FPC Sermon April 16, 2017 Matthew 28: 1-10
On this wonderful Easter Day, when our youth led worship this morning – wasn’t it great? – we had breakfast together, and now we join together for another service to celebrate the amazing resurrection of our Lord.
We’re not alone in this. Christians around the world – hundreds of different denominations – all agree that this is the key event in human history. Every one of these churches is celebrating Jesus’ resurrection today.
Today in Jerusalem, the cradle of our faith where Jesus taught, prayed, healed, and died, the Patriarchs of the Christian churches said, “It is our prayer that the hope established through our risen Lord will enlighten the leaders and nations of the whole world to see this light, and to perceive new opportunities to work and strive for the common good and recognize all as created equal before God. “This light of Christ draws the whole human family towards justice, reconciliation and peace, and to pursue it diligently.”
We can’t be joyful enough as we lift our voices in praise to Jesus. Jesus is the game-changer – the one with the power to transform us.
Think about everyone throughout history who contributed to our being able today to know Jesus and his love. From an obscure part of the Roman Empire, barely mentioned by historians of the day, Jesus has risen to give us new life and new hope. Jesus takes the ordinary person – that’s us – and makes us witnesses to his love and grace.
That’s why we can know and love him. Because those who came before us welcomed him into their hearts despite a cost that at times was unbelievably heavy. They did this because Christ really had become their all in all. They did this so that you and I might also give Christ the space to lead us on a journey of joy.
Can you think of anything that’s needed more today in our world on April 16, 2017 than Christ’s love?
Let’s arrange our minds to conform to Christ, to give Christ his due, for this short time. Because, I know, many of us are already concentrating on what else is going to happen today.
I was in the store earlier this week looking for Easter cards. There were lots of them, but only a couple of them actually referred to what Easter celebrates. From the rest, you’d have thought we were here today to welcome the coming of spring, bunnies, flowers or eggs. Nothing about Jesus’ resurrection.
On Easter, we usually read about the resurrection as portrayed in John’s Gospel. It’s a bit more individualistic. It’s lengthier.
Today, however, we’re going to reflect on the unique aspects and insights of the gospel writer Matthew.
For Matthew, Jesus’ resurrection is nothing short of a cataclysm. Mary Magdalene and another Mary are headed for the tomb. Matthew doesn’t say they went to do anything in the tomb. They just went to check it out.
All of a sudden, there’s a violent earthquake.
Matthew is heavily into earthquakes. In Matthew 24:7, Jesus warns that “there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.”
Matthew tells us that at Jesus death, “the earth shook and rocks split, and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.” Not just that. He adds that “after Jesus’ resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.”
Somehow, that particular scripture gets lost when we’re talking about Jesus’ resurrection. No other Gospel mentions any earthquakes in conjunction with Jesus’ death or resurrection.
I’m not going to talk about it today, but it bears further scrutiny. Stuff happens when earthquakes occur in the gospel according to Matthew.
The Marys are headed for the tomb when the violent earthquake happens. We are led to believe that the two Marys see the whole sequence of events. It sounds like the earthquake is caused by the appearance of an angel from heaven who rolls the stone away and sits on it.
The angel’s appearance is dramatic. He looks like lightning. Perhaps like a bolt striking the earth.
Now, the guards at the tomb are in trouble. They are so scared, they lie low like dead men. The two Marys witness everything.
The angel engages the Marys in conversation. Jesus isn’t in the tomb. He’s risen.
Remember, the angel came from heaven and rolled back the stone. Jesus had already left the tomb. He wasn’t there.
These were savvy women. The angel gave them a message for the disciples, and they ran with it. Then, the unbelievable happened, says Matthew. Jesus himself met them on the path.
Matthew tells us they “came to him, clasped his feet, and worshiped him.” They clasped his feet. They touched him. He was really there.
You and I live in such a skeptical age that we don’t know what to make of these accounts. Yet, we’re here today because of them. We’re here today because we know for sure that Christ is alive.
If we truly believe, Christ welcomes us when we get up each morning. Christ is with us throughout our day.
Christ is with us in the afternoon and evening. Christ is with us when we’re asleep.
We remember the prayer that’s called the Lorica of St. Patrick, whether or not THE St. Patrick wrote it:
“Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me, Christ in the eye that sees me, Christ in the ear that hears me.”
If not for Easter, none of this would be true. We can and should ask just where we’d be without Christ in our lives.
We can probably come up with an answer, too, because, as we look at our world today, we know that without Christ’s love, we are lost in a sea of violence, self-interest, materialism, destruction, and death.
Nothing we commemorate the rest of our Christian year means a thing without this day.
It is Easter makes our joy overflow. Our Lord Jesus Christ has triumphed over an ugly death to lift us to life everlasting.
As we leave our worship today, let’s carry that joy into the world. Let’s live as Christ’s resurrection people! Amen.