Matthew 27:57-66, 28:1-20
Readings for Easter Sunday
27:57 As evening approached, on the day of preparation, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.
62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”
65 “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.
28:1 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Acts 10:34-43 Summary of Jesus’ life and ministry
10:34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts those from every nation who fear him and do what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.
39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Sermon for – Easter Sunday
The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Paul writes to us, and the church at Colossae, ‘Since we have been raised with Christ, set our hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.’
Let’s join in a word of prayer: God our loving Father and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; today, our hearts are filled with awe and wonder over your mighty plan for all creation. Your son suffered for our sin, and died the cruel death on a cross. You raised your Son to life eternal on that first Easter morning, and we can be sure of your promise to raise us to eternal life with him, because of the faith you put into our hearts. Gracious heavenly Father, we offer our humble thanks and praise, as we set our hearts on your kingdom, where Christ is seated at your right hand, and pray in the name of our risen Lord, Amen.
It was a beautiful Autumn day, and a sense of peace stayed with a young pastor as he left the central city church on Easter Monday morning.
He paused for a moment on top of the steps leading to the avenue, now crowded with people rushing to the street-side cafes for a late morning snack. Sitting in her usual place inside a small archway was the old flower lady. At her feet corsages and boutonnieres were displayed on top of a spread-open newspaper.
The flower lady was smiling, her wrinkled old face alive with some inner joy. The young pastor said, “I started down the stairs—then, on an impulse, turned and picked out a flower. As I put it in my lapel, I said, ‘You look happy this morning.’”
To which she replied with a sparkle in her eye, “Why not? Everything is good.” She was dressed in a shabby coat, with a threadbare blanket covering her legs, and seemed so very old that her reply startled me. Once again, the young pastor smiled through his reply, “You’ve been sitting here for many years now, haven’t you? And always smiling. You wear your troubles well.”
“You can’t reach my age and not have troubles,” she replied. “Only … it’s like Jesus and Good Friday.” After which, She paused for a moment.
“Yes?” the young pastor prompted.
“Well, when Jesus was crucified on Good Friday, that was the worst day for the whole world. And when I get troubles I remember that, and then I think of what happened only three days later—Easter and our Lord arising. So when I get troubles, I’ve learned to wait three days . . . somehow everything gets all right again.”
The young pastor smiled his good-bye. But her words still followed him whenever he experienced difficult troubles. And he thought, “Give God a chance to help . . . wait three days.” (SOURCE: By Patt Barnes, March 1995 issue of Guideposts, adapted by David Thompson.) For us, in this conavirus crisis, we can take that advice to heart. Give God a chance to help.
As Paul tells us, when we are facing the most difficult days, we can endure, giving God a chance to help, ‘setting our minds on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God’, not on earthly things. Even as I wrote this, I discovered how pious this sounds. But if we think about this for just a bit, practical Christian living comes alive, when we set our hearts on Christ Jesus. Trusting in his care, even in the midst of our frailty, our challenges, our changes in life, family and home, we can approach these changes with a sense of courage and peace in our heart.
As Martin Luther reminds us, “When everything around you is turning to dust, just remember your baptism, make the sign of the cross, and trust in the promises of Christ.”
I hear Paul telling me that ‘I have died and my life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is my life, appears, then I also will appear with him in glory.’ It almost seems that he is telling us to just shrug our shoulders, and distance ourselves from the challenges we face. That ‘she’ll be right’ But the reality of Paul’s words strike this indifference with a double edge sword. As we live through the challenges we face, we have a wonderful ally to engage with the challenge, not to escape it. We have a Saviour who promised “surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
When Jesus was taken down from the cross, and laid in the tomb, I can feel the dismay and despair of the disciples. As I watched the beginning of the short series’ AD’ on Easter Saturday, I gained a sense of their feelings of failure and doubt. But just as the flower lady proposed “wait three days and things will turn our all right”.
During their wait over that first Easter Saturday, they relied upon the very words of Christ Jesus.
“We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” (Matthew 20:18–19 NIV)
God was true to his promise. Jesus was raised to life eternal, in his eternal glory, and he remains with us surrounding us with his love, filling us with his Spirit, and encouraging us with his words recorded in our precious Gospels. Because of that first Easter morning, we can live Easter every day.
As Paul tells us, we are truly ‘raised with Christ’ and we can ‘set our minds on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God’.
As Paul tells us in one of his other letters, ‘what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures’ and he appeared. (1 Cor 15:3–4 NIV)
And on that first Easter morning, as I read again and again the account of the resurrection, my heart races with the Disciples, as they are greeted by the living Son of God, Messiah, Saviour, precious Lord. And through the Gospels, Jesus Christ appears to me, brightening my spirit, bringing joy to my heart, and a renewed outlook, as I face the reality of life in our broken world. It is my prayer today that you may also gain this excitement of the resurrection. To see life in Christ as something so precious, so wonderful, so meaningful, that our faith in Jesus Christ is not misplaced.
On Good Friday, we read from Hebrews, the words, ‘Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. … And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do.’
Every time we meet, whether on Sunday, or in our midweek, or in homes and hospitals, we extend and continue our remembering of the death of Jesus, and our celebrating of the resurrection of the “Saviour of the World”. Even by phone conversations and social media.
Every Easter, God gives each of us a truth worth trusting. It’s the sure truth we see in the Gospel reading, where the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”
Every Easter, God gives each of us a life worth living. A life filled with joy and purpose, a life filled with energy and excitement! It’s the kind of life we see on display in the Gospel reading. “go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead.” We can feel the excitement as the truth sinks in: “They departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.” To bring us the reality that Jesus is alive! — That great news gives life to everyone who believes! Life that overcomes our tears, our fears, and our failures.
Every Easter, God gives each of us a Lord worth loving. As the women went to tell His disciples, Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.”
They came and held Jesus by the feet. It was a sign of their reverence, but also a sign of their great love. They loved the Lord. And so can we, because Jesus loves us more than anyone else in the world. He showed that love when He died on that cross for our sins.
Every Easter, God gives each of us a future worth finding. There is no hope for a future without Jesus Christ. But with Jesus we have a guaranteed future of eternal perfection. The angel gave those women a small glimpse of the future when he said: “go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’” Because of the faith in Jesus that God puts into our hearts, we too will one day see our Saviour! We will see Him face to face! And we will live with Him forever in Eternity. Where he has gone ahead of us. We have a future worth finding.
Every Easter, God gives each of us a story worth sharing, a reality worth living. As Christians, we have the story worth sharing! We can hear Jesus saying: “Do not be afraid. Go and tell.” God wants every believer to be prepared to give a witness of the faith we have and the joy we share. We have a simple message to share! God loves each of us. He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for each of us. And Jesus gives us the victory of everlasting life, because He is risen from the dead!
Jesus is risen! He is alive!
May the grace and peace of God keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our living Lord and Saviour. AMEN.
Rev David Thompson.