Resurrection Sunday at The Well

by susan on April 21, 2014

empty tombYesterday was a beautiful day of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus with one another.  We shared good food together, welcomed new friends, sang and prayed together.  We began worship by hearing the account of that resurrection morning from the gospel of Matthew:

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2And 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.3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7Then 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.’ 8So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’    Matthew 28:1-10, NRSV

Here is the message that was shared during our worship gathering.  An audio recording can also be found here.  Easter is not just a day, it’s a season in the church year.  I hope you can join us as we are challenged to practice resurrection together.

The Hassle of Resurrection
Matthew 28:1-10

In 2004, Frank Warren had a crazy idea. He decided to start collecting secrets. He handed out 3,000 self-addressed postcards on the streets of Washington DC and asked people to send him an artful secret that had never shared before now. The response was incredible and he has continued to receive secrets every week since. The secrets, which remain anonymous are posted on his website, postsecret.com, each Sunday.

Let me warn you, some of these secrets are scandalous. Others are funny, while some are quite serious. I want to share a few examples of what he has received over the years. [5 “secrets” were viewed on PPT]

There is a lot to be learned from the overwhelming response to sharing secrets. First, it’s clear that we keep a lot hidden just below the surface. Baring our souls can be quite appealing. Yet, we prefer to do so anonymously. Maybe, so that while our secrets are heard, we never have to confront the powerful truth behind them.

What makes us keep such secrets?
Why are we so afraid to confront the very truths that hold the power to change the course of our lives?

At times, it seems as though the resurrection of Jesus has stayed the greatest secret of all time. After hearing Matthew’s account of the events surrounding resurrection, we may have good reason to keep it hidden. There was a lot to be afraid of on that morning

It all began when Mary Magdalene (you remember, the town prostitute who had anointed Jesus’ feet with oil) and the other Mary (the mother of James) arrived at the tomb where Jesus’ body had been laid. Matthew tells us they are there to “see” the tomb. The gospel of Mark says they are there to anoint Jesus’ body with spices. In either case, they are expecting a body to be there.

So, picture this. As they arrive, the earth begins to shake beneath their feet. They look up, and some kind of angelic being is coming down and the stone blocking the way to the tomb is being rolled away. Matthew calls this stone-roller an angel, Mark says it’s 2 men, Luke says 2 men in dazzling clothes and John 2 angels. In any case, this character seems to come out of no where, striking fear into the hearts of these graveside mourners.

They are not the only ones freaking out though. The guards whom Pilate hired to watch the grave are so afraid they pass out on the spot.

“But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid”.” (v.5)
Do not be afraid? Really? An earthquake, an angel that looks like lightning and an empty tomb…what is there to possibly be afraid of?

The Message translation has the angel saying, “There is nothing to fear here.” And then he goes on to instruct them, “Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He is risen from the dead. He is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.’ “ (v. 6)

And, the next thing we know, without any time to process this reversal of everything they knew to be true (you know, like that when a person dies, they stay dead…) they run to tell the disciples.

That is when they encounter their risen Lord.

These are women who were friends and devoted followers of Jesus and the last time they had seen him he was being mocked, beaten and left to die a horrible death. And, “… Jesus met them, stopping them in their tracks. “Good morning!” he said. All they could do was fall to their knees, embrace his feet, and worship him. Jesus said, “You’re holding on to me for dear life! Don’t be frightened like that. Go tell my brothers that they are to go to Galilee, and that I’ll meet them there.” (v. 9-10)

There is so much that is extraordinary about this encounter. First, the obvious. Jesus is alive! God is alive and on the loose again. God and God’s power know no boundaries.

As if that were not amazing enough, one of first things Jesus does is call the disciples who just abandoned him in his greatest hour of need his “brothers”! God’s forgiveness knows no limits. There is nothing that will keep God from reconciling with us: not the dumb mistakes we have made, not the unfaithfulness we have proven, not even our betrayal of Jesus who was God in the flesh.

It is an extraordinary encounter and apparently the angel was not the only one who notices the fear in these women’s eyes. Jesus, too, tells them not to be afraid.
The Greek word for “fear” here actually forms the root of the word phobia. It does not mean just being afraid, but being so afraid that you can’t do anything. You can literally become paralyzed with fear!

See, Jesus knows and these women are realizing that God’s resurrection changes everything.

See, death said Jesus was not the one to save them after all.
Resurrection says he is saving them in a way they never ever imagined.

Death said the powers of the day (those of wealth, domination and consumption) had won.
Resurrection says only love wins.

Death signaled the end of Jesus’ mission
Resurrection says the mission is not over.

Do you remember how Jesus began his ministry?
In the gospel of Matthew, he went to Galilee. Galilee was a risky place. It was the gateway to the Gentile (or non-Jewish) world. It was not the center of religious or political power. It’s where Jesus encountered fisherman who left their nets to follow him. It’s where he cured diseases and where when word got out, people brought him “demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them” (Matt. 4:24).
And, now, look who is being sent to Galilee to continue the work that Jesus began.

In the gospel of Luke, Jesus’ ministry begins with him reading in the synagogue from the scroll of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)

This was the first of many times that Jesus challenged the status quo. And, now guess who is being sent to heal, challenge, rescue and proclaim a countercultural message.

We might prefer to keep the resurrection our cozy & comforting little secret. We might prefer to believe that resurrection is the event that sealed the deal on our heavenly home, but there is much more to it than that.

The secret of resurrection is that the same God who unsettled the earth and raised Jesus from death wants to move in & through us.

Maybe we are right to be afraid of this powerful secret. Maybe we are right to celebrate it once a year then settle back into our routines. For if we confront the powerful truth behind resurrection, we may have to DO SOMETHING. And, this could create quite a hassle.

We may have to confront some difficult truths about ourselves and how we live in ways that hurt others, that hurt us. We may have to move away from our couches and computers to be with hurting, diseased or devastated people. We may have to spend less on coffee or dinner out so we can spend more on setting captives free and binding up the brokenhearted.

We may have to take risks, confront injustice,
abandon excuses, take a stand, bend an ear,
get inconvenienced, leave home, leave a job,
or even lose our lives.

The resurrection was not meant to be kept a secret; nor was it meant to be shared without ever making a difference.

After they fell at Jesus’ feet and worshiped him, it immediately moved Mary, Mary Magdalene and the disciples away from the tomb and into the same adventure that had begun with Jesus.

This is the adventure that we are part of today. It is what makes this life worth living.
We are invited to join the One who holds the power over death, who raised Jesus from the grave and who wants to do the same in us and through us.

That’s too good to be kept a secret.

Previous post:

Next post: