The Gospel: Matthew 28:1-10
After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, "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." So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, "Greetings!" And they came to him, 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; there they will see me."
Prayer: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to You, LORD, my rock and my Redeemer. Amen
Message: "Do not be afraid."
How many times do angels say that to those who encounter moments when God breaks into human time and experience.
Here in the Gospel of Matthew this morning the women come to the tomb and there is an earthquake, the stone rolls away from the entrance to the tomb and an angel appears, he has the appearance of lightning and his clothes are as white as snow. His appearance is so striking that hardened soldiers of the Roman occupation faint dead away.
The Angel seeks to reassure the women so that they can hear what he is about to say to them. He speaks the words that angels have said to generations of people: "Do not be afraid."
Throughout the Old Testament Angels have to reassure and calm the folk that they need to speak to. Early in the Gospels, there are several encounters where these are the first words that are spoken by an angel or groups of angels. There is something awesome about angels that strikes fear and dread into the hearts and minds of the human beings they encounter.
Well, I guess it must have worked because Matthew goes on to record what the angel has to say to the women as he commissions them to be the first evangelists of the risen Jesus Christ.
As we come to this celebration of the resurrection of Jesus do we come with some fear and dread of what we might encounter? Or have we become deadened or hardened to the momentous event that took place at the tomb two thousand years ago. Have we heard the story so many times that we are no longer at least amazed at what has happened?
Once we have overcome our fear what do we do next? Do we listen? Do we take the time to try to comprehend what it is that has happened here at this garden tomb?
Then are we so filled with the excitement of the moment that we have to rush away so that we can tell someone? The women don't hesitate they run to tell the disciples. They have not completely recovered from their fear of the angel and the events at the tomb, but they go on their way in an attempt to do what they have been asked to do.
Suddenly they are confronted by yet another astounding event. Jesus appears. He speaks to them. They clearly know who he is. They greet him and fall at his feet, they surround him, overcome with joy.
Jesus responds by once again instructing them to go and tell the disciples that he will go ahead of them and meet them in Galilee. He assures the women that this will not be his only appearance. "There they will see me."
It is interesting at this point that their fear seems to have faded. The presence of Jesus makes all the difference in the world for them. Angels strike fear and uncertainty into their hearts. Jesus brings assurance and peace.
In this Easter Season, I pray that we will all be able to lay aside our fears and our doubts as we encounter Jesus.
May we, like the women and disciples, be reassured by the news that Jesus is going ahead of us and that we will indeed see him again if we go to where he has instructed us to go.
May Jesus be our peace and assurance, in the midst of, the earthquakes and unusual circumstances that are facing in our lives and in the lives around us.
May we be ready to testify to the resurrection of Jesus just like the women who came to the tomb were.
May we go from this place, this morning, in peace. May we go to love and serve the Lord wherever he calls us.