The Resurrection of Our Lord
The Resurrection of Our Lord (A): The Miracle of Easter
April 24, 2011
Text: Matt. 28:1-10
He is risen! He is risen, indeed!! Alleluia!!!
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead shakes things up, to say the least. It turns out Easter is not all bunnies and chocolate. It is really a fearful thing for the first witnesses of the resurrection. Toward the dawn of the first day of the week, the women, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, come to the tomb, and as they approach, there is a great earthquake (σεισμός in Greek, from which we get the English word “seismic”). We heard about earthquakes in our Lenten series. It was one of the miracles of Lent upon which we meditated this season, that when our Lord died there was a great earthquake. The curtain of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom, the earth shook, the rocks split, and the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised (Matt. 27:51-52). Earthquakes in the Bible are a sign of God’s presence, either in wrath or in mercy. Earthquakes are a sign that God Himself is speaking. They are an indication that we had better pay attention, because we are about to have an interaction with the living God. And this interaction isn’t gentle. It is seismic. It puts the fear of God into you. When the women come to the tomb just before dawn, there is a great earthquake, and an angel of the Lord descends and rolls back the stone and sits on it. His appearance is like lightening and his clothing is white as snow. This causes the guards to have a seismic event of their own. Your English translations say something like “the guards trembled” (Matt. 28:4; ESV), but the Greek word indicates seismic activity once again. They are shaken, and they become as dead men. And now the women are really afraid. Because the angel turns from the guards to look at them. What will happen? Will they drop dead, too? Undoubtedly, they begin to shake, as well.
But there is a difference between the women and the guards. The guards seek to keep Jesus in the tomb, to lock Him in death. They are posted at the tomb because Pharisees had come to Pilate concerned that the resurrection might just really happen, or at least that the disciples would make it look like it happened. “Sir, we remember how that imposter said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first” (Matt. 27:63-64). Thus Pilate makes provision for the guards to be posted at the tomb. By order of the Roman Governor of Judea, no one is to get out of that tomb! The women, by contrast, come to get into the tomb to see Jesus. To be sure, they are expecting Him still to be dead. Their faith is ill-informed. But they come seeking Him nonetheless. This is a profound difference. The guards want to hide Jesus away in death. The women want to see Jesus, who has given them new life. Then the angel appears and the guards shake and fall down as if dead, betraying the truth that they really are spiritually dead, unbelievers, enemies of Christ. The angel turns from the guards to the women. The women are fearful. You would be, too, if you saw an angel of the Lord in all his glory. What will happen now?
The angel speaks: “Do not be afraid” (28:5). It is the Word of the Lord that the angel speaks, a Word that stills trembling hearts in the midst of seismic events. And how can the angel say this? On what basis can the women cease to be afraid? “I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified,” says the angel. “He is not here, for he has risen, as he said” (vv. 5-6; emphasis added). And just so there is no doubt that this is an honest-to-goodness bodily resurrection, the angel bids them, “Come, see the place where he lay” (v. 6). There’s nobody there anymore. Just the linen cloths. The women are charged to go quickly and tell the disciples the earth-shaking news. And as they go, they meet the risen Lord Himself, in the flesh, He who once was dead, standing before them, scars and all, alive. “Greetings!” He says (v. 9), in the joy of His resurrection victory. “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me” (v. 10).
Easter is not all bunnies and chocolate for us either, and if we really stopped to think about the reality of this event, if this really happened (and it did!), that He who once was dead is now risen and living in His once dead body, this is earthshaking news for us. Because even without the appearance of a majestic angel, we have our fears that shake us to the very core of our being. We’re sinners, and we know it. Try as we might, we can’t shake the guilt of sin. We try to forget the evil things we’ve done, but the wickedness of our fleshly hearts betrays us. We fear the wages of sin: death (Rom. 6:23). In the grave of every loved one who has died we stare our own impending death in the face. We fear the punishment of sin: hell. As is the trend these days, we’d prefer to deny hell’s existence, but ultimately, we know this is a lie. And in addition to all of this, we fear all that sin has caused in this fallen world: sickness, war, poverty, famine, broken relationships, loneliness, despair. We tremble. We shake. Like the guards, we are as dead men. Until Jesus speaks. “Do not be afraid.” There is no more need for fear. Christ is risen! He died for your sins. He is raised for your life. He has redeemed you from sin and death and hell. He has bought you back. He has reconciled you to God. And He promises, “behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).
It changes everything that God, the Son of God, has come in real flesh and blood, born of the Virgin Mary, for you. It changes everything that the Son of God suffered and died in His real flesh and blood, for you. It changes everything that the Son of God rose from the dead in His real flesh and blood, that He has passed through the valley of the shadow of death and come out the other side, alive again! In His body! It changes everything that you are baptized into this reality, that in a very real way, His death is your death, and His resurrection is your new life, that you are raised spiritually now, and will be raised bodily on the Last Day. It changes everything that, as our crucified and risen Lord, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, distributes and places His crucified and risen body and blood into your mouth for the forgiveness of your sins, that you also may live in Him and not die, that you may be raised in your body when He comes again. The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is an earthshaking event that continues to rumble and shake us nearly 21 centuries later. But do not fear. You no longer need to fear. Your Lord has spoken. He has cast out fear. He has conquered sin in His sacrificial death (His blood covers your sins!), and He has been raised for your justification, that He may be your righteousness and life. He has conquered death by His resurrection. The grave could not hold Him, and it will not be able to hold you when He calls you forth from the grave. He has conquered hell and Satan and all the powers of darkness. They no longer have any claim on you, for He has purchased you for God by His blood. His resurrection shows the new reality. So don’t even fear all the bad stuff that can happen in this fallen world. It is only for a short season. The victory has been won. The tomb is empty. Your deliverance is coming soon. Fear no more. Rather, go and confess: He is risen! He is risen, indeed!! Alleluia!!! He lives! And because He lives, you live! In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 The theme and many of the thoughts in this sermon are from Miracles of Lent (St. Louis: Concordia, 2011).