Winthrop Congregational Church, United Church of Christ
No matter who you are. No matter where you are on life's journey. You are welcome here.
Matthew 28:1-10 The Resurrection of Jesus
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 worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’
"Do not be afraid." Who hear has heard that before? Maybe you heard about that dream Joseph had where an angel said to him: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit." Or maybe you’ve heard Jesus’ own teaching as he sent the 12 disciples on their mission of healing (Matthew 28:1-10): “Do not fear those who kill the body by cannot kill the soul.” Or, maybe you remember all those other times in the Bible when God or God's messenger told somebody "Do not be afraid." Like, when God said to Abram, "Do not be afraid, I will protect you from any army that seeks to harm you." Or, when God was saving Hagar and Ishmael after Abraham threw them out into the wilderness, God said, "do not fear" and saved the mother and child. Or, when Moses and Joshua were facing daunting enemies, they both hear from God, "Do not be afraid... you will survive and thrive well beyond the evil they intend for you." The stories of the Bible tell us again and again, when things look bleak, do not be afraid. God is getting ready to do a new thing.
I am not sure how much comfort those promises brought Jesus’ disciples as they witnessed his trial, death, and burial in a tomb. I imagine that, at this point in the story, they’ve been very afraid, perhaps for days now. In less than a week, those closest to Jesus watched him go from being lauded by the common people who saw him as a beacon of hope to being crucified by the powerful people who saw him as a challenge to their authority. They were so fearful, that most abandon him. But, two of them, Mary from Magdala and another woman named Mary, as Judith Jones points out in her commentary, the same two who stayed with Jesus when he died, also went to see his tomb in the early one morning.
Remember when I said, last Sunday, that the ground would shake once again? After the earth-moving triumphal entry into the city, and then the earth-shattering arrest and the trial, when Jesus took his last breath, the earth shook once again and the curtain covering the most sacred part of the Temple tore in two, from top to bottom. It would shake one more time as the two women named Mary arrived at the tomb. As Elizabeth Johnson notes in her commentary on this text, Matthew’s resurrection account is the only one that includes this detail. She says, “The shaking of the earth is an appropriate parallel for the way that the events of Good Friday and Easter morning shake the very foundations of everything once thought to be secure.” Thankfully, the angel showed up just in time to explain what was happening. The angel said, “Do not be afraid.”
The angel told them, "He is no longer here. He has been raised. You can look in the tomb for yourselves.” Then, the angel appointed the two women as the first preachers of the Resurrection, telling them to tell the rest of the disciples what they have learned. The angel also tells them that Jesus has gone back out into the land where he preached and taught and healed people. The Marys, and everyone else, will be able to meet him out there.
Matthew tells us that the Marys left the tomb with fear but also great joy. Scripture also tells us that Jesus meets them on the road, in the midst of their joy and their fear, and repeats this same divine message “Do not be afraid.” All of this is so weird and so hard and so miraculous. But it is not the end. Go and tell the others. The others will meet Jesus again, too, in the midst of their fear. And, he will promise to be with them until the end of the age. I pray that you, too, will meet Jesus out there... out in the world where he healed and helped and connected with people. He is still with us, through the end of the age. Remember his words and take heart: Do not be afraid. More life can happen. And, when it does, we must leave the tomb and tell everyone about it.
Resources consulted while writing this sermon:
That'll Preach podcast: 08 // What? He Lives in You! [Luke 24:1-12] // Jacqui Lewis: https://soundcloud.com/thatllpreach/he-lives-in-you Judith Jones: https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3228 Melinda Quivick: https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1990 Elizabeth Johnson: https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/narrative-lectionary/easter-matthew-2/commentary-on-matthew-281-10-4 Wil Gafney, "Easter - The Great Vigil," A Women's Lectionary for the Whole Church, Year W (New York: Church Publishing Incorporated, 2022)
Out the cave view: Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash
Pastor Chrissy is a native of East Tennessee. She and her wife moved to Maine from Illinois. She is a graduate of the Divinity School at Wake Forest University and Chicago Theological Seminary.