Pastor Michael Frye:

GRACE AND PEACE, FROM GOD, OUR FATHER, AND OUR LORD, JESUS CHRIST.

IN ONE OF THE CONGREGATIONS I SERVED AS PASTOR, THE YOUTH RE-ENACTED THE EASTER STORY AT OUR EARLY SERVICE.

THEY WENT ALL OUT FOR THIS, WITH SEVERAL OF THE PARENTS’ HAVING CONSTRUCTED A GARDEN AND A TOMB WITH A LARGE STONE MADE OF PLYWOOD THAT ROLLED AWAY FROM THE ENTRANCE TO THE TOMB, AND A SOUND SYSTEM THAT SIMULATED THE SOUND OF AN EARTHQUAKE.

ON THIS PARTICULAR SUNDAY, THE YOUNG MAN WHO SERVED AS THE ANGEL THAT ROLLED AWAY THE STONE FROM THE TOMB HADN’T GOTTEN A LOT OF SLEEP THE NIGHT BEFORE, AND HE COULDN’T REMEMBER HIS LINES.

WHEN THE TIME CAME TO ROLL AWAY THE STONE, HE PUSHED IT TO ONE SIDE AND YELLED INSIDE: “WAKE UP JESUS! THE COAST IS CLEAR!”

THAT CERTAINLY WAS A MEMORABLE EASTER SERVICE.

MATTHEW’S GOSPEL USES HIGH DRAMA IN TELLING THE STORY OF JESUS’ RESURRECTION.

THE EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN AREA IS PRONE TO EARTHQUAKES, SO MATTHEW’S REFERENCE TO EARTHQUAKES, BOTH AT THE TIME OF JESUS’ DEATH, AND ON THE DAY OF HIS RESURRECTION EMPHASIZES THE MANIFESTATION OF GOD’S POWER IN THE WORLD.

ANGELS IN SCRIPTURE ARE GOD’S MESSENGERS REPRESENTING AN EXTENSION OF GOD’S POWER, AND THEY ARE OFTEN DESCRIBED AS BEING MANIFESTED IN BRILLIANT BEAMS OF LIGHT (WHICH CERTAINLY WOULD HAVE FRIGHTENED THE WEARY SOLDIERS GUARDING THE TOMB AND CAUSED THEM TO PASS OUT).

BUT YOU NOTICE IN THIS STORY THAT THE WOMEN WHO HAD COME TO THE TOMB TO PREPARE JESUS’ BODY, THOUGH SHOCKED AT THE SCENE, STAYED VERY MUCH ALERT AND OPEN TO THE MESSAGE FROM THE ANGEL.

THEY HAD HOPED THAT JESUS’ PROMISE TO RISE AGAIN FROM DEATH WAS TRUE, BUT THEY NEVER DREAMED OF BEING AMONG THE FIRST TO WITNESS ITS REALITY.

WHAT I LIKE ABOUT MATTHEW’S VERSION OF THE RESURRECTION NARRATIVE IS THAT THE TWO MARYS BELIEVED THE ANGEL, AND AS BEWILDERED AS THEY WERE AT THE EMPTY TOMB, THEY WERE OVERJOYED AND DIDN’T HESITATE TO SHARE THIS GOOD NEWS WITH JESUS’ DISCIPLES.

THEN, THE UNIMAGINABLE HAPPENED…

JESUS CAME TO THEM…

AND THEY GRABBED HIM AROUND HIS ANKLES, WORSHIPING AND PRAISING HIM.

WHAT A BEAUTIFUL SIGHT THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN.

THEY WENT IN MINUTES FROM UNIMAGINABLE GRIEF TO JOYFUL EXUBERANCE AT THE SIGHT OF THEIR RISEN LORD!

CAN YOU PICTURE THAT IN YOUR OWN MINDS?…

HOW THEY MUST HAVE BEEN SHAKING WITH FEAR AND TREMBLING, YET FEELING THE MOST AWESOME SENSE OF RELIEF AND JOY AT THE SIGHT OF THIS BELOVED PERSON WHOM THEY THOUGHT THEY HAD LOST FOREVER?

BUT THERE WAS NO TIME FOR THEM TO BASK IN JESUS’ PRESENCE…

HE SENT THEM ON TO TELL THIS AMAZING STORY, TO THOSE WHO NOW WERE, NOT JUST HIS DISCIPLES, BUT HIS BROTHERS.

JESUS HAD TOTALLY FORGIVEN PETER FOR DENYING HIM, AND THE OTHERS FOR ABANDONING HIM AT THE CROSS.

ONE OF THE MOST SURPRISING THINGS THAT KEEPS COMING UP IN BOTH THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS IS HOW GOD’S PEOPLE SEEM TO ALWAYS UNDERESTIMATE JUST HOW STEADFAST AND FAITHFUL GOD IS TO ALL OF HIS CHILDREN IN THIS WORLD.

GOD NEVER GIVES UP…

AND JUST KEEPS ON COMING, RISKING RIDICULE AND REJECTION…

ALWAYS FORGIVING OUR FAILURES AND INDISCRETIONS.

BECAUSE HE HAS A WORK FOR US TO DO…

JUST AS HE DID FOR THOSE FIRST DISCIPLES…

WHEN HE MET THEM IN GALILEE, HE DIDN’T SCOLD THEM…

HE DIDN’T LECTURE THEM,

HE BLESSED THEM AND IMMEDIATELY SENT THEM OUT TO MAKE DISCIPLES THROUGHOUT THE WORLD, BECAUSE THEY NOW UNDERSTOOD WHO JESUS IS AND THEY WERE NO LONGER AFRAID…

ON THIS RESURRECTION DAY WE REMEMBER HOW JESUS HAS CROSSED OVER THE THRESHOLD FROM DEATH INTO LIFE…

AND WE CELEBRATE HOW JESUS MAKES TRANSFORMATION POSSIBLE IN OUR OWN LIVES, AS WELL AS THE LIVES OF OTHERS WHO MAY STILL NOT KNOW THIS STORY…

WHO NEED TO HEAR IT…

FROM PEOPLE LIKE US.

DAVID LOSE WRITES IN HIS BOOK “PREACHING AT THE CROSSROADS”:

“WE MAY STILL TAKE HEART, FOR THE GOD WHO CREATED THE WORLD OUT OF NOTHING AND RAISED JESUS CHRIST FROM THE DEAD WILL NOT GIVE UP ON US, HAS NOT GIVEN UP ON US AND WILL WORK THROUGH ORDINARY WORDS FOR THE HEALTH AND REDEMPTION OF THIS WORLD.”

HOW CAN WE NOT BE EXHILARATED BY THIS GOOD NEWS TO THE POINT OF OUR BEING COMPELLED TO SHARE IT?

ON THIS DAY, THE VERY DAY OUR LORD ROSE FROM THE GRAVE, WE JOYFULLY CELEBRATE…

AND MIND YOU, THIS IS ONLY THE BEGINNING OF FIFTY DAYS OF EASTER IN OUR CHURCH YEAR.

HOW MANY PEOPLE CAN WE REACH WITH THIS GOOD NEWS IN FIFTY DAYS IF WE SET OUR MINDS TO IT?

HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE SEARCHING FOR SOMETHING, FOR SOMEONE, TO BRING MEANING, AND HOPE, AND PROMISE INTO THEIR LIVES?

THE SICK, THE DYING, THE HOMELESS AND HUNGRY, THE DISAPPOINTED AND DISENCHANTED…

PEOPLE FOR WHOM JESUS CAME, PEOPLE FOR WHOM HE GAVE HIS LIFE, AND FOR WHOM HE ROSE FROM DEATH…

BUT PEOPLE WHO MAY NOT HEAR THE GOSPEL MESSAGE UNLESS THEY HEAR IT FROM US…

UNLESS THEY EXPERIENCE IT THROUGH OUR WITNESS.

THE TWO MARYS IN OUR GOSPEL STORY TOOK JESUS SERIOUSLY WHEN HE SAID, GO AND TELL MY BROTHERS WHAT YOU HAVE WITNESSED.

AND THE DISCIPLES AND OTHER FAITHFUL FOLLOWERS OF JESUS, MEN AND WOMEN, MADE AN EFFORT TO SHARE WHAT THEY KNEW AND WHAT THEY BELIEVED TO BE TRUE SO THAT ULTIMATELY, YOU AND I BECAME RECIPIENTS OF THAT GOSPEL MESSAGE…

AND WE BELIEVED.

NOW, WHAT DO WE DO WITH THIS WONDERFUL MESSAGE OF SALVATION, THIS GOOD NEWS…

THIS GOSPEL?

FILLED WITH JOY WAND HOPE, WE GO FORTH TO SHARE THE GOOD NEWS:

CHRIST IS RISEN!

HE IS RISEN, INDEED.

ALLELUIA!