“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.” Matthew 28:5-7
Dear Redeemer Family:
Behold the message of Easter Morning. Indeed, it is the message of all messages. It is what the angels tell the women as the go to the tomb early on that morning.
There is no doubt that there was a reason to be afraid. The Roman guards were literally frozen in place, like in a catatonic state. Jesus’ body was gone. And the angel is just sitting there calmly, as if awaiting the women’s arrival. The women were undoubtedly terrified. But those words, “Do not be afraid,” always preface a message of great importance. And this message is the one of greatest importance.
The Gospel of Matthew places the death and resurrection of Jesus in the context of the Roman Empire of death resisting God’s empire of life enacted in Jesus. In the resurrection story, Pilate and the religious leaders send guards to make sure the tomb is secure. When the heavenly messenger appears and rolls back the stone to announce the good news, the guards shake with fear and are like dead men. This turnaround shows the ironic character of the good news. The guards are now dead men. Jesus is alive. The empire of death is dead. The empire of God’s life-giving power rules.
This is the message of Christianity par excellence. Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Not even Death could hold Our Lord. With Christ’s resurrection everything is now changed. He has broken for all the curse under which humanity has lived since the time of Adam. The powers of sin, death and evil; even the power of the God’s Own Law, are now all broken by this upheaving event. By Christ’s rising, the old world is turned upside down. And we are changed.
This is now the state in which we live. We are to live for life. We are freed from the power of the Law. We are to resist the forces of evil. We no longer see death as the end, but now a gate through which we will pass to eternal life. Everything has now changed. And the part which we all too often neglect to notice is the depth to which we are changed. We have been raised with Christ. We are no longer sinful and unclean in God’s sight. But, through our baptism and faith in Christ, we have even been made to be children of God, co-heirs with Christ!
This is the joyful message of Easter Morning. Proclaim it always in your lives, and shout it from the mountain tops, and the valley depths of your lives.
He is risen! He is risen, indeed!