Broad Brook Congregational Church
April 20, 2014
Easter Sunrise Service
“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, ‘Greeting!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Them Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’”
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary: We are not sure who this “other Mary” is. For this account it is not important who they are but rather what they see. Those of you who have lost loved ones know what it is like to go to the cemetery. Think how the women must be feeling without the knowledge of the resurrection yet.
An Angel of the Lord: a message bearer from God.
An earthquake: Is this simply a dish rattling, silverware clinking, house shaking earthquake; or, is it a great quake that sends dishes flying, silverware jumping out of drawers, foundations cracking and houses crumbling? Have any of you experienced an earthquake? Try and remember what it felt like, how you felt during and after.
Jesus; Alive. Resurrected.
Guards: guarding the tomb
The scene: The first day of the week was dawning; a sliver of sunlight peeking through the dark clouds of night sky. A mist rises gently and disperses as the air begins to warm the surroundings. It is a quiet dawning of a new day. Nothing unexpected.
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary make their way to the tomb. They are not sure why they are going there. They simply feel the need to be near Christ even if separated by the tomb. Perhaps their grief will begin to ebb if they can understand the events of the last few days. Perhaps they hope to hear a word from God in answer to their many questions about why this had to happen.
As they near the tomb a great quake shakes the earth, the kind of quake that turns things upside down. If that were not enough to frighten them out of their wits, they see an angel that is flashing like lightening and dressed in dazzling white. He is like Superman and can roll away the stone from the tomb. Then the quaking ends and the angel of the Lord calmly sits on the stone.
It is no wonder that the guards are scared stiff- stiff like dead men, unable to move or speak. The women are stopped in their tracks holding on to each other, shaking as if the quake was still rumbling.
Angel: “Do not fear.”
The other Mary thinks to herself: “That’s easy for you to say!”
Mary Magdalene: still speechless. She is taking in the scene around her. The earth has been cracked open. The stone has been rolled away. None of this was expected. What does it all mean?
Angel: 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.
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, with fear and trembling, slowly peer into the tomb, “It is empty!”
Angel: “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.”
Oh what awe and joy the women feel. God has sent them a message of great news. The world has been turned upside down. The unexpected has happened. Jesus lives!! They run with hope in their hearts once again, run to tell the disciples the good news that they have seen their Lord.
Enter Jesus. “Greetings” he calls to the two women.
They fall at his feet taking hold of them and worshiping him. Can you imagine what was going through their minds? This Son of God has appeared first to us…not to the disciples. He has given us the job of telling the other disciples that we have seen our Lord. Will they believe us?
Jesus: “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
The quiet beginning to the first Easter is giving way to an explosion of excitement and urgent energy. That is how our day is beginning also. We stand here in the dawning of a new Easter morning. This is a quiet service typically. However, the traditional worship will move us quickly to a heightened sense of excitement and joy. Organs will rock the churches. Voices will sing out loud Alleluias. There will be shouts of Christ has risen! Christ has risen indeed!
Matthews account has focused on messages and the messengers, and on what the women see—the angel, the empty tomb, Jesus himself, and also focused on how the women feel. After getting the message from the angel, they do the angel’s bidding. The women run with fear and joy to inform the disciples. Then they run into Jesus who reinforces the message, “Do not be afraid.” After all, he is going to meet them in Galilee. If the women hear and heed him, what remains? With their fears relieved what is left. Great joy!
With the risen Christ God has shaken the world, turned it upside down. The world will never be the same. Death has no hold. It is overcome.
Find yourself in this magnificent story. When we hear of the earthquake, we can identify with the fear of the guards and the women. When we envision the brilliant angel bringing a message from the still speaking God, we get caught up in the wonder and awe at what God can do. When we hear the announcement of the angel, hope fills our being that what is inconceivable is somehow possible and plausible. Hearing Jesus speak with authority as he tells us “Do not be afraid,” and “I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matt 28:20)” our fears are relieved if we heed the message and trust the messenger. What then is left? Great joy!
Christ is risen. Christ is risen in deed. Alleluia