28 After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 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. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 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.” 8 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
There is an old hymn entitled “The Day of Resurrection” and the first verse reads, “The day of resurrection! Earth tell it our abroad; the Passover of gladness, the Passover of God. From death to life eternal, from sin’s dominion free, our Christ has brought us over with hymns of victory.” The words were written in 1862 and the music the following year. Now I do not know how many of you are history fans but you know that I am. In 1862 the United States was in the midst of the Civil War. September 17 was the bloodiest day fought during that war at the battle of Antietam. 22,000 men were either killed, wounded or missing.
Today in 2020, the world is filled with many deaths from the Corona Virus, not to mention all that normally pass away in any given time. It is such a painful time. Each night when the news is given and the number of deaths rise, we remember that each of those persons count. Each was born to parents, some had children and grandchildren. They worked jobs and had friends. They made an impact in some way in their little corner of the world. A family somewhere is grieving for each their loved one.
Now more than ever we seek to find comfort. This weekend as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, we find some comfort. They hymn is based on verse 9 of our reading listen again to this verse, “Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him.” The women had gone to the tomb carrying spices and seeking their Master, teacher, friend. Maybe they were also curious to see if he had been resurrected like he said, but maybe filied with grief they forgot all about that little nugget.
The earth shakes, an angel of the Lord descends and rolls back the rock in front of the tomb. God’s presence is marked in this moment as heaven and earth are somehow intermingled. Verse 2 of the hymn reads, “Our hearts be pure from evil, that we may see aright the Lord in rays eternal of resurrection light; and, listening to his accents, may hear so calm and plain, his own ‘all hail’ and, hearing may rise the victor strain.” The angles appearance was like lightning and his appearance like snow. The rays of eternal resurrection light are so bright we have to look away for fear of being blinded.
The light was so bright that the guards posted outside the tomb fell over and were like dead. Verse 5-7 is so important to our understanding today, “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.”
The message that the angel gave the women that day is the same message given for us today. Do not be afraid is so often spoken by angels or by God when the heavenly realm and our world collide. God does not want the creation, God’s children to ever be afraid. God has promised over and over that we are worth God’s love. We do not need to fear the Lord, but seek the Lord when we are afraid. Now more than ever we are afraid. We are afraid when we are asked to stay in place and not go out. We are afraid for those who have lost jobs. We are afraid for the workers in hospitals and nursing homes, store clerks and cashiers, the people on the front lines doing their best to serve others.
God wants us to trust that when one of the greatest deaths in humankind occurred God was present. Yes, Jesus died and was dead for three days and yes experienced the depths of that death, but on the third day Jesus rose again. Jesus was not in the tomb that morning the women came looking. The women, became the first to proclaim the gospel that day. The women who were brave enough to seek the tomb found that Jesus was not there.
When they turned to leave, they ran smack dab into Jesus! What did Jesus say, do not be afraid, but go and tell his brothers. Go and tell his brothers that he was not dead but lived. The gates of death have been broken open for all eternity. Death has been conquered. Satan has been defeated. The kingdom of God is open and is receiving God’s children. This is the greatest day in human history!
Verse 3 reads, “Now let the heavens be joyful! Let earth its song begin! The word resound in triumph, and all that is there in; let all things seen and unseen their notes of gladness blend; for Christ the Lord has risen, our joy that has not end.”
This is a day to celebrate. Don’t let the circumstances of being at home hold you back. Shout it loud and shout it proud Jesus Christ is Risen today! This is the story that is worth repeating. This is the news that conquers all fears. This is the love of God that was spread to us in the Son Jesus Christ, and sustained in our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is risen, He is risen indeed! Amen.