today?
We can’t meet Jesus in the way the women did that morning. It is a vital part of Christian belief and experience, however, that we can and should meet Jesus in spirit, and get to know him as we worship him and learn from him. That personal and intimate relationship with the living Lord is central to what being a Christian means in practice.
So where can we touch him, see him? We meet Him in the breaking of the bread, in His body and blood in the Eucharist, the memorial of His Passion. We meet Him in His Word as we read and share the Holy Scriptures. We sing “Jesus Christ is risen today,” because we see the risen Christ all around us, in the faces of those sitting besides us, in the bread and wine of the altar, and in the people we encounter in each moment of our lives.
What God did through the resurrection of Jesus, was the beginning of a promise from long ago. Jesus’ resurrection is the fulfillment of God’s purpose for the redemption of the world, and a vindication of the Son of Man’s suffering. It was the start of God’s new age that continues until Christ comes again and God’s kingdom here on earth is, at it already is, in heaven.
The resurrection of Jesus changed the world forever, as it changed the lives of the women who first met the risen Lord outside the empty tomb. It changed the lives of the disciples who met Him in Galilee where they were commissioned to a new work; a new way of life.
It continues to change the lives of those who meet Him today, whose eyes are opened to recognize Him, and whose Faith opens their hearts to receive Him; and where fear is replaced with Joy.
“Do not be afraid;” the angel said, “for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen as He said. Come see the place where the Lord lay.” Alleluia! Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! AMEN+
[2017 Easter pictures]