Summary: Because Jesus has risen from the grave we have nothing to fear...
I have a confession to make. I am not a morning person. I mean really. It takes me about an hour to become human… so Tim has plied me with Coffee and spoken to me nicely for the last hour… so I should just be coming round about now.
But in all seriousness – there is nowhere I’d rather be right now than right here. In the beautiful still of the morning… on this incredibly special day – where we celebrate that Christ has risen!! My bed cannot even begin to compete with that.
Two thousand years ago though – early early in the morning the feeling was quite different. The city of Jerusalem is slowly waking up. Some with reminders of the horror that occurred on Friday, some with no knowledge of it – other than the usual – three criminals happened to be crucified the day before yesterday. They might have kept up-to-date with the news that this was a new potential leader, they might have even been involved in the festivities of the previous Sunday where they welcomed this man called Jesus into their city. But now he’s dead and it’s back to the usual grindstone… chickens to feed – wares to sell – water to collect – families to raise.
For those who loved and followed Jesus, it was an awakening to a continuing nightmare. One which they wished they could truly awaken from. Did he really die? They had seen it with their own eyes. What now – our whole lives were wrapped up in him… Will we be persecuted too? How can he be gone – we had hoped… we had dreamed… we had planned… It can’t be true. Oh the horror. If only I could talk to him, if I could say sorry, Jesus would know what to do now… And so huddled and hiding in the city of Jerusalem and surrounds were people soaked in grief and darkness.
Two women, both named Mary, are up even before the sun – like us today. They made their way through the silent city to the tomb. I doubt there would have been much conversation. They carried spices and ointments for his body – the last service they could offer to their Lord. They might have still been wiping tears on their shoulders as they considered what they were about to do. And so we read from Matthew’s gospel – chapter 28…
1Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2And 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. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.
5The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped 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.” (NIV)
May God bless the reading of his Holy Word – now and forever. Let us pray: Glorious risen Christ – be with us here this morning as we ponder the joy of your resurrection and may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing to you – Amen
What a change! They get to the tomb and are rocked by an earthquake, on pulling each other back to their feet they see a mighty being in flashing white rolling away the stone of the tomb and sitting on it – the two guards faint and do not rise. And the first words they hear in an angel’s voice are, “Do not be afraid.”
Do not be afraid.
These are the words Zachariah heard when he encountered an angel in the Holy place of the temple, and the same that Mary the mother of Jesus heard – when encountering Gabriel thirty three years before – do not be afraid. The shepherd who herded sheep on the night of Jesus birth witnessed a host of angels singing praises – and were immediately told… Do not be afraid.