Sermon for Easter Sunday
In Matthew’s take on the story of the Resurrection of Jesus, as the women leave the tomb, they are met by the risen Lord Jesus with what must be the most understated greeting in all human history: “Greetings!”
Greetings? Greetings? Excuse me! Jesus had died. Dead. The women had gone to see the tomb where his body lay. An angel had rolled away the stone that covered the entrance. They left ‘with fear and great joy’—very mixed emotions—and suddenly, there is Jesus, risen and glorified in front of them. And all he can say is “Greetings”. You’d think he’d have a better line worked out.
Remember The Da Vinci Code, and its claim that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married? If you want any proof that they weren’t married, it’s here. If they were married, she would have shrieked, “How could you do this to me! How could you put me through all this worry? First you’re crucified, and I spend all Sabbath crying, and now you’re back, larger than life! And all you can say is ‘Greetings’?”
Mary doesn’t say any of these things. Therefore, they weren’t married.
But that’s not what I want to talk about today…
I want to talk about why the women believe, and the guards do not. They’re all there; they all see the same thing, an angel comes like lightning and rolls away the stone. What gives?
In Matthew’s story, the women come to the tomb just to look at it. They don’t expect to get past the guard of Roman soldiers placed there. They just want to look, and be sad. They believe what the angel says because they know Jesus; they know he didn’t deserve the death he had suffered, and if anyone deserved to be raised, it was Jesus. And anyway, as the angel reminded them, he’d said this would happen. Not that they’d believed him before!
If the women believe because they know Jesus, the soldiers do not because they have a vested interest in not believing. Had they declared that Jesus was risen, I suspect they would have been executed. Probably unpleasantly, like by being crucified themselves. There’s nothing like the prospect of a terrible death to produce obedience.
Seeing isn’t always believing.
I don’t think it does a lot of good arguing about the empty tomb with people. Matthew tells us there was another story put about from the very beginning—the tomb was empty because the disciples stole the body. Some people believe that today. Anyway, the empty tomb didn’t convince the women, so why should we expect it to convince people today?
How do we show that Jesus Christ is risen today? There’s only one way, and it’s the way it’s always been. People believe because they meet people with a story to tell. We need a story to tell—a story of Jesus being risen in us, in the deepest part of our being. If Jesus is risen in us, if he’s changing our lives, if he’s reshaping our lives so we are more like him, we have something to say to the world. If he’s not, no amount of so-called ‘proof’ will help.
Jesus came to bring salvation to the world. He’s starting with us. He wants to save us from fear and sin and unbelief. He wants to remake us from within, by giving us his Spirit.
Over the past few months, we’ve had the pleasure of seeing Jesus rise and live in the hearts of some of the young people in this congregation. I’d like to ask one of them, Maddie, to tell us today about her experience of Jesus.
Maddie then spoke about the way Jesus has become alive in her.