Christ is Risen! Alleluia!
Christ is Risen, indeed! Alleluia!
Easter is here! We hear the “Alleluia” music, and know that we have arrived at Easter morning. I like our Easter story this morning, because it’s a little different from the story told in John’s Gospel. John’s Gospel is the one we often read at Easter. In John, we hear about the empty tomb and Peter and John running to see, and Jesus appearing to Mary. It’s all very wonderful, but a little chaotic. However, in Matthew, it’s a little different. The two Marys are walking up to the tomb, grieving Jesus’s death, needing to be near his grave – when suddenly, there is an earthquake. An angel appears, scaring the heck out of the guards, rolls away the stone, and has a seat up there. The angel tells the two women, “Don’t be scared, Jesus isn’t here! Look, the tomb is empty. Now go, hurry, and tell the disciples to get to Galilee. Jesus will meet you there!” So the women start off running.
But – imagine that angel sitting on the rock, feeling pretty good about what they have just done, “Yup, I did it, just like Jesus said!” But then, he hears a voice not fifty yards down the path say, “Greetings!” The angel looks over, and there’s Jesus! I imagine the angel standing up with his hands on his hips wanting to yell, “Thanks a lot, Jesus! Make me look like a fool! You couldn’t trust me to get it right?” And Jesus looks up at him and winks. That’s when the angel gets it. The angel gets this great big smile on their face. The angel understands. Jesus just couldn’t resist being there himself, surprising the Marys – after all, he loves them. And he knows how hard it was for these two women to watch him die. How happy it will make them to see him again.
See that’s the thing – Jesus loves us. Completely. With every fiber of his being. He can’t stand it when we hurt, when we grieve, when we feel lonely, unloved, when we suffer. That’s the whole point of the Gospel. Not just this part, the whole Gospel. The whole “good news” thing is about Jesus’s love for us. God sent Jesus to show us how to live, how to walk with God, how to treat each other in this life. But, we just couldn’t stand it! We didn’t want to hear that giving up everything is the way to gain the one important thing. Giving up our incessant need to be first, and best, strongest, richest, smartest, the one with the most stuff. That’s when we gain the most important thing, love.
There’s nothing wrong with being smart or successful or strong. It’s the never ending need. That’s what gets in the way of love. We start to see each other as rivals instead of sisters and brothers. Way back in the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, he was tempted. Tempted with all the things that tempt us all – getting stuff and power. The devil tempted Jesus to use his power to take shortcuts, turn rocks into bread, leap off buildings unhurt, rule the world. Instead, Jesus chose love. That’s what got him killed, and that’s how he was raised from the dead – love.
God loves us so much that he sent Jesus to live as one of us, to show us how to love one another, how to forgive each other. And when we killed love, God raised love from the dead, proving once and for all that love wins. The world says, “That’s nonsense. Power wins. Money wins. Dominion over others, that’s what wins.” But all those things come to an end, eventually. Just look at any world power over the centuries: Egypt, Greece, Rome, the British Empire, the Russian Empire. They all fail eventually. We all fail. But love still stands.
We hear two powerful messages from today’s Gospel. Both the angel and Jesus say the same two things, “Don’t be afraid” and “Go tell what you have seen.” If we live in love, we have no need to be afraid. God is with us. We are free, because we are loved. Free to go and tell what we have seen and heard here, so that everyone can know, they too are loved. There isn’t anything I can say to add to that, so I will just repeat what Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid. Go, tell everyone what you have seen.” Christ is Risen! Alleluia! Christ is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! Amen.