Matthew 28:1-10 – Easter Sunday
The truth is, because we move to John during Holy Week, we might only hear Matthew’s Passion on Palm Sunday (if it is read). And at this point, not many people are holding onto the Matthean nuances. I could write a lot on what I think the crucifixion and resurrection mean for Matthew but that wouldn’t do a lot for preaching this week. So, I’ll sum it up like this to generate some curiosity before I go into this week’s post:
For a Gospel with so much detail and so many encounters, Matthew’s resurrection is abruptly short. Whereas John and Luke have a few resurrection appearances, Matthew has maybe one and a half. But I think this is intentional. This is not the final judgment for Matthew and so there is no reason to linger. The end of the Gospel is about the transition of ministry to the disciples who have been taught all they need to know and have received the authority they need. And so, the next leg of work must begin. We are in the final transition of prophetic authority.
John and Luke emphasize this next era of faith being driven by the Holy Spirit but that is not explicitly Matthew’s claim. This next era of faith, for Matthew, is the prophetic witness and evangelism of the church. The great commission is that final transition.
But back to this week:
8So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to tell his disciples.
As much as any other Gospel, Matthew has these lines that talk about fear around great news.
2:1In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him;
17:5While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” 6When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear.
21:10When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
27:54Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”
And there’s plenty more when the disciples are afraid, or Jesus tells them not to be afraid.
But notice that it is often not just one person’s fear. Herod and all of Jerusalem were afraid. Peter, James, and John were all afraid. The whole city was in turmoil on Palm Sunday. The Centurion and all those with him show fear, not at the earthquake per say, but at what it seemed to be connected to. And the women, Mary Magdalene and Mary, ran with fear and great joy.
In encountering the Divine (or the works of the Divine) there is bound to be fear. Afterall, we are seeing things that we’ve never seen before (resurrection of the dead). And yet, that doesn’t seem to be the only fear. It’s not just about encountering God. It’s about recognizing that now everything is going to be different.
- Herod and the whole city recognize that the promised King is here. What will come next?
- Moses and Elijah appear with God speaking in the clouds. What does this all mean? What will happen next?
- Jesus rides into Jerusalem and the whole city is in turmoil. What will happen next?
- There are earthquakes after his death. What just happened? What will happen next?
So much of Jesus’ life is completely disrupting the lives and situation of entire communities. Each time Jesus enters the mix, there is reason to be afraid. Because it means things are going to change. A prophetic call to look at our lives and to look at the world and see what needs to be reviewed, changed, overhauled.
Mary and Mary are running to tell the disciples. Fear and joy running through them because what will happen next?
There is an opportunity here to preach to folks who are not in our pews for Thomas next week. To hear a little bit about fear and faith. Fear and great joy.
On Easter we like to preach a safe message. Alleluia, Jesus is Risen! It’s all over. Don’t worry anymore. Christ has accomplished what we could not and now we need not worry. Afterall, Jesus just explicitly tells us not to be afraid.
But that’s not the end of the story. Not in any of the Gospels but certainly not in Matthew. It doesn’t conclude with Jesus telling us not to be afraid. It concludes with Jesus sending us into the world. Jesus is sending us into ALL the world.
And that’s fear inducing. Because if we do it the way that Jesus is calling us to, it’s going to stretch us. Every single one of us. Some of us might struggle to enter into places where people don’t look like us (new cultures and new perspectives). Some of us might struggle to enter into places of the “sinners” like rehab facilities, addiction clinics, correctional facilities. Some of us might struggle to enter into other Christian spaces… the spaces that spread messages of hate and condemnation. And yet, as a prophetic church, we are supposed to be taking the message of love and grace to all these people. All the world.
Jesus rising from the dead is the most terrifying thing I could ever think of because it means not even death can stop the work that God is calling us to.
Christ is Risen! What will happen next?
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