Scripture: Matthew 28:1-10
On Friday, everything seemed so dark. It seemed like the weight of the world came down on our shoulders. Jesus died! He hung there on the cross, accepting his fate, that death would win the day.
The news of Good Friday does not end on the cross, however. Jesus died, yes, and he was lowered down from the cross and placed in a tomb. There his lifeless body was to remain.
Friday night, all day Saturday, the disciples and other followers of Jesus hid away for fear that maybe they could be next. There they also mourned the loss of their great leader. The one they had seen do so many things! He taught with words that brought life to the hearts of those who heard him. He healed people of diseases. He cast out evil spirits. He even brought people back from the dead. Yet it seems he could not save himself.
So they mourned their loss. By Saturday evening they probably began to wonder what they were going to do next? Should they go back to their old lives? How could they after all that they had seen?
On Sunday morning the women did what they felt they had to do. They had to clean and anoint the body of their friend. They weren’t able to do that before, they had to wait until the festival of the Passover was finished. Which means they had to wait three days before they could do what they had been wanting to do since they laid him in the tomb. There was just no time before this morning.
Early in the morning they began the long walk to the tomb. It probably wasn’t that far for them to go, but I’m sure it felt like a very long road. Not many words would have been spoken. Their hearts are heavy, slowing their steps. Their minds full of memories, memories which would never be experienced again. And the wonder of what to do when they were finished. What would the afternoon hold? How much longer before they need to figure out where they were going to go next?
As they are approaching the tomb, Matthew tells us in his Gospel that an earthquake shook the ground and an angel rolled back the stone. The guards who were watching the tomb fainted from fear.
The angel reassures the women, and gives them a message.
“Look!” he says, “You are looking for Jesus and he is not here! He has risen as he said he would! See for yourself!”
And the women look into the tomb and see the angel is right! Jesus is not there!
The angel also gives the women a message, “… go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.”
The women begin to run but someone is in their path. Who is it?
They drop and worship him, they hold onto his feet. And Jesus shares the message the angel spoke, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”
The women, Mary Magdalene and another Mary, are the bearers of wonderful news. They are the only ones who know of this great moment in history. In this moment, from when they leave the tomb until they meet up with the other disciples, they are the church. They are the only ones who know the wonderful news, Jesus Christ has conquered death.
What does one do with such news? Should they keep it secret? After all, the authorities thought they’ve already killed him once. Wouldn’t they want to make sure they did the job right a second time? If news got out that he’s alive, surely a manhunt would be underway by the Romans immediately! Wouldn’t that be what you’d expect? Wouldn’t that make you think about how quickly you’d want to share such news?
But what do these women do? They can’t hold it in! They race back to the disciples and let them know what they have seen and heard. Jesus is alive!
This good news, initially held by a couple of women, then shared, and shared again and again is the good news we are celebrating this morning and every Sunday morning.
Jesus IS alive!
Death could not hold him, and he walked out of that grave by God’s power!
What is so significant about this? We don’t hear stories about Lazarus after he came out of the tomb! We don’t hear about the others Jesus brought back from death. Why Jesus? If others came back from the dead as well, what’s so special about Jesus?
Part of the explanation is that Lazarus and others were brought back to life to die again. Lazarus made his way back to a tomb. So did the others.
Except Jesus. Jesus never went back into a tomb. Jesus never died again. Jesus ascends to his Father and our Father in heaven where he waits for us to join him as followers of his way.
He’s not a ghost. It’s not a magic trick. Jesus, in bodily form, the women worshiped him and held his feet, came back to life, overcoming death and lives forevermore.
This life is not just for Jesus, the women, or the disciples. This life after death is not just for a few hand selected men and women Jesus chose to follow him. This life is for all people of all time, of all places, of all races, of all lifestyles… this life is for me and for you.
This is the celebration of Easter. While it looked like death had won the day on Friday, Jesus shows us on Easter that he is the one who is victorious. He overcame the power of the grave. He is the one who brings life!
And his life is to be shared by everyone who calls upon his name as Lord and Saviour. We all have this life within ourselves when Jesus is Lord.
Like many of you, I like chocolate. I enjoy the sweetness and the rich taste of it. It’s a benefit of spring for sure.
But new life in Christ, this is the greatest gift any of us could ever be given. Jesus has done so many great things, not just in his time on this earth, but for the 2000 years since then as well!
Through Jesus Christ, God is still working in this world. Just ask some people who were at the Set Free! Retreat a few weeks ago. Ask them what God did for them that weekend. There were some powerful and profound moments for people who attended. For some it was as simple as “feeling lighter”, for others it was the realization of changes needed in their lives to be more in tune with what God is asking from them.
I told you a few weeks ago I was praying about the future of our church, and how Jesus gave me a vision of this place being in the midst of celebration because God was doing something great among us. While I don’t know exactly what it is just yet, it reassures me that God does indeed have a plan for this church.
God always has a plan. In sending Jesus to the earth, God had a plan. In seeing him be beaten and lifted on a cross. God had a plan. By Jesus walking out of the tomb victorious, God has a plan!
When we feel defeated, when we feel like Jesus has left us alone, just as the disciples felt when Jesus was lying in that tomb, remember the words of the angel. “He’s not here.”
The tomb is a place to hold the dead. Jesus is not in the tomb because he’s not dead. Jesus has not abandoned us. He never leaves us. In fact, we should also remember the next thing the angel said. “He is going before you, meet him there.”
Jesus is always leading us forward. Always ahead of us as God’s plan unfolds in our lives. And as we walk the path he lays out before us, we meet him there. So whether that’s Galilee, or in our homes, or our streets, or anywhere God leads us, Jesus is already there.
If there is a struggle in your life, whatever it may be, Jesus is already there. He’s there showing you the way forward, the way to healing, and the way to the new life he wants you to have.
Just ask him to show you. He will answer, because he is already ahead of you, showing you the way.
I know it’s playoff season, and everyone is so excited their teams are winning games. We get so caught up in the energy and passion of sports playoffs. Unless you’re maybe a Penguins fan.
Inevitably most of our teams will lose. We will lose because there can only be one champion. There’s only one trophy for one team. Not every team gets to celebrate winning the championship.
Unless we’re team Jesus.
Being on team Jesus means we’re never let down. It means we’re always on the winning team. There is no loss, only victory!
Victory in knowing Jesus is our way, our truth, our life when we follow him.
This is the Good News! This is the news that the women raced back to the others to share. The news they could not hold in. The news of great joy that Jesus has conquered the grave and lives!
This is the news that we too cannot hold in when we know Jesus Christ as our Lord and our Saviour and realize the victory over death is for us as well.
When we know Jesus as Lord, the grave is not our end either, but just a passing moment to life with God forever.
This is the Good News of Easter. Christ has risen! He is risen indeed!
Let us pray,
Thank you for the empty tomb. Thank you for walking out of death, into life, so we all may have life with you.
Jesus, help us to see where you lead us. Help us to see what impact your victory of death has in our lives today. Help us to see where we may meet you as you lay a path before us. Help us see where you are inviting us to meet you.
But most of all, Lord Jesus, help us to know you in our lives, and the joy of such a relationship.
On this Easter day, may we celebrate with you in life eternal.
We pray this in your most Holy Name. Amen and amen.