- Acts 10:34-43 or Jeremiah 31:1-6 •
- Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 •
- Colossians 3:1-4 or Acts 10:34-43 •
- John 20:1-18 or Matthew 28:1-10
Matthew 28:1-10 (NRSV)
After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
Let us pray - In the name of God, Father Son and Holy Spirit Amen.
Alleluia! Alleluia! He is not here, but has risen!
Today we remember the great triumph in the greatest events in the history of the world – today we remember and praise God that the death of Jesus which we remembered on Friday was not the end, today we remember that he rose again in triumph over the power of death and sin. On Friday Jesus willingly laid down His own life, and took the just consequence of sin in his own body. He willingly took the consequence that we have earned, through our sins even though he himself was sinless. Friday ends with Jesus taken and put into a tomb where - it was supposed - he would stay.
On Saturday his followers faithfully observe the Sabbath – even in their grief and agony over the death of Jesus they remain faithful to God - but on Sunday Mary Magdalene and the ‘other Mary’ return to the tomb. These two mourning women encounter an earthquake and the appearance of an Angel, the tomb which they have come to mourn at is opened and the Angel seeing what we can only imagine to be two terrified women in front of Him says “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ …
Now there are so many things we can talk about with regard to the resurrection - we will discuss the importance of its conquering power over death, and what that means for all of us who have placed our faith in Jesus... hint it means that death will have no hold on us just as it had no hold on Christ! We could talk about the significance of the crucifixion which lead to the resurrection - that moment in time when Jesus took upon himself the sin of the world and opened the door to a life in relationship with God for all those who seek it.
What I want to talk about first though is the people who Jesus surrounded himself in his life, his death and his resurrection. Jesus, who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, did not surround himself with nobility, he did not surround himself with upright individuals who were well respected. He did not surround himself with the righteous, but weak sinners – sinners like you and me.
Jesus’ closest companions along the way were a band of everyday workers - fisherman - tax collectors, and even lower in the social order than tax collectors - women. Jesus opened the door to salvation to all of humanity, and to demonstrate that all were welcome, and that all were loved, he chose the weak and oppressed, the sinners and the poor to be his witnesses. Nothing speaks of this more than the role that women played in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
In Luke’s Gospel (Luke 1:39-55) we find that the first proclamation of the coming of the Messiah who will redeem Israel, and indeed the world, is anticipated and proclaimed, not by archangels or high priests or emperors or even ordained ministers. Rather, two marginalised, pregnant women—Mary young, poor, and unwed, and Elizabeth far beyond the age to conceive—meet in Judea to celebrate (and maybe even console each other about) their miraculous pregnancies. Elizabeth exclaims: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?” to which Mary responds by singing those wonderful words proclaiming God’s faithfulness and mercy in the Magnificat.
Yes, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings is first acknowledged and proclaimed by two women... Two women who were no doubt the subject of much ridicule and stigma - Mary after all was an unwed pregnant teenager - consider how today's comparatively liberal society still denigrates and looks down on women in the same situation, and then consider how it would have been for her living in ancient Jewish society where such a situation was not just embarrassing - but shameful. Likewise consider how society still treats women who have reached their mature years without ever having had children - there is, shamefully in today's world still a stigma, a view that these women, are incomplete - not real women, or that they are simply selfish. Imagine then the views expressed of barren Elizabeth, who had not born any children, in a society where family and heirs were how your worth were expressed - Where a woman's worth especially was determined by how many sons she bore her husband.
Yet it was these two, ostracised, marginalised women whom God chose to bring the final prophet of the old covenant – John the baptist - and the fulfilment of that covenant - Jesus - into the world. It was these two women who first proclaimed the coming of the King! We see in this account the first tearing down of barriers to the Kingdom, the first signs of what the coming reign of Jesus will be like.
When we move forward to the cross, we find that at the foot of the cross, it is predominantly women who remain with Jesus, the three Mary’s - Mary his mother, Mary Magdalene and Mary the wife of Clopas along with the Apostle John – everyone else has abandoned him in fear. Then we come to the tomb on that Sunday morning, and who do we find going to the tomb - before the Sun has risen? Yep, it is those who are the weakest, and most powerless in the society that yet again are chosen to be the first to hear, and then first to proclaim the news - Jesus is not in the tomb, He is risen!
Again and again Jesus chooses those who society would say are not worthy. Again and again God blesses those who are not those that society would deem to be 'worthy' of association with God.
So how does this relate to us today?
Well, let me break this to you gently - you aren't worthy. Neither am I - in fact not one person on this planet is 'good' enough to get into heaven. We can never - ever- earn our way into the eternal presence of God through our own actions, because we all sin - and even one sin means we cannot enter his presence.
Now, for the good part - just like the women in Jesus life, whom society deemed to be not worthy of real respect, and little more than objects, but whom Jesus deemed to be so valuable that he entrusted them with the greatest of honours. To be the first to proclaim his birth, to be present at his death and to be the first witnesses and proclaimers of his resurrection. Just like these women you are valuable in his sight, you are worthy of his love, and you can be redeemed and have your sin wiped away so that you can get to live eternally in the presence of God after all. All he asks is that you place your faith and hope in him.
Brothers and sisters, Jesus rose from death! Not in some metaphorical sense, he really rose from death and by doing so He has defeated sin’s hold on us and calls us to place our hope and trust in him. When we do so, as St Paul says in his letter to the Church at Rome – we share in his death, and resurrection.
He says : Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection,
Therefore brothers and sisters rejoice, give thanks and praise God! For Christ calls all to follow him, all are welcome and through his death and resurrection all who place their faith in him are made one with him and are set free from the chains of sin and death.
Alleluia! Alleluia! He is not here, but has risen!