Sermon for Easter Day (Year A; Matthew 28.1-10)

Note: This sermon was written and published online for Easter Sunday, 12 April 2020, during the first lockdown for Covid, and reflects what many of us were experiencing at that time. But the message of hope and joy it expresses applies for all time.

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!

Today we join in our worship to celebrate the greatest event that has ever taken place in the history of humankind.  Today we celebrate the glorious and triumphant resurrection of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.  Today we celebrate an event that was without precedent, and that will never, ever be repeated.  And, today, we are once again faced with the challenge of asking ourselves: What does this amazing event mean to us as we live out our daily lives?

In our Gospel reading today we hear Matthew’s account of the finding of the empty tomb.  Mary Magdalene and the other Mary find themselves in, what must have been a very confusing and scary place.  Rather than a solemn place of bitterness and tears, they found an angel of the Lord, and they witnessed that angel rolling back the great stone that had been placed to seal Jesus’ tomb.  The appearance of that angel, we are told, was so terrifying that for fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men.

What must have been going through the minds of those two women?

They had lost their beloved Lord and Teacher in the cruellest of ways.  They had seen him tortured to death just a short time before.  They had gone to his resting place at the earliest possible opportunity to complete the rituals of internment, only to find chaos.  But … while the guards were so overcome that they fell into a dead faint at the sight of the angel, for those faithful women there were words of comfort and challenge: the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid … for Jesus who was crucified … is not here … he has been raised.

I wonder whether Jesus’ own predictions sprang into their minds at that moment?

Or, were they just overwhelmed and confused by what was going on before their eyes?

It is easy to imagine the confusion and utter bewilderment that must have filled the minds of those two faithful women.

Perhaps that is why the angel’s next words and actions were ones of encouragement … Come, and see the place where he lay. The angel was ready to prove that his words were true – surely the testimony of an angel could not be doubted.

Then, of course, after the encouragement comes the challenge – you have seen the evidence, now what are you going to do with that knowledge?

Again, the angel has the answer: go quickly and tell his disciples ‘He has been raised from the dead’.

Then comes a tiny, unspoken detail that is a marvellous lesson for us all – they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

  • There was no questioning or doubt.
  • There was no moment of asking fatuous questions.
  • There was no trying to pass the challenge on to someone else, or to put it off to a later date when it might be more convenient.

They left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

And then their faithfulness of response was rewarded – suddenly Jesus met them. Again, we do not hear of questions and recriminations, instead we hear of how they took hold of his feet and worshipped him.

They left the tomb quickly with fear …

  • Wouldn’t you have journeyed in fear if you had just been confronted with such an ‘unbelievable’ scene?
  • Wouldn’t you have wondered what on earth was going on?
  • Wouldn’t you have questioned your own sanity and what others might say about you if you had been confronted with the same challenge on that first Easter Day?

Those two dear followers of Christ did not hesitate – despite their fear, they journeyed with the good news of the resurrection burnt into their hearts with great joy.

And that is where we should be today.

  • There is much going on in this world that is causing fear and apprehension.
  • There is so much separation and isolation.
  • There is so much doubt and suspicion.

Today is Easter Day, and today we are living in extra-ordinary times.

But, the challenge of Easter Day is unchanged – we are all challenged to share the Good News that Jesus is risen from the tomb, and that it is our job to GO QUICKLY AND TELL …

Of course, we cannot, as responsible citizens, stand on the street corners or go into the houses of others and share that good news.  But, there are so many ways in which we can fulfil the commission that is laid on our shoulders.

  • We can continue to pray in good faith for one another and for ourselves.
  • We can pick up the phone and let others know that they are not forgotten.
  • We can act as mediators for those who find themselves isolated and in need of essentials.
  • We can share in prayer and worship through the wonders of modern technology – there are plenty of people who will help those who are unsure about this one!!!
  • We can show in the way we wave and smile through our windows or as we walk that the light and the great joy of the Risen Christ is burning in our hearts.

I have focused on our Gospel reading in this sermon, but I would also like to leave you with some words from our other reading, from the 10th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles –

He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as the judge of the living and the dead.

Jesus gave everything for us.  He experienced the ultimate in humiliating deaths for us.  That one-off action was for each and every one of us.

Surely, like the two women who found the empty tomb, we can do no less than to show through our words and our actions that we accept the responsibility we have been given to preach and to testify in great joy.

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!

I wish you all a very Happy and Blessed Easter.