Summary: An Easter Sunday Sermon that reminds us that just as Jesus left his graveclothes behind we can leave behind our graveclothes of fear, despair and sin. God gives us the robes of righteous and a new life that begins right now.
Easter Sunday - New Clothes - New Life
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Happy Easter. It is wonderful to have you here today as we celebrate Christ’s resurrection and the new life he gives us.
A pastor went to see a man who lived in the community but never attended church. He told him, "We would love to have you come to our church." The man replied, "But I can’t." The pastor asked, "Well, why not?" The man replied, "Clothes. I don’t have any good clothes." The pastor thought a moment and then said, "If I talk with the men of our church and we get you some new clothes, then will you go to church?" The man said that he would. The pastor talked with the men and together they donated over $500. The pastor went out and bought the man a beautiful new suit and took it to him. The pastor said, "Now you’ll go to church on Sunday, right?" The man looked at his new suit with a big smile on his face and said, "I sure will, Pastor." Sunday morning came and the pastor looked out over the congregation, but the man was not there. So he went to the man’s house that afternoon and there he was wearing his new suit. The pastor asked, "I thought you said that if we got you a new suit you would go to church?" The man smiled and said, "Well, Pastor, I did go to church. You see, when I put on this new suit it looked so good on me that I went to the Episcopal Church!"
It looks to me like many of you got new clothes for Easter. You look great, but I am glad you came here instead of the Episcopalian church! (1)
Getting new clothes is a symbolic tradition that can be traced all the way back to Jesus. In our gospel text a surprising amount of attention is paid to the fact that when Peter and the disciple Jesus loved looked into the tomb, they saw that Jesus was not there, but that the graveclothes were still there. The text says that the linen wrappings were lying there, and that the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head was not with the linen wrappings, but was rolled up in a place by itself. The gospel writer wanted to emphasize that Jesus had been raised from the dead. If his body had been stolen, the body snatchers would not have taken the time to unwrap the graveclothes. Jesus left them behind because he didn’t need them any more. They were graveclothes and he had burst out of the tomb. He was alive!
Now, some have wondered where he got new clothes. Some have even speculated that he borrowed some clothing from the cemetery caretaker because Mary Magdalene mistook him for the gardener. I don’t think that is a big issue. If God is powerful enough to raise Jesus from the dead, he can certainly arrange for a new suit of clothes.
God wants us to have some new clothes too. Sometimes we are dressed in graveclothes also. We are wearing clothes that are fitting for death.
Sometimes we are wrapped in a mantel of fear. We can be afraid of the future; afraid of losing our job; afraid of losing our love relationship; afraid of what the doctor is going to tell us; afraid of death. That fear can paralyze us and keep us from really living.
In Matthew’s account of the resurrection the first words the angel says to the women who came to the tomb were, “Do not be afraid.” The story continues and these women encounter Jesus as they are running back to the disciples and the first thing Jesus says to them is, “Do not be afraid.”
Just as Jesus left his graveclothes behind, so we can get rid of our mantel of fear. We do not need to be afraid. One of the most frequent messages in the Bible is “Do not be afraid.” or “Fear not.” or “Do not fear.” There is over 100 Bible verses that tell us we should let go of our fear. One of my favorites is from Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”
We can let go of our fears because God is stronger than anything that might threaten us. God is even stronger than death. So we can leave behind the graveclothes of fear and we can join St. Paul in putting on the whole armor of God. We can gird our loins with truth and put on the breastplate of righteousness. We can carry the shield of faith and