April 12, 2020
by Sara Wilhelm Garbers
Matthew 27:45 – 28:10
Well, good morning and a blessed Easter morn to you. For the next 20 minutes, you have an opportunity to journey with Christ into this new morn of Easter. Together, we will journey with this Jesus, looking for the hope that interrupts death. So if you would, either get ready and get on your shoes and go outside for a walk for 20 minutes, or grab a cup of coffee, maybe you sit by your window. And let’s together look for and anticipate the risen Christ, who is our life and our hope, as we await for and look for the dawn.
Well, good morning. I’m Sarah, one of the ministers at Colonial Church, and it is a joy to be able to journey with you on this Easter morn, as we together look for the risen Christ. So, let’s begin the journey together.
On that night when Jesus was betrayed, his disciples began to scatter. And they had good reasons for doing so. They had been looking for and longing for the promised Messiah, the one who would redeem Israel and save them from the bondage and oppression of life under the Roman Empire. Here was this Jesus, whom they loved, for whom they had risked everything, in whom they believed. And yet, he was turned over to the authorities. And yet he was crucified.
From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At about three o’clock, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, [foreign language 00:02:04]. That is, “My God, my God. Why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” At once, one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” Then Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and breathed his last.
At that moment, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection, they came out of the tombs and entered the Holy City and appeared to many. Now, when the Centurion and those with him who were keeping watch over Jesus saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly, this man was God’s son.”
The passage that Mark just read is from Matthew 27, 45 through 54. You know, sometimes when I read the Bible, I forget to really look at it as something that these real people experienced. I mean, take a minute, put yourself in their shoes. These people, they’re living under Roman occupation. Their people had a long history of going from one empire to the next and always being oppressed, yet forever crying out to God to save them. And here’s this Jesus and you’ve met him. And you believe that he’s the one, the Messiah, the one who indeed will save Israel. Will throw off the yoke of oppression, right? I mean, didn’t he say this? Take my yoke? Well, of course we’re taking it because we’re throwing everything else off. And yet… Yet here we are.
Jesus has been picked up by the Roman authorities, he’s now being crucified. I mean, what is going to happen? You’re locked up in a separate room. You’re hiding for your life — you’re, you’re terrified! What happens if the Romans come for me next? I mean, Jesus was being killed for being a political dissident. He was dangerous in view of the empire. And you were part of that because you believed that God’s kingdom and God’s world was coming and breaking into our world. And yet here you are. And this cry of Jesus is probably your cry as well. “My God, my God. Why have you forsaken me?” Right?
The pain and the agony that maybe doesn’t go to death, like death on a cross, but death of its own kind. When we reach the end of ourselves and say, “God, where are you?” In that moment though, when Jesus opened up his whole self and gave up his life, the curtain was torn. And in Matthew naming this, he’s reminding and inviting us all to see the way that Jesus made manifest God’s spirit on earth for and in and through all of us. But of course, if you’re one of Jesus’s disciples, you might not know this yet.
And that’s so often the way life works. We continue forward and hope. And even sometimes in hopelessness, put one foot in front of the other, we continue on. And then we discover that actually the world has already changed and hope is reborn again. So how about you? Where in your life as we together look for the rising sun of this new Easter morn, are you in need of God’s coming in? Of opening your hands. Of surrendering the places where you have, and known what it means to be forsaken. Giving up your spirit, giving up our spirits. We look, and long for this blessed morn.
Many women were also there looking on from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee and provided for him. Among them were Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilot and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilot ordered it to be given to him. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite of the tomb.
This morning, whether you’re outside walking or you’re sitting with some tea or coffee. Whatever you’re doing, it’s probably from a distance. And we have good reasons for why we’re distancing now, to keep one another and ourselves and those we love safe. Likewise, in this passage, again, from the book of Matthew 27, this time from later on in the passage, starting with verse 55, all the way through 61. This tells the story of the women who also were looking on from the distance, because they had followed Jesus and they had provided for Jesus. But now this time was not only uncertain, it was fraught. And so, from a distance they observed and I’m sure prayed and grieved and longed for another day. Would Jesus himself rise from the dead? Was this the end of the story?
They weren’t close, but yet still they were there. For me, in these blessed weeks, remembering that even though we cannot be together in body, that our spirits and our lives are still intertwined, and that it is indeed a great act of love at time to watch from a distance, because it does come at a cost to ourselves. And no less for these women, for they were ones who had been marked. They were followers of Jesus. So might we, as we look for this Easter morn, be a people who even though distant in some ways, look for, and just like Mary and the other Mary, sit expectantly, prayerfully, anticipating that indeed the great stone that is the door of the tomb is not the end of the story, but it is the place where new life might be reborn. Do you see it?
The next day, that is, after the day of preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilot and said, “Sir, we remember what that imposter said while he was still alive. After three days, I will rise again.” Therefore, command the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away and tell the people he has been raised from the dead, and the last deception would be worse than the first. Pilot said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers, go. Make it as secure as you can.” So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.
Do you think this passage is a little funny too? I mean, seriously, the folks were so worried that Jesus might imposter it up and suddenly be appearing around town as dead, but not dead. I mean, when does that happen? But just to make sure, really, really sure, they sealed it up. They wanted to be sure that there was no way that these Jewish underlings could possibly say that their King had risen, and so we better lock it down and make sure to keep that stuff down. And you know, the funny thing is, it’s just like in our lives. Any time we try to push something down, it pops up somehow in another way.
Because whether it’s things that we’re trying to find healing for in our own stories, or whether it’s parts of our truest selves, who Christ has made us to be, these parts of us desire to be free. And in the same or similar sort of way, it didn’t matter what the authorities tried to do to keep Jesus locked in. Life and truth and love was going to triumph. And when even through the dark night, it appeared that there was no possible way, if you just wait for chapter 28, you get to hear what happens next.
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, the Lord, ascending 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 guard 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.”
How are you doing? Do you notice how you’re feeling right now? I mean, the story just radically, radically turned. This is the point of hope interrupts death. It’s here. These women, they went to the tomb and there was an earthquake. And suddenly, there Jesus is. And I mean, could you even imagine? He’s there in the flesh and they left with joy and they ran to tell the disciples. Jesus told them to go, to tell everyone the news that had happened, that indeed the tomb hadn’t been the end of the story, that indeed hope interrupted death itself. My body right now is feeling chills of emotion. Because at the end of the day, for me, part of why I am a Christian and claim the name of Christ, is because I believe in resurrection.
The resurrection life that God has shown and promised and given in Christ is true and can be ours, in big ways, and in small. Where we reach the end of the places where we know how a new future might begin to be possible. And yet, there it is. And yet, the morn comes again and the sun is new with its mercies, and hope lives and flourishes. And we have breath, and maybe coffee or the ability to walk, or the ability to have somewhere to sit, or just all of these things are miracles and Mercies, anew of life.
“Greetings,” Jesus says. “Greetings,” Jesus says to you. “Don’t be afraid. You will see me.” Do you see Jesus? Do you see this resurrection morn? Do not be afraid, dear friends. For resurrection life is here in our midst and anew right now. Thus together we cry and proclaim, Christ is risen.
He has risen, indeed. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
What song wells up in your heart? Do you hear the trees or see the whisper of the new morn, together crying as we proclaim? (singing)
Oh good Easter morn, Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Let us pause to pray and give thanks, potentially with arms outstretched and or in our hearts. Take in the wonder of this new creation, embrace this resurrection life and morn. And let us join with this Jesus in being people who live this resurrection life, praying together the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples.
Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day, our coming days bread and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us on to trial, deliver us from the evil one. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
Well, we’ve done it. Together, we have welcomed the new morn, and celebrated Easter sunrise. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. So go forwth in this new resurrection life. Be those who are on the lookout for Jesus. And be those who love our neighbors as ourselves. Even as today, we remain distance. May we go forth knowing that we go not alone, but we go in the hope and the love, of the God of all life. Recieve now, this benediction and blessing.
Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives, do not let your hearts be troubled. Do not be afraid.