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The Resurrection of Jesus
28 After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” 8 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
Here we are. The crescendo of the Christian year. The high point of the liturgical seasons... Easter.
For a lot of liturgical churches like mine, we’ve been refraining from saying or singing the word Alleluia since Ash Wednesday. But on Easter, when Christ rises, there is only one response...
Christ has risen.
I realize that looking around at our world now, this seems to be a stretch. If Christ has risen, then why all the death, sorrow, and tumult in the world in such widespread numbers now?
When we look at the news or at the empty streets and sidewalks of our cities and towns - when we think of the empty pews in our churches as we Zoom together from home - all we can conjure are images that match the somber Lenten season that we just made it through.
Yes, we just got a Lent we never dreamed possible. But though the bad statistics in the news will likely continue to worsen for a little while longer and we’re still not out of the physical distancing woods yet, it is Easter and Christ has risen.
See, the first Easter looked a lot like our world does now. In Matthew’s gospel, the two Mary’s, Mary Magdaline and Jesus’s Mother Mary, go to the tomb to check things out. Suddenly there’s an earthquake as an angel swoops down and rolls the stone away that covered the tomb.
Now, angels in the Bible aren’t like the ones we see on Hallmark cards. Angels are straight-up terrifying. The guards pass out because they’re so horrified and I’m sure the women are dumfounded (but, as we see here, far braver than the guards).
The angel tells the women that Jesus has been raised. See, look - he ain’t here. The angel tells them to spread the word and head to Galilee where Jesus is headed. So they take off running to do what the angel told them to do. I can imagine the expression in their faces as they sprint towards Galilee. Much like the OMG emoji on my phone, I’m sure.
And then it happens... Jesus appears as they’re en route and greets them. This day has just gotten even more bizarre for the women. We went from OMG to WTF. And Jesus says, simply, “Do not be afraid; go and tell the others to go to Galilee; there they will see me."
I’m making light of it, but the first Easter for the women and the disciples was most definitely traumatic. This guy who they thought was amazing - well, he got killed. Not just killed, but publicly dehumanized in the most horrific way. And even worse, he LET himself be killed. No true Messiah would do that. Have we wasted all of this time - all of this emotional labor... For this?
It’s all the feelings for them on that first Easter - terrifying, disorienting, and depressing but also hopeful, joyous, and ripe with possibility. A new creation was among them - what a fascinating time to be alive.
Jesus... Has risen?!
When the women were on their way to the tomb, I’m sure they thought they’d reached the end. It was over. Let’s go identify his body, put some flowers down, and start the grieving process.
And they were right. They did reach the end of what they knew. But then the angel came followed by the risen Jesus and suddenly, this wasn’t the end, but merely the beginning. The main message from God at that point from both the angel and Jesus was this:
Do not be afraid.
This was and is the Easter word from God to us.
Another interesting thing was where Christ decided to go after his resurrection. Instead of opting to stay in the city center of Jerusalem and crush the evil-doers as this powerful deity, He decides to go to where it all began... To the rural backwoods of Galilee.
See, the risen Jesus isn’t the one who struggles with death on the cross. The risen Jesus has ultimate clarity. There are no mixed messages anymore. He understands that he truly is the one who fulfilled the prophesies. He has utter confidence about what just happened and what his birth, life, death, and resurrection have been about this entire time.
This Jesus wants to go away from the concentrated center of metropolitan power to gather himself and his crew and start their mission to reach out to all people. Jesus is the ultimate universalizer. On that first Easter, he has just defeated death, sin, and the devil for ALL people.
This is THE moment for great joy. This is the gospel. God is for us and in the midst of this confusion, trauma, anxiety, loneliness, and death (as well as hope), we have nothing to fear.
Christ has risen.
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord's face shine on you with grace and mercy.
May the Lord look upon you with favor and + give you peace.
Until next time, as always…
Grace & Godspeed,