Filed under: Sermons, Uncategorized | Tags: easter, empty tomb, fear, jesus is risen, mary
Christ is Risen! Alleluia! Christ is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
This is the good news that dawns on our world today.
We have travelled through this week, witnessing Jesus’ last days. Jesus is joyously welcomed into Jerusalem, and then bitterly rejected. Disciples betray him, religious leaders conspire to kill him, and the crowds call for his crucifixion. Through these events, Jesus declares his faithfulness to those who abandon him. Jesus proclaims that he will give his body to give forgiveness and life to the world.
If it seems to you that a lot has happened in a short few days, consider what it must have been like for Jesus’ disciples. First an emotional high at the Palm Sunday procession, as their teacher is exalted. Then special teaching from Jesus at their Passover dinner, as he gives new meaning to shared bread and wine, and as he kneels to wash their feet. Then unexpected events, for which Jesus’ prophecies have not prepared them for. Jesus is arrested, tried, and killed. Intense fear grips the disciples, causing them to run away at his arrest, blinding them to any possibility of goodness as Jesus’ dead body is placed in a tomb carved into rock.
The day after Jesus’ death is the Sabbath, a day during which no work is done, so that God may be honored. On the third day, three of Jesus’ disciples: Mary Magdalene, Mary, and Salome come to the tomb to finish the burial rituals. They come with hearts full of grief and fear. They are numb from the tragedy they have witnessed. The shock has been so great that they haven’t been able to think through the work at hand. Only once their on their way to the tomb do they realize that they have not asked anyone strong enough to open the tomb for them to reach Jesus’ body. There’s nothing else for them to do but to continue on their way and deal with that problem when they get there.
When they arrive, they are met with a staggering sight. The large stone has been rolled back, and Jesus’ tomb is standing open. When they cautiously enter, they are met by a young man in white. Jesus is no where to be seen.
What must have been going through their minds?! Thoughts that they are going crazy? That in their grief-stricken delirium, they’ve gone to the wrong tomb? That someone has taken Jesus’ body away? That somehow they’ve all been tricked? That as followers of Jesus, they might be in great danger themselves? They are frozen in fear.
The young man addresses their fear and their questions, saying, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.”
What can this all mean to these women? They look where the young man points, and can see Jesus is no longer where he had been laid. But how can it be possible?
The young man continues, “Go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”
After their long week, all the women can do is stagger out of the tomb and run. They have been met with the unimaginable and impossible, and fear has taken over. It is all too much to comprehend. “They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
Fear is a powerful motivator and deterrent. We’re created to experience fear, so that we recognize dangerous situations and do something to get out of them. But, fear can also be a danger to us. It can keep us turned inward on ourselves. Self-centeredness is sin. It keeps us from being open to God. Fear can close our minds to the wide range of possibilities that every moment holds.
The women at the tomb could only see that Jesus had died, and his body was missing. They were afraid because their world was being destroyed. Jesus, the one who had declared the kingdom of God was near, who had healed the sick, and restored life to the dead, had been killed. The powers of the world had conspired to silence him, and their power could easily be turned on Jesus’ disciples. The women have every reason to fear for themselves and the other disciples. Their lives are in danger.
But it is their very fear that presents the greatest danger in this moment. They are in danger of missing the joy of the miracle God has done in their sight. Their fear closes them off to the work of God in their lives. Fear keeps them from joyously celebrating and sharing the good news of God’s work: the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection.
We can find ourselves in the same situation as the women: held captive to our fear. This fear can work the same way in our lives, and keep us from the joy God would have us experience. We fear illness, change in ability, loss of jobs, relationships, or status. We fear what we do not know and what we cannot control. We fear what others might to do us. We fear change.
We, the women at the tomb, the religious and political leaders, the crowd: all who sought Jesus’ death, fear Jesus’ power to change the world. Jesus challenges the way things are; Jesus shatters social norms and expectations; Jesus embodies the coming kingdom of God which does not behave the way we are used to. This change is cause for fear. Enough fear that people needed to kill Jesus to eliminate the threat of so much change. Enough fear that the women couldn’t put words to the miracle of resurrection they witnessed. Enough fear that we can live our lives closed to the faith we confess and the work of the God we say we trust.
Jesus came to destroy the power that fear holds over us. Jesus went ahead of us into the worst rejection and suffering we could ever experience. In doing so, he promises to be with us through any difficult times our lives may include. We need not fear, because Jesus will be with us through our darkest hours. With the life-giving God by our side, we will not be alone through our suffering. Jesus chose to enter the most fearful situation, so that we would have his strength with us as we enter our own fears. That is the joy of the cross, which we celebrated on Good Friday.
The joy of today, Easter Sunday, is that Jesus has been raised from the dead, raised from his experience of suffering. In Jesus’ resurrection, we see that suffering has an end. Whatever difficult times we may face, they will not last. God’s power will triumph over sin, pain, and death. God will bring us to a new experience of life, in which tears, pain, and death will no longer exist.
Jesus’ resurrection destroys fear. Jesus includes you in the life-giving power of his resurrection. You may have times of suffering in your life: times of rejection or betrayal, or times of sickness or grief. You will die. These experiences may shape your life, but they are not permanent states, they will not continue forever. Jesus will raise you out of your suffering, and share with you his resurrected life. You need not fear the powers of evil or death. Jesus has already broken them in his resurrection. He has broken their power for you.
When confronted with news of Jesus’ resurrection, news too good to be true, we may still find ourselves trapped in the same fear the women felt,. Jesus’ resurrection changes the world; it changes our lives. Jesus’ resurrection means that our lives are more than our current experience. We will exist beyond this life. Jesus’ resurrection changes our perspective. No longer do we need to be fearfully guarding all that is our own. God holds all life, and will restore to life all that has died. God protects all whom we love.
We fear change, we fear the unknown future. In the midst of our fear, Jesus makes possible our trust in God. The Spirit gifts us with joy-inspiring trust. This God-inspired trust enables us to look with joy towards the future of God’s restoration. God will work life and goodness among us. All that is broken and hurt will be changed: it will be healed. We need not fear the change Jesus will work in our lives, because Jesus works for good. His resurrection proves his connection with the life-giving God, who works to give us abundant, whole, joyful life.
God allows us to see glimpses of this life-giving work among us now. Sometimes we are too caught up in fear to notice. Just like the women couldn’t recognize grasp God’s good work, we aren’t always open to grasping the possibilities for life God is opening in front of us. We are afraid to acknowledge them, as if they might be proved untrue.
God is working to give you courage to live in joy. Celebrate the potential for life that every dawn brings and every seed holds. Listen for the joy God makes possible. God is working your healing salvation today! Rejoice this Eastertide! Jesus has triumphed over death, so that you would have life today and always.
Christ is Risen! Alleluia! Christ is Risen Indeed. Alleluia.
1 Comment so far
Leave a comment