Encountering God in the Wilderness – Sunday 4th April 2021

The Hope of the Resurrected Lord

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.”

Reflection

Hanging from a cross, nails in his hands and feet, gasping for air, they had heard him call out with the last bit of energy he had, “It is finished.” He was dead. Among the women who saw Jesus take his last breath were Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. They would have watched as his body was taken down from the cross, they may have helped wrap the body in a linen sheet and watched as it was carried away to a tomb cut out of solid rock. There lay the man who had loved them and whom they had loved; the man, who had given them so much hope, who had changed their lives. They watched as a huge stone was rolled across the entrance of the tomb. “It is finished!”

I am sure that it must have been a long night, a long day and a long second night. Matthew tells us that the women got up early and went to the tomb to grieve, perhaps to just sit quietly and remember the love Jesus had shown them. As they approached the tomb, there is an earthquake.

This was not just a rumbling or gentle tremor, but a violent earthquake. I wonder if this is symbolic of the way Jesus’ resurrection would rock the whole world and shake up our very understanding of Jesus’ power over death.

The stone was not rolled away to let Jesus out; he had already risen. It was rolled away so that the two Marys could see inside and see that the tomb was empty. Matthew tells us that this was not just the imagination of some grieving women. There were other witnesses to this. The guards at the tomb saw all this and were terrified.

Then comes the Angel, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, he said. Come, see the place where he lay (v 5-6). Matthew does not tell us if the women actually went inside the tomb, but filled with fear and joy, they left to tell the disciples.

The words of the angel had instantly changed their lives; their whole understanding of who Jesus was and what he achieved was turned upside down; their fear of death had been changed to hope.

The resurrection is not just a historic event that happened 2000 years ago but something that has changed the way we look at life today. It has changed the way we look at our future.

The resurrection of Jesus takes the sting out of death. Easter shows us that there is life beyond the grave. Death is no longer in control. Jesus’ return from the grave allows us to face death with new confidence.

The resurrection is not just a historic event that happened 2000 years ago, but it has changed the way we look at the past.

Easter is good news for us, because when Jesus rose from the dead, he proved that the sacrifice of his life on the cross was for all of our sins. Jesus is our living Lord. If he had stayed dead, then his death would not be any different to the rest of us, but his resurrection shows that the debt for past sins has been paid. Our past may be embarrassing, other people may judge us or think badly about us because of what we have done in the past, but God has dealt with it.

The resurrection is not just a historic event that happened 2000 years ago, but it has changed the way we look at life today. It has changed the way we look at the present.

The last 12 months has been hard. Some have lost jobs, some have suffered the pain of broken relationships, some have suffered abuse, poor health, mental problems, death is an ever-present reality. The pain that grief brings – a pain that never seems to go away.

We all experience suffering and pain but, Easter declares that pain and evil do not have the last say. I am amazed how people are able to rise above their circumstances and live creative, productive lives. The resurrection has a powerful effect on peoples’ lives right now.

The women went to the tomb of Jesus on Easter morning, sad, depressed, confused, red-eyed and grieving. After encountering the angel with the news of Jesus’ resurrection, they ran back to the disciples excited and joyful. Easter had changed them, and they were ready to share this new life they had discovered.

Prayer

Lord, we thank you for sending Your Son to us. Life can feel lonely, but we are never alone. You hold us in the darkest of times. Thank You for giving us the grace to release our failed efforts and bottled-up emotions to You, free of judgment and full of love.

Forgive us for walking through life sometimes without the joy that Easter brings. Help us to find You in the hard moments of life and remember the comfort and truth of Your promises during seasons of suffering.

Jesus, you never leave us, and always guide us. May we follow you all of our days and experience the rich and irreplaceable peace that allows us to overcome life’s challenges and to walk victorious and to always hold onto hope.

Amen.

Dave Cosslett
(North West Hub)