Easter – Series A
Holy Gospel Matthew 28:1–10
Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then 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. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus, the One who’s resurrection from the dead we celebrate this Easter morning. Amen.
Perhaps for the first time in our lives, we can empathize with the disciples and the two Mary’s named in this morning’s text. Social distancing makes us long for the ability to be with whoever we want whenever we want like it was just a month age. Fear of the Coronavirus make us huddle in our own rooms, worrying that we might be next. Anxiety over the unknown makes us disheartened and questioning of so many things that we have never questioned before. Rampant unemployment makes us wonder if our meager savings will be sufficient to keep us afloat even as we have so much time on or hands that any paying job would be a welcome relief. Or a greatly increased workload has us tired and irritable and longing for just a few hours of downtime but knowing that the work must continue because so many others are needing it to.
I suspect that this was a large part of why, on that first Easter morning, as dawn was approaching, you find Mary Magdalene and the other Mary making their way from wherever they had spent the night isolated, fearful, and alone, on their way to the tomb in which Jesus was laid. They knew that there was work to be done. The body of Jesus needed to be properly taken care of. The risk of being seen, arrested, and killed for being a follower of Jesus was nothing compared to the need to fulfill their God given vocations that morning. So off they went, trusting that God would provide and take care of them.
“And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.” I have always liked this section of the resurrection. It has action. It has power. It has glory. A polar opposite of what Mary and Mary were feeling and seeing. The big, burly angel following the command of God. Coming to earth and moving the stone door of the tomb with such force that the earth shook greatly. And then, as if to say “that was easy” he sits on the stone as if it were nothing special.
But is was special. It was unique. A once in history event. The tomb in which the body of Jesus had been laid was opened. The angel given the privilege of opening it sitting there reflecting the glory of God. Notice that this angel is described exactly as Jesus was described during His transfiguration. That is no coincidence. Just as the Glory of God shown trough the flesh of Jesus when He was transfigured, the glory of God is reflected by the angel who had opened the tomb and been in the presence of the risen Savior.
Not everyone was celebrating though. Those poor guards. Having worked many years as night shift security, I relate to them. The overnight shift is hopefully long and boring. With nothing going on. Especially when all you are doing is guarding a tomb. Horror stories aside, there is not a lot going on in a graveyard to keep the guards busy. Not a lot, that is, until God intervenes. And how do the guards react? They are terrified. They are in the presence of the glory of God and realize that they cannot expect to survive. So, they tremble and became like dead men.
Having done his task of opening the tomb, the angel has one more joyous duty. “But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then 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. See, I have told you.” In order to keep Mary and Mary from becoming immobilized out of fear, the angle tells them the good news, the best news in the entire history of creation. “Don’t be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. And a tomb is where you would normally look for a dead man. But He is not dead. He has risen. Come, see for yourself, and then go and quickly tell the disciples. Jesus has plans for them, and they are not to stay locked away in isolation for the rest of their lives.
“So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.” While the angels comforting words did not remove all their fear, they were able to do as instructed. With a different type of fear mixed with a great joy that cannot be described, they ran. Not away from their troubles, but to tell the Gospel, that Jesus has risen! Everything will be alright, because God is alive and well and has taken away our sins.
As further comfort, Jesus himself comes to Mary and Mary, not out of the tomb, but from outside of it where He was living, breathing, and doing those tasks that needed to be done that Easter morning. “And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”
I find it wonderful how Matthew records this. And behold, Biblical words for “this is an extremely important thing, PAY ATTENTION”. Jesus met them. They were not seeking out Jesus, but were focused on following the command of the angel, so Jesus comes to them, just as He comes to you today and every day. Jesus said, “Greetings!” Now this is not just an ordinary “hi, how are you doing” like we say to our neighbors as we take our walks to get out of the house. No, this word is chiro. Rejoice! Be Glad! As in what the wisemen did when they saw the star that led them to God in the flesh and blood of the infant Jesus. Rejoice, says Jesus, for He has completed His work of redeeming you from your sins.
Their reaction to Jesus appearance and greeting was priceless and appropriate. “And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.” What else can you do when God comes to you and says rejoice? You disregard all social distancing rules and hold on to Him as tightly as you can. You worship Him, giving Him thanks and praise even as you receive from Him the gifts of His cross and resurrection.
But as much as they would have liked to remain clinging to the feet of Jesus, worshiping Him for all eternity, Jesus has other work for Mary and Mary. “Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” Jesus gives them more of what they need, comfort and assurance that He has got everything taken care of and that there is no need to be afraid. Then He sends them on to complete their task as the angel had given. Go and tell the disciples. Bring them the Gospel of Christ Crucified and Risen for their salvation. Help them in their time of fear and grief so that they can also rejoice in the fact that death has been defeated and that those who die in Christ Jesus are not dead, but most certainly alive even as He is alive.
My family in Christ Jesus. Despite the fact that the health of the community and the welfare of our neighbor means that we are, for a time, isolated and confined to our own homes, Jesus in not. He is not confined and His Gospel, the good news that He has risen, cannot be contained. Today Jesus comes to you with His Word of life, assuring you that His sacrifice on the cross for your sins is indeed complete and total payment. The wrath of God against sin has been poured out on the cross. As such, Jesus now comes to you and says, “Greetings!” Rejoice and be glad because you are never alone. You are forgiven. You have a place in heaven. So go quickly and tell those who God brings into your lives that Jesus is seen even today in His Word, through His Absolution, by the waters of Holy Baptism, and in, with, and under the bread and wine of His precious Supper.
Greetings! Rejoice! Be glad! For He is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia. Let us go forth in the name of the Lord. Amen.