Sunday 24 April 2011

Bible Book:

"He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay." (v. 6)

Matthew 28:1-10 Sunday 24 April 2011


Two of Jesus' friends and followers went to his tomb on what wenow know as Easter Sunday. For Mary Magdalene and the "other Mary"(verse 1), it was the morning after the Jewish Sabbath, althoughthe Gospel-writer Matthew seems hesitant to put that into words:"After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning..."(verse 1). The two Marys were going to grieve, but they didn't finda place of gloom and death; rather they were greeted with anearthquake and an angel, shining with light, in contrast to thedarkness of the previous Friday (see Matthew27:45). The horrific desolation of Jesus' execution is replacedby brilliant victory.

This is more than a new day - it is a completely new beginningwhere death itself has been defeated. Here God is doing somethingcompletely new: Matthew wants us to see it as a new creation,bringing new hope. The start of Matthew's Gospel sees an angelannouncing Jesus' birth to Joseph, claiming prophecies fulfilledand "God with us" (Matthew 1:18-23), and so there is a beautifulsymmetry with its ending. But here is a new announcement: "He hasbeen raised" - a message they are to pass on. The differentreactions of those in the garden reveal the choice on offer to allwho hear this same news. The guards, we are told, became "like deadmen" (verse 4) - even though they lived, their life was nothingcompared to the new life in their midst. The women, meanwhile,responded with "fear and great joy" (verse 8), but also obedience.And in this obedience they met the risen Jesus himself.

The angel told the women to go on to Galilee where Jesus would meetthem. But it's almost as if Jesus could not contain his excitementand longing to see them again, as he meets them as they areleaving. His familiar greeting is met with nothing less thanworship. The women clearly recognise Jesus, but how astonishing itis that two devout Jewish women would worship their friend andteacher, when the commandment says, "Worship the Lord your God, andserve only him" (Matthew 4:10). And in doing so they became God'snew Church, which has been worshipping the Son of God eversince.

Jesus' message to them, as usual, was one of peace: "Do not beafraid" (verse 10). What God is doing here is awe-inspiring andearth-shaking, but people need not fear. And there's a message forthe others too. Those Jesus has called his disciples and friends,he now calls his "brothers" - a new family is formed, and therelationships and hopes of those who have followed-but-failed areto be renewed. Resurrection is not simply a jump-start for one manwho would die again; it is a life freed from the death that gripsour world. And it's on offer to all who would believe it forthemselves. He has been raised, and just as he went ahead of themto Galilee (the place where their ministry began), so he goes onahead of us - where we might just see him, as we go in obedienceand joy.

To Ponder

What do you understand by the word'resurrection'? Has it meant anything new to you this Easter?What?

Read the other accounts of the first Easter (Mark16, Luke 24John20). What are the similarities and differences? How could youexplain this?

In what ways does Jesus 'go on ahead of us', aswe follow him today? How might this challenge or inform what we doas a church?

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