The Big Announcement
Grace United Methodist Church
April 24, 2011
Matthew 28: 1-10 (NIV)
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.
7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
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.
The women’s resurrection experience was not enough for the disciples. The disciples had to experience it for themselves—just as each one of us have to experience it for ourselves. The resurrection experience changed the lives of those early followers of Jesus. It gave them boldness. It took away their fear. And because of their encounter with the risen Lord, those disciples were molded and shaped. They were not afraid or ashamed to tell others that “He’s alive!” And we should not be either! We are invited, and even summoned, to be a part of this new kingdom that God is creating!
Just as Jesus’ resurrection begins God’s new work, so does the disciples’ proclamation carry that work forward! The angel instructs the women to gather the disciples and go to Galilee where Jesus will meet them. The women make their way from the tomb to find the disciples, but they have hardly turned when Jesus meets them there, at the tomb, with the same instructions to go ahead to Galilee with the disciples, where he will be waiting for them. We cannot today meet Jesus in the way the women did that morning. But that does not mean that we cannot “come and see” and experience the power and life of the resurrection. And the crucial part of it all is that Jesus’ resurrection is not about proving some point, or simply offering people a new spiritual experience. It is about God’s purpose that now must be brought to completion. All must see Jesus, but that seeing will be a commissioning, a commissioning to a new work, a new life, and even a new WAY of life in which everything Christ has said will start to come true. Are we just going to stand at the tomb, or are we going to get going?
Easter is not just the dramatic conclusion of Jesus’ story. Rather, Easter is the beginning! God’s kingdom grows out from the empty tomb, you see, and it begins with Jesus’ summons of his disciples to Galilee. Galilee is not only the place where Jesus had promised to gather his scattered sheep again. It is also the place where his ministry, which began the new reign of God, had been lived out. Galilee is the place where Jesus called his disciples, taught the crowds, healed the sick, fed the multitudes, blessed the children, and taught about a Messiah who would suffer. Jesus is now summoning his disciples to Galilee because the risen Lord is expected in the places of his once and future ministry, in all those places of his grace-filled works, where healing, feeding, teaching, and even suffering are undertaken in his company. The encounter with the risen Christ is a promise in the midst of the mission he pursues even now, a mission we are invited, commissioned even, to join in. A whole new world is opening up in front of all of Jesus’ disciples. Christ is sending them, sending US, to the ends of the earth with the big announcement, with the good news of his resurrection!
As we think about the task before us, I want to share with you a wonderful story. A Sunday School teacher had just finished telling her third graders about how Jesus was crucified and placed in a tomb with a great stone sealing the opening. Then, wanting to share the excitement of the resurrection, she asked: “And what do you think were Jesus’ first words when he came bursting out of that tomb alive?” A hand shot up into the air from the rear of the classroom. Attached to it was the arm of a little girl. Leaping out of her chair she shouted out excitedly “I know, I know!”
“Good” said the teacher, “Tell us, what were Jesus first words?”
And extending her arms high into the air she said: “TA-DA!”
My friends, this morning we celebrate the greatest event in all of history. It’s more than a magic trick, but our proclamation must be no less enthusiastic than that little girl’s “TA-DA!” or young Brendan’s fist-pumping declaration that “He is not here; he has risen!” The resurrection changed the world forever. It announced, not as theory, but as fact that God’s kingdom had come and there was dawning not just another day, another week in the history of the world, but the start of God’s new age that would continue until the nations had been brought into obedience. We have a big announcement to make. Like the two Marys on the first Easter morning, we too are called to go running from the empty tomb to a world that needs transformation, and to share the good news of Christ’s resurrection! We have a risen Savior to proclaim! Praise be to God! Amen.