Apr 16, 2017 – Easter Sunday – Come and See and Go and Tell
Christ is risen… (He is risen indeed!) That’s right, the day after the Sabbath day, Christ arose from the grave in victory and triumph over sin, death and the devil. We all know that because that’s what we’ve been taught to understand Christ’s resurrection to mean. But on that first Easter, the first time someone heard that… Christ is risen… was after what must have been a very sad Sabbath day.
The Sabbath was meant as a day of refreshment and contemplating God’s goodness to Israel. But the Sabbath day of these women and the followers of Jesus would likely have been a Sabbath of mourning and sadness. It was more a day of death than of thinking of God’s goodness, I’m sure. And that same feeling seems to follow the women as they come to the tomb.
They came prepared for death but what they got was… an earthquake, an angel and a message that simply stunned them. The earthquake would have surely reminded them of three days earlier when the earth shook at Jesus’ death. And would have again brought fresh fear to their hearts and minds. And on top of that earthquake they see an angel.
Now that in itself would be enough to shake your world without an earthquake. But all of that together is not yet the most shocking thing to this day after their sad Sabbath day. It’s the message they all hear from this angel, when he says, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, for He has risen from the dead.” They’re told Jesus/ is/ not/ dead but He’s alive.
That message is what simply stunned these women – more even than an angel alone! This was too good to be true. This was not what they knew to be true from their own experience or understanding of events that had taken place 3 days before. When you took a body down from a cross as they had and put it in the grave for 3 days, death is certain. Life is gone.
But their understanding of life and death is all about to change – they don’t know it yet – but out of death is about to come life. And in the midst of this it’s interesting to me that, in light of the fact that the angel is there to announce the good news that Jesus has been raised to new life, the guards ‘became like dead men’! That contrast of death and life is carried on in the other readings from today also and we’ll come back to that before we close. But that contrast, of life and death, is what we have lived with everyday since our baptism.
Now, we’ve talked so far about the angel who opened the tomb, and the first part of what he said, but we’ve not talked about why. Why did he open the tomb? Some have said and still teach that it was to let Jesus out. But that doesn’t fit with the whole message this angel has given. Listen again to verse 6 ‘He is not here, for He has risen, as He said. Come see the place where He lay.’ There it is, there’s the reason for the angel to open the tomb. To/ invite/ them/ in.
The only purpose of rolling the stone from the door of the tomb was to exhibit the empty tomb to the women and to give them evidence, by this very fact, that Christ has risen… Christ rose before the coming of the angel, He rose while the tomb was still closed and the stone was still sealed. The angel, however, rolled the stone from the door of the tomb only after coming down from heaven. And this the angel did for the women and for us, the whole world. That’s why the angel says of Jesus, He has risen, not ‘he is gone’. The stone was rolled away by the angel only to reveal that the resurrection had already taken place.
The angel had two pairs of commands for these women, ‘come and see’ then ‘go and tell’. Come and see the place where he lay was the first pair of commands. As we said, that command was in keeping with the reason for rolling the stone away. So that they could see the evidence for themselves that Christ is risen…
But the second pair of commands was to go and tell. These women were to be the first humans to tell the Good News to others that Jesus had in fact risen just as He said He would. The angel gave them instructions as to who tell and what words to use to tell them. Listen again to verse 8, ‘so they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.”
And as they go, Jesus Himself meets them. The resurrected Christ comes to them. His joy can’t wait. Just like the joy of heaven bursting into the night sky when Jesus came to earth as a baby 33 years earlier.
Also remember a few weeks back I said that Jesus broke up every funeral that we know He went to, including His own. And here we see Him doing just that by coming to the women, alive! Jesus simply must comfort them and strengthen them for the doubt He knows they’ll face in a few moments when they return to the disciples to tell them the Good News.
He knows when they tell the disciples this amazingly unexpected news, the women will face doubt. These first evangelists will be confronted by doubt from the very people who Jesus here calls His brothers. Listen again to verse 10, ‘Then Jesus said to them, do not be afraid, go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee and there they will see me.”
Take note that Jesus didn’t interfere with the task the angel had given them. Jesus reassured them and repeated the command the angel had told them. Though they’d just seen and worshipped Jesus, they were still to go and deliver this news. Jesus didn’t take over their task. They were still the ones sent to tell the disciples the same good news the angel had given them charge to do.
The stone was rolled away not by human hands, but by divine direction. Just as the stone is rolled away for these women and the men who later come to the grave, so also our hearts of stone are rolled away for us. We don’t do that for ourselves. Our hard-hearted guilt is rolled away by the grace and mercy of God the Father alone in sending Jesus to do this very work of salvation by His crucifixion and resurrection.
Remember I said that before we close we’d come back to the theme of life and death in our other readings today. For us Colossians 3 speaks of this same work of Jesus for us in giving us new life in our baptism. That new life is what Jesus accomplished by His gift of faith and grace to each of us. According to Paul’s words we “have died” with Christ and “have been raised with Christ” and now our “life is hidden with Christ in God”. That’s what baptism does for us.
Our sinful self is drowned and we arise to new life in Christ. According to what we read in Acts today, as “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power” and “raised Him on the third day”, so He also raises us up and pours out His Spirit upon us through the Gospel.
There was a time in church history that baptisms were only done at Easter. Various practices of preparation have been recorded lasting from weeks to years. But the 40 days of Lent were often used as the final preparation time for new believers to make ready to come to the baptismal font and receive the Holy Spirit and the new life in Christ that is promised to all who trust in Jesus for His righteousness.
So for us on this Easter morning we take a moment now to remember our baptism. To remember that what we celebrate today, the message of the angel telling us of Jesus’ resurrection, we remember that that is also our resurrection. Jesus has promised. His new life is our new life. And we now ‘come and see’ and ‘go and tell’ what has happened for us. He has made it ours by His obedience to death for our sin and then rising to new life again for our salvation. Christ’s new life is what has been ours from the moment our old self was drowned in the life-giving waters of baptism. Because Christ is risen… He is risen indeed…we too shall rise. We stand now turning in the bulletin to page …
Sermon #886 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
First Reading Acts 10:34-43
34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.
39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Second Reading Colossians 3:1-4
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Gospel Matthew 28:1-10
P Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women,
C “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, as He said!”
P The angel said to the women,
C “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, as He said. Come, see the place where He lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead, and behold, He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see Him. See, I have told you.”
P So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell His disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and 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, and there they will see Me.”