Summary: There is no greater celebration than that of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. . There is no more joyous event.
Matthew 28:1-10 No Bones About It!
4/23/00 Sunrise Service D. Marion Clark
There is no greater celebration than that of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. . There is no more joyous event. The resurrection proclaims to us that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Messiah, the Son of God; that he indeed is the divine God who took on the nature of man; that his crucifixion was an atoning sacrifice made for the sins of the world; and that he carried out his mission to bring salvation.
Let’s rehearse the story again. We remember how it was a handful of women who went to the tomb early in the morning, just as we have gathered in the early morning. They went to the tomb not to confirm a resurrection, but to complete the anointing of the dead body. Remember how they worried about how they were going to move the stone? They probably did not even know about the guards. Where were the men to help, the disciples?
We know the conversation the angels had with them when they arrived at the tomb and found the stone rolled away. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples. Matthew says they were afraid yet filled with joy. We can easily imagine their feelings and picture their reaction. We have to smile, maybe chuckle over the scene, especially when, while they are hurrying away, Jesus appears before them.
Surely we’ve imagined what it would be like for us. We go to the tomb in grief paying our last respects. The tomb, which is a carved out cave, looks like it has been broken into probably by grave robbers. Filled with anger and perhaps fearful as well, we look in and find the body missing! Now we are angry and dismayed by the thought of our Lord’s body being desecrated. Then we are scared out of our wits’ end by the appearance of angels, who tell us news beyond our imagination – he has risen! Then we are ordered to quickly go and tell the news. We would be in a daze by all the extreme emotions hitting us – from grief to anger to shock to fear to joy. Goodness, why did the women not simply faint and fall to the ground? I dare say I would have, especially when I ran into the risen Lord standing in front of me. The women fall to the ground to worship him; I would have fallen unconscious.
It is a great story to recall, and so Christians have recalled it year after year. We have preached it, re-enacted it, and celebrated it through special services. Indeed, millions upon millions of believers celebrate it as has been done throughout the centuries.
Yes, it is a wonderful story, but let us confirm again, we celebrate the story because the story is true. Make no bones about it, no bones were left on that day.
I recall as a seminary student a conversation around a cafeteria table. As theological students are wont to do, we were sitting around discussing issues that most people would have recognized as an academic way of wasting time. One student asked what would be our response if, hypothetically, it was proven that Jesus really did not rise from the dead. Somehow the bones were found, which all believers had to admit really belonged to Jesus. Would we still become ministers? After all, there are many ministers and theologians and even biblical scholars who devote themselves to New Testament studies, who quite frankly believe that a literal resurrection is nonsense.
I can still remember listening to a radio message by a minister on Easter morning, who was taking the time to carefully demonstrate the errors in the Bible in recording the story of the resurrection and so to prove that the resurrection was not factual. This was the minister of a church, not a skeptic and opponent of the faith. As time has gone on, he has proved not to be an exception to the rule, but increasingly the norm.
There was a resurrection, to be sure, but not a literal resurrection, some say. There was a spiritual resurrection in the hearts of Christ’s followers. Their faith lived on and they gave expression to that faith through the resurrection myth. Or maybe Christ did rise, but just as we all rise from the dead and live on in our spirits, or live on in the hearts of those who love us and remember us.
Yes, it is a lovely story to tell to give us hope that good ideas can carry on and be given new life in those who believe in the ideas. Yes, recalling the story of Jesus’ resurrection is a wonderful way to recall to life his message of brotherly love. Isn’t that what’s really important? To see that Jesus’ teachings live on in our lives? Isn’t his message the greater truth?