Sunday, April 20, 2014
Easter Sermon: Matthew 28:1-15 He is not here!
I wonder if you’ve ever had something like this happen to you. You know that in the biscuit tin there are your favourite biscuits. For me, you probably know that would be chocolate digestives. So you go to the biscuit tin, your mouth is already watering, you’re going to have your yummy biscuit. You get to the cupboard, you open the door, you pull out the tin and, it’s empty! What you expected to find in there isn’t in there. Where have they gone?
So you ask the questions, you try to work it out. Is there anyone in the house with a chocolate stain around their mouth? Anyone with a pile of crumbs around them? What happened to the biscuits? It’s a silly example, of course. You should really be having an apple rather than a biscuit. But when you go to where something should be and it’s not there, then you have to work out what has happened. Whether it’s your homework, or your mobile, or your keys, or your favourite teddy bear. Where has it gone?
At the start of today’s reading, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary go looking for Jesus. On Friday, Jesus had been crucified. He died. He was buried in a cave with a big stone across the entrance. So they went to see the place where he was buried. To remember.
But when they got there, something very strange happened. There was an earthquake. The ground shook, everything was wobbly. Sitting on top of the big stone was an angel, shining like lightning, with bright white clothes.
The guards who were watching to make sure nothing happened, they were afraid. Imagine, soldiers being afraid. They became like dead men. They lay down on the ground in fear.
The angel had a message for the women. He knows they are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. But he tells them something very important, which is also a little bit strange. If you have a green egg, then bring it up so that we can see the message of the angel: HE IS NOT HERE.
The place where Jesus was buried. The tomb where he was laid. But he is not there. Lots of different people give lots of different reasons why Jesus was not in the tomb. In our reading we hear two different reasons.
Option one. It’s there in verse 13. The chief priests tell the guards to say that his disciples came during the night to steal the body, while the guards were sleeping. Now maybe this happened. Maybe the guards, the soldiers were sleeping. Do you think soldiers are allowed to sleep while they are doing their work? Outside Buckingham Palace the guards stand in their red uniform with the big fuzzy hat. Do you think they could sleep while they are on duty?
Not at all! And to think the disciples came to steal away Jesus’ body? Where were the disciples? They were all in hiding! They were all afraid when Jesus was arrested on Thursday night. They all ran away and left him alone. Would they now come and risk the guards?
Plus, if the guards were sleeping, then how would they know who had come to do anything? Do you think this could have happened? Disciples coming, guards sleeping, body stole away? No, it’s silly!
But I said there were two options. Two explanations. What about the second? For that, we need more eggs. So if you have orange or yellow eggs, then please bring them up: HE HAS RISEN.
It was wrong to think that the disciples had stolen the body. The disciples were too scared to do anything. It was only the women who came to the tomb. It was the women who met the angel, who heard the good news: HE IS NOT HERE. Why? HE HAS RISEN, just as he said.
Jesus is risen from the dead. Jesus is not still dead. He is alive, and can never die again. This is the good news of Easter - that death will not finally win. Because Jesus is alive, we too will live, as we trust in Jesus.
Imagine being in a big forest. Trees everywhere. You can’t see the sun, there are so many trees. They’re all tightly packed together. How would you get out? How would you find your way? But imagine then that you get to a path which leads you out. That’s what Jesus has done with us. Jesus has cleared a pathway through death, and will lead us out the other side. Jesus is our guide. He has been that way, he can bring us safely through.
The angel told the women to come and see the place where he lay - it’s empty. He is not here. He sent them to go and tell - He is risen. But as they ran off to tell the disciples, they met Jesus himself. He speaks to them, they can take hold of him. Jesus is alive!
This sermon was preached at the Easter Family Celebration in Aghavea Parish Church on Easter Sunday 20th April 2014.