Summary: A sermon for Easter Sunday. On Easter Sunday, we celebrate the greatest event in all of history. But Christ's resurrection is not the end of the Jesus story, it is the beginning of the story of God's new kingdom!
Do you remember the biggest, greatest news you have ever gotten? Maybe it was when you learned you would become a parent or grandparent. Perhaps the wonderful news was a promotion you had spent years working towards. The greatest news might have been that you were going to get to come home after several months fighting with the armed services overseas. We've all been the glad recipients of some good news in our lives in one way or another. And do you remember how you got the news when it came? Was there a lot of mystery and build up, announcements to announce the announcements, maybe? Or perhaps you received the news completely unexpectedly and were pleasantly surprised. Maybe there was a big party planned to celebrate the big news and share it with others.
We hear good news in lots of different ways, and I am glad that we got to hear the Easter story told by some of our children this morning. There is something about hearing a child tell this great story that gives it new power. I can no longer hear the Resurrection story without thinking of little Brendan, the four year old grandson of a former colleague of mine. He was visiting his grandmother the week before Easter a few years ago and one afternoon he came with her to the church where I was working at the time. He went around with his grandmother and greeted everyone when he arrived, and somehow after those greetings, most of us ended up gathered in the Senior Pastor's office, where Brendan was encouraged by his grandmother to share the Easter story he had been learning about in church. Without hesitation, the little boy began reciting word-for-word and from memory Matthew's account of the Resurrection. Now, in typical four-year-old fashion, he was sort of rolling around on the floor as he told the story, and he was talking quite quickly and somewhat softly, and it was little hard to understand him. But I will never forget how clear and pure were his final words, "“Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen!" As little Brendan said the word "risen," he shot his fist up in the air and got a huge grin on his face. "He is not here; he has risen." It is the biggest announcement and greatest news of all time, and somehow in his own bold testimony, little Brendan managed to capture all of its meaning and significance and power.
Indeed, we can tell again and again this story of Jesus' Resurrection, and we can find new power in the words as they are shared by little children, or interpreted by teachers, or inspired by the Spirit. But I suspect we will never have quite the experience that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary had on that first Easter Sunday. As Matthew tells us, they made their way to Jesus' tomb early on the first day of the week. Other gospels inform us that the women were going there to prepare Jesus' body with spices because they had not had time to do this before the Sabbath began at sundown on Friday.
Matthew proceeds to give a Resurrection report of epic proportions. Matthew knew that this was big news and it needed a big announcement. So Matthew reports that as the women approached the tomb, there was a great earthquake. And an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, rolled the stone away from the tomb and then sat on it. The whole sight was so terrific that the guards passed out! Indeed, something MAJOR is happening here. But as the two Marys stand there at the now open tomb, likely stunned and perhaps trembling in fear, the angel says the greatest words in all of history. “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay."
As the angel sits atop the stone that morning in the midst of a mighty earthquake, what becomes undeniably clear is that what is happening is the action of God himself. And what God is doing is not just an extraordinary miracle. It's not even a display of supernatural power or some special favor to Jesus. What God is doing is starting something new. This is the beginning of God's new world, promised long ago. Though God seemed silent on that Friday afternoon a few days ago, he is silent no more. Death has been conquered once and for all, Christ is risen, and now, along with those women, all are invited to come and see!
Have you heard the big announcement? Have you experienced the power of the Risen Lord in your life? If not, come and see! The angel invited the two Marys to see for themselves that Jesus was alive. The stone was rolled away, not so that Jesus could get out, but so that the two Marys could get in! So that Christ's disciples could see for themselves! God is the one who rolls out the red carpet in order for us to enter into his resurrection—his life! People may try and push us away, but God is always trying to summon us to faith, call us to new life, offer to us salvation, bring us into his kingdom! We must move beyond seeking the Christ of history and come to know him as a living reality! We must experience the resurrection for ourselves. It cannot be experienced for us.