“Do Not Be Afraid: Go!”

Matthew 28:1-10

Easter – April 16, 2017

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches

 

Matthew 28:1-10

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 worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

 

Prayer.

 

Pilate's guards,

professional Roman soldiers,

stood watch.

A garrison with rotating sentries,

a camp fire and a pot for cooking suspended over the fire,

tents, possibly, offered modest protection from the morning dew.

Soldiers were posted at the request of the Chief Priests,

who undoubtedly welcomed the pre-dawn light.

 

Since Friday night they stood guard at the door

of the stone sealed tomb,

lest His body be stolen

by souvenir hunters,

by grave robbers,

by revolutionary zealots.

Sunday morning was dawning.

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.

What, with guards and a solid rock door,

there wouldn't be much to see.

Yet, still they came.

 

The earth shook underfoot.

An angel of the Lord,

a male it is reported;

an angel dressed in white,

white as snow,

and looking like lightening,

descended from heaven

right before their eyes.

He rolled back the stone door

and he climbed on top

to sit.

 

Now, there’s something you don’t see every day!

 

There was no fight, no quarrel, no skirmish.

The soldiers may have been prepared to fight with Peter,

but they weren't prepared for this

angelic intersection with geological tectonic plates.

Fear and panic overtook them;

they shook and passed out cold

like cord wood in the wood pile.

Afterwards, Matthew reports

they were paid money

to lie about their incompetence

“just tell them that you were asleep

when they came and stole his body.”

 

Like a leprechaun perched on the Blarney Stone

the angel sat and took it all in.

The women’s fear is even palpable today.

Certainly the angel could feel it.

He began to speak.

“Do not be afraid;” he assured them.

“Do not be afraid” were words that would have been familiar to Mary.

Remember the annunciation?

This wasn’t her first visit by an angel.

 

The angel knew the women's desire,

The depth of their mourning,

The breadth of their bereavement,

The tenderness of their love.

He knew whom they sought.

“He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.”

He is raised as he said.

The body had been gone before the stone door was rolled away.

 

The angel only opened the door

for the benefit of the witnesses.

“Come and see, then go and tell,” the angel commanded.

Go.

Tell them

“He has been raised from the dead.”

Go.

Tell them

“He is going ahead of you to Galilee.”

“Come and see, then go and tell,” the angel commanded.

 

The women obeyed just as they were told.

They went with an interesting mixture of fear and joy.

Just as quick as they went

He suddenly stopped them with “Greetings!”

They looked,

probably two or three times

shaking the cobwebs and rapidly blinking.

It was Jesus!

Upon recognition,

They fell,

They held His feet,

and they worshiped Him.

 

They looked,

They fell,

they held,

and they worshiped.

 

It is a simple formula.

It didn't take a whole lot of faith

with him standing right in front of you.

Jesus was dead, but is now alive.

This is the Good News of this Easter day.

Jesus was dead, but is now alive.

QED the mathematician would conclude,

"that which was to be demonstrated."

("quod erat demonstrandum" -if you have to know!)

 

Jesus had died, and now he is risen.

For two thousand years we've been proclaiming this fact.

For fifty generations,

Christians have been passing down this witness.

This testimony has been as common as our baptismal waters,

as longstanding as Christianity,

as continuous as the ranks of Saints and apostolic succession,

as self-evident as the Declaration of Independence,

as true as the sky is blue.

This is our witness:

Jesus had died, and now he is risen.

 

There isn't a corner of the globe today where this light hasn't shined.

Nearly 2 billion – that’s a “B” for billion –

Nearly 2 billion Christians are united this Easter Day

Celebrating the fact that

Jesus had died, and now he is risen.

 

“So, what's the big deal?” the cynic asks.

 

In a loveless world

filled with liars and false promises,

fake politicians,

hypocritical preachers,

and identity thieving computer hackers;

in a world consumed by darkness and evil personified

that will hate you,

hit you,

hurt you,

take your last dime,

spit on you,

and leave you in the gutter for dead;

in a world filled with survival of the fittest,

single elimination,

tribal councils,

dog eat dog,

and win at all costs ...

... we are thrown a life line.

... we are invited to journey by a road less traveled.

... we are invited to meet the only one –

- the only one -

who can truly save us.

 

For we are offered the Savior,

Jesus,

raised from the dead

willing to share the journey with us

offering to us

fully-shared participation in everlasting peace,

the gift of eternal life.

 

If you want to be left alone

in the belief that this is all that life will ever have to offer;

work hard,

play hard,

buy everything you can,

consume as much as possible,

and everyone else be damned;

then, well, God bless you.

You don't have to catch His life line.

 

But, if you are willing to make a change,

If you are willing to take a chance,

If you are able to mix some faith with hope,

and shake together a little pinch of vision

for what God's possibilities might hold,

then reach out and grab His life line.

Jesus is throwing salvation for you to catch.

 

Hold on tight.

Fall to his feet and hold on tight!

Look up and see His face.

Do not be afraid, Jesus repeats the angel’s assurance.

Do not be afraid, Jesus is telling us this Easter.

Do not be afraid that others might doubt,

Or that we might find ourselves

Enduring seasons of personal doubt.

Do not be afraid, for,

Low, my Spirit is with you always.

 

Go! Tell the world what God has done for you.

Go! Witness to the fact that

Jesus had died, and now he is risen.

Just get up and go!

 

Prepare yourselves and prepare the world

That the risen Christ is our Savior,

His Spirit is with us always,

And, that one day,

He intends to meet us again.

Alleluia!

Amen.