Resurrection is Here
Matthew 28:1-10 - The Resurrection of Jesus
28After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2And 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. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7Then 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.’ 8So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.9Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’
I wonder what Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were expecting that morning when they left the house. I wonder what you expected out of this day. Perhaps, like the Mary’s, we cling to tradition and ritual because they have offered us comfort or helped us make sense of things before, or because we’re not sure what to do, but this seemed as good an option as any. Or perhaps we even dare to hope in the back of our hearts that what Jesus said about returning on the third day was true, that the words of hope were real, that things can be as God promises. Perhaps we, like the guards, stand ready to keep death in its place, but we just can’t do it.
I was standing in the church office when someone told me that Notre Dame was burning. I remember shaking my head confused. It seemed like the words they said were never meant to go together - an impossible and incomprehensible sentence. I guess my mind had established this thing as some untouchable monolith. Pictures starting coming in of a steeple reduced to a haunting skeleton until even it collapsed completely into ash. It surprised me to feel heartbroken over a thing that I’ve never seen in person, or acknowledged any kind of connection to. But among other things, it grieved me to see the world lose something so beautiful. The night settled in and there was nothing to do but wait and see what was left in the morning. As the dawn of a new day revealed what had been lost, it also showed what the fires did not consume - the iconic rose window, the bees that were housed on the roof, and the gilded cross still above the altar even while surrounded by charred fragments. Light comes out of the ashes. We see as much in the cathedrals of Paris as the black churches of Louisiana and the mosques of Jerusalem. Perhaps we expect only to find death or disappointment, but we are surprised and to encounter life.
As Easter dawns, the very earth shakes, is disrupted, is shifted. We are moved and I’m shook. Even the earth itself echoes the seismic upheaval that comes with the resurrection. Angels appear like lightning, there’s an electric energy in the air as even the fundamental elements of creation cry out in glory. The tomb is split open and I think I’ve been split open with it as well.
The disruption extends from the elements of creation to the ordering of society. On this first Easter morning, like always, God makes a point to show up through the ones that others counted out. It seems the resurrection isn’t just about defying the grave, but creating a new way, one that makes room for and lifts up those who have been overlooked or excluded. On this first Easter Sunday, God disrupts the status quo, the social order, indeed the patriarchy by showing up first among women, commissioning them to be the ones to share the story first, to be the first lady preachers.
Taking it all in, they are filled with fear and joy. Not one or the other, but both together. Perhaps they fear they won’t be believed, that they and their story will be rejected. Perhaps they fear they WILL be believed and they know that upsetting the status quo is dangerous work. But they have joy in the knowledge that clearly none of those things can stop God and God’s insistence on life and life abundant.
The angel and the risen Christ tell the women to go and tell the others. This story is too good to be contained. Go and tell them that God’s love can’t be stopped, the death doesn’t get the final word, that oppressive empires can try their tired old tactics, but it won’t last. This Easter Day and this Easter story is for sharing. Sharing! Not explaining or theorizing, just being with one another as we together bask in this new dawn. This is not a day for doctrine, but dancing. It’s scary and exciting.
Resurrection is here, resurrection is happening now, can you not feel it in your bones? A fear and joy in your own heart? Haven’t you noticed light shining in the darkness, the places of death and destruction transformed into life? The places that were closed off are now opened. Jesus is risen, and you too arise. You are resurrected from all the powers of sin and death that have hurt you and that resulted in your hurting others . Jesus couldn’t stay dead, didn’t stay dead, and God does not leave you for dead either. God loves you so much, they will go to the grave and back for you. Alleluia. Amen.