Happy Easter. This is Resurrection Sunday. We celebrate today the fact that God raised Jesus from the dead. We put our hope in the resurrection of Christ because if he was raised, so we who have faith in him will be raised. He’s the firstborn from the dead (Colossians 1:18). That means there will be others.
Our Gospel of Matthew reading today is, of course, the resurrection story in chapter 28. The women – Mary and Mary – go to the tomb. I think they must have been expecting something. I think they must have been the only ones who took Jesus at his word. He would be raised on the third day. Jesus made that prediction three times. The women must have listened, and they must have believed.
The appearance of the angel must have been quite an experience – an earthquake, the rolling back of the stone, the white lightning of his clothing. It made the guards tremble with fear. According to Matthew, they became like dead men. People who thought they were alive suddenly discovered that this life they were living actually was a dead thing. There’s something about the resurrection that brings out the truth, that makes things clear.
And so the guards were scared to death. The angel then offered up an extraordinary explanation for what had happened. He spoke to the women. He said, “Do not be afraid.” The guards, strong men no doubt, were trembling with fear and looking quite dead. And the angel told Mary and Mary, “Do not be afraid.”
Here’s what it means to be a Christian. Those who seek Jesus have nothing to fear. Perfect love has made itself known to us, and it casts out all fear. No fear of death. No fear of sickness or disease. No fear of sin. No fear of condemnation by God. A core part of the gospel message is that we have no fear.
I bet the thoughtful and reflective Christian person can live his or her whole life and still uncover new implications each day about what it means to live with no fear. It’s like unwrapping a present over and over again – every time something steps in and tries to strike fear in us. The loss of a job. The loss of a loved one. A bad diagnosis. We don’t have to fear these things.
The terrorist attacks of 9/11 raised no reason for fear in the life of the Christian. The 2008 financial meltdown and the shaking of the economy didn’t make us tremble. The COVID-19 pandemic of today doesn’t make us become like dead men.
We have the ultimate hope. We seek Jesus who was crucified. And as we do – as we follow him like faithful disciples all the way to the cross – we find that the tomb is empty. “He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.” The one we put our faith in has conquered death. And we also know that we’ll find death has been conquered for us.
Because of Jesus Christ, humans need not fear death – because Jesus Christ was a human who overcame death. He was laid as a dead man in a tomb. And the women were invited to come see where he lay – to see where his decaying flesh and bones were left to rot. They were to come see that place, and to see that nothing was there.
And then they were told to go. They were told to gather the church. Tell the disciples. Be witnesses to the resurrection. Get ready. What a remarkable story the angel had to tell!
And on their way to gather the church, the women encountered the one whom they were seeking. They found Jesus. And they stopped, and they worshipped. It was the first church worship service – out there among the tombs, where dead bodies were placed and where people who thought they were alive suddenly discovered they were dead with fear. And that’s where the church held its first worship service.
What a story!
And Jesus uttered those words yet again. “Do not be afraid.” I think this is important. We should not be afraid. What does it mean today to live lives that are fearless? Today, people are scared to death. Our cultural “guards” are trembling with fear at the prospect of destruction. The ones who are entrusted with maintaining the status quo have become like dead men.
They may be too fearful, too dead, to notice – the tomb is empty today. And we are the witnesses, gathering the church and telling the story over and over to anyone who will listen. “He has risen.”
May God bless you today!