We say ‘Christ is risen!’ today, but what difference does it make? Friends, it makes all the difference in the world if Jesus is risen! It means that no matter what happens, there is still hope and new life. It means that even a horrific death on the cross cannot defeat God. It means God is for us, no matter what. It means whatever setbacks or defeats we encounter in life, we can remember this: The last word is not death—the last word is Life!
Let’s look at the women who returned to the tomb early on Sunday morning. They must have loved Jesus, but they were looking for a corpse. They thought that death had had the last word. Their hopes for a new world in which God’s kingdom would finally come had died with Jesus on the Friday. They were heartbroken—but still, they were coming to the tomb to care for his dead body. They were going to anoint it with spices according to their customs. They’d been unable to do it properly before as Jesus’ body was taken from the cross under armed guard and then it was the Sabbath day, when they couldn’t do any work.
They were expecting to be confronted with a tomb cut out of a rock face, with a huge stone across; and they had no idea how they were going to move it.
What they found was something different. The stone was rolled away. Who else would be there? Who else was there who’d come to care for the body? They wouldn’t be grave-robbers, would they? After all, it was Joseph of Arimathea’s family tomb; he was a rich man, but there was nothing of value in with the broken body of Jesus.
Bravely, they entered the tomb. There was a mysterious young man there, who told them something they never expected to hear:
Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.
(Sorry, mysterious young man; they were alarmed…)
So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
And who can blame them? It was all too much to take in.