Text: Matthew 28:1-10
The Resurrection of Our Lord – Easter Sunday
Listen to the Sermon here.
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
People today often think they are much more enlightened and rational than people of the past. They like to believe that their modern, scientific worldview has given them an edge. However, the truth is that ancient people knew just as well as we do that dead people stay dead. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb that first Easter morning, fully expecting to find the body of Jesus. They were not expecting to find an empty tomb or a risen Savior. When Christians began claiming that Jesus of Nazareth rose bodily after being dead for three days, it sounded just as crazy in the first century as today.
But how do we know that such an incredible event truly occurred? The answer lies in the eyewitness testimony of those who were there. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were not hoping to find an empty tomb or a risen Savior. What happens when we approach the empty tomb expecting to find a dead Jesus? As we journey to the tomb alongside Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, we must ask ourselves: what did they see? What did they feel? What impact should this have in your life?
The Expectation of Death
The two women set out to the tomb with heavy hearts. They had come to mourn and perform the standard burial customs to the body of Jesus. They just wanted to be there, near Jesus, to pour out their sorrow in as much peace and quiet as possible. Peace and quiet was the last thing they got. As they approached the tomb, an earthquake shook the ground, and an angel descended from heaven to roll back the stone and sit upon it. This was not what they had expected.
It isn’t hard to understand the terror that gripped the women. The two Marys were didn’t anticipate angels, nor were they expecting the message they delivered: “He is not here; for he has risen” (v. 6). They knew that dead people stay dead. They knew Jesus didn’t just pass out because they had watched him die with their own eyes. They had seen the spear pierce his pericardium and knew he was stone dead. They had accompanied Joseph of Arimathea to place his body in the tomb. They had no reason to expect anything different when they returned on Sunday morning. A risen Jesus was not even close to being on their radar.
Yet, those two women saw something on that first Easter morning. The tomb was empty, and it remains empty to this day. The death of Jesus and the empty tomb on Easter morning are historical events, and these two women are key eyewitnesses. These events are as well supported by evidence as other events from ancient history. This uncomfortable fact challenges our assumptions and beliefs about death and resurrection. If the tomb was not empty, then the opponents of Christianity would have produced the corpse of Jesus to disprove the resurrection.
However, we may be like the two Marys, expecting death and failing to recognize new life. Our skepticism and stubborn hearts often blind us to the reality of the resurrection. How do you respond to the empty tomb? What if the tomb is empty, after all? Does that change anything? We may sometimes attend church on Sunday morning, but we live the rest of the week as if Christ is still in the tomb. Far too often, our lives look no different from the unbelievers around us. Our lives are often marked out by sin. It’s as if we forget that the power of death has been conquered. We allow the world to distract us from the hope and joy of the empty tomb. To many people, whether or not the tomb is empty means nothing to them. They simply ignore it. You cannot ignore an empty tomb. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. Ignoring the empty tomb doesn’t make it any less empty. What do you do with an empty tomb? The women expected a corpse, yet they became the first eyewitness of something spectacular.
The Encounter with the Risen Christ
The angel sends the two Marys out with a message that Jesus has risen from the dead. Trembling with fear and joy, they quickly depart from the tomb and run to tell His disciples. The news of Jesus’ resurrection is frightening and exhilarating all at once. Can it really be true? Were they hallucinating or simply overwhelmed with emotion?
While running, something unexpected happens. Jesus, Himself, appears to them. Overwhelmed with emotion, they fall to His feet and worship Him. You might worship a hallucination, but you can’t grab his feet. Jesus reveals Himself to the two women before anyone else and instructs them to go and tell His brothers to go to Galilee, where they will see Him. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary become the first eyewitnesses of the resurrection and are sent by Jesus to deliver the glorious message to the apostles.
This is powerful because they were two women whose testimony had no legal standing in Jesus’ day. But Jesus chooses them as the first human lips to say those glorious, happy words: “He is Risen!” Nothing like fresh, first-hand evidence. Jesus, who was crucified, has been raised. The empty tomb proves that Jesus has conquered death and a new creation has begun.
For you and me, this means that we can leave this morning with good news. Although we have not seen the Lord like the two Marys did, their testimony has been recorded for us. The angel’s proclamation echoes through time, through voice and song, until it reaches our ears. We can proclaim with certainty that Jesus is Lord and Christ and Savior of all. His death atones for our sin, His life is now our life, and His glory is our glory.
The resurrection of Jesus brings hope and joy to us all. We can rejoice and sing. We have hope because just as He is risen, so will those who believe in Him rise to eternal life. We’ll be reunited with our loved ones who have departed this life believing in Jesus Christ for their salvation. We will be reunited with our fathers, mothers, children, husbands, wives, friends, and all our loved ones in their physical bodies. We will get them back! You’ll see them again because Death is defeated. We have Christ’s promise that all who believe in Jesus will rise to enjoy eternal life. Those who do not believe, who live like Jesus is still in the tomb, will rise to be judged.
As the two Marys went to tell the disciples about Jesus’ resurrection, they didn’t anticipate meeting Jesus along the way. However, He revealed Himself to them and gave them more than just a message to deliver. He gave them Himself. They were met by Jesus, greeted by Jesus, and came up to Him, lay hold of His feet, and worshiped Him. In the same way, there is no salvation without Jesus. We are called to follow and cling to Him, just as the two Marys did. To worship Jesus is to receive Him.
The resurrected Christ is present for us to receive and cling to this morning. He promises to be wherever two or more are gathered in His Name. This morning, He is here to forgive our sins and grant us eternal life. We can hear His voice and receive Hispardon. Therefore, as Christians, we can approach the altar and lay hold of the benefits of his suffering and death on our behalf. We can feast on Christ’s body and drink up His blood, and in doing so, receive salvation and the pledge of the resurrection of the Body and the life everlasting. These are gifts He gives to us.
The tomb of Jesus is empty, and he is risen. We have the eyewitness testimony from two women who also saw Jesus die. Just as the two Marys departed with great joy, we, too, can leave similarly. What Christ has done for us and the world completely changes things and can completely change us. Today, you can worship Him, be met by Him, be greeted by Him, and receive eternal life and salvation from Him.
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.