Reader: “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.”
Response: “He isn’t here!”
Scripture: Matthew 28:1-10
Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb.
Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.
Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”
The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.”
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
You have undoubtedly read this account of the resurrection many times and heard more than one sermon preached on it. As you read the passage again, did you notice how very straight-forward it reads? Nothing sensational in this narrative. I love the simple “He isn’t here.” The event is tied to real time “. . . early on Sunday morning as the new day was dawning . . .” That sounds like a description of this morning. There is no hint of fantasy here. Note all the specific details. Two women we know from elsewhere in the Scriptures are named. We have a description of an earthquake and the appearance of an angel causing two guards to faint. The appearance of an angel signals a remarkable event is underway. Heavenly beings have come to earth. Two different worlds are connected in earthly chronology and history. Something like this does not happen every day! The news is that the crucified rabbi has been raised from the dead by the power of God. Up to this point, the devil held the power of death in his evil grip. The good news is that the head of the one holding sway over death was mortally crushed. Rather than serving as a fearful end to a meaningless life, death can now serve as a departure point in earthly life and the doorway to paradise and into the presence of our great God. As if to further confirm the words of the angels, the women ran into the risen Lord and talked with him. It is true, Jesus defeated death. But, as we mentioned the other day, this whole event is a strong and powerful voice of God telling one and all of his great love for his people and of his desire that they be with him where he is. We are so used to reading news stories that give a “spin” to the reporting, that when we read something as plain and simple as this, we may tend to look for angles. There are none. It’s simply and gloriously true! God loves his people to death!
Music: “Thine Is the Victory” First Plymouth-Church arr. Horby
It is truly right and good, always and everywhere, with our whole heart and mind and voice, to praise you, the invisible, almighty, and eternal God, and your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord; for he is the true Paschal Lamb, who at the feast of the Passover paid for us the debt of Adam’s sin, and by his blood delivered your faithful people. You brought our fathers, the children of Israel, out of bondage in Egypt, and led them through the Red Sea on dry land. All who believe in Christ are delivered from the gloom of sin, and are restored to grace and holiness of life. For he broke the bonds of death and hell, and rose victorious from the grave. How wonderful and beyond our knowing, O God, is your mercy and loving-kindness to us, that to redeem a slave, you gave a Son. How wonderful when wickedness is put to flight, and sin is washed away. It restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to those who mourn. It casts out pride and hatred, and brings peace and concord. How blessed when earth and heaven are joined and man is reconciled to God. Let us live in simple transparency this day. In the name of Jesus Christ, who lives with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
―adapted Daniel Sharp from Easter Vigil prayer, BCP