Matthew 28: 1-10
And so we meet on this Easter Sunday morning, a very different Easter morning to most we may have experienced I’m sure. We are a separated community yet joined by the Spirit as the body of Christ, under lockdown in our own homes but brought together by the wonders of modern technology. In some ways we are like those first disciples forced to be apart because of circumstances and waiting. Not knowing what is going to happen from one hour, day or even week to the next. We are waiting in the unknown if you like, we can’t see what is happening, what we knew has gone, but we know something is happening.
I’m sure we have all been in this kind of situation at some point in our lives, or at least can picture it if not. When a child, or grandchild has called out in the middle of the night from the bedroom. “I’ve heard something” or “I’ve seen something.” We have gone into the room, turned on the light, and looked around; under the bed, in the cupboards, behind the door, wherever is needed. After a little while it is usually said, “There’s nothing here,” and they climb back into bed knowing all is well.
That is the Easter message. There’s nothing here! Do not be afraid. All is well!
That scenario mentioned earlier is not just a story of a child or grandchild. It’s the human story. It’s the story of a life lived in the fear of darkness and death. It is a story, I suspect, each of us knows well. We fear for ourselves and we fear for those we love. Something is there. Something more powerful than ourselves. We are right. But it’s not what we think.
Two women, both named Mary, go to see the tomb. They know something is there. They saw it all. They watched the crucifixion. They saw Jesus die. They saw Joseph take Jesus’ body, wrap it in a cloth, and put it in the tomb. They saw him roll a great stone across the door of the tomb. They were there, sitting opposite the tomb watching. They know what to expect as they go to the tomb. Death, fear, pain, loss, sorrow. A tortured body beginning to decay.
But then comes a new sunrise, and the big bang of a great earthquake which signals the dawn of a new creation; one in which death no longer rules. God, not death, will have the first, the final, and every word in between.
“Do not be afraid,” the angel announces. “He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.” The empty tomb proclaims that all is well. “Go quickly,” the angel tells them, “you will see Jesus.”
This is the Church’s story. It is the same story told every year. Some of you may have heard this story only a few times. Others of you have heard it many times before. The story never changes. Instead, what it does is change us. Each year we usually gather to hear this story for only one reason: so that we can leave; so that we can leave the darkness and tombs of our lives and live. We want to be reminded, “There is nothing here. Do not be afraid. All is well.”
Too often we think resurrection is about what happens to us after we die. We limit resurrection to nothing more than a promise of life after death. The power and gift of resurrection is not so much in what happens after death but what happens right here, now, today. Perhaps we should worry less about whether there is life after death and more about whether there is life before death.
The joy of Easter is not only that God has raised Christ from the dead. Easter joy is also about the possibility and the promise that, regardless of what our lives are like now, lockdown due to Covid-19 or not, new life is available to each one of us here and now. God has raised Christ from the dead and we are now free to claim his life as our own.
What matters most about Easter is not the empty tomb but what we do tomorrow, the day after, and the day after that. How will we now live differently? Jesus did not die and rise again so that we might continue life as we normally would. If this new life and freedom does not change us we might as well put the stone back over the tomb. If we move on from today, and don’t think about Easter again until next year, then we’ve entirely missed the gift. Are our lives the evidence of resurrection, or not?
We are no longer prisoners to the power or fear of sin, darkness, and death. We don’t have to be worried about how all of this is going to turn out. We are free to live. We are free to love. The end of the resurrection story is the beginning of our life. Christ is risen. So, live fully alive now. Why wait until after death? Darkness has become light. Sin has been forgiven. The tomb has become the womb of new creation. There is no more death. Life is everywhere.
“Go quickly,” the angel tell us. There’s nothing here. Run for your life! Christ is risen. You will see him!
He is risen indeed. Alleluia