Colossians 3:1-4; Matthew 28:1-10
April 9, 2023
- Resurrection at work
All kinds of good things come in three’s: the Three Stooges, the three branches of US government (I may have put them together on purpose), the Three Bears/Pigs/or even Billy goats gruff, three colors on traffic lights, three phases of matter, three colors on the American flag, three sides to a triangle, three meals a day, a three ring circus, rock/paper/scissors, three strikes, and an honorable mention – three bean salad. But the best of three’s is the number of days leading up to Jesus rising from the grave. Yes, this is counting inclusively – Friday, Saturday, and Sunday all count. Do not get hung up on number of hours or half days versus whole days. That’s not the point. Three is a special number in God’s work, so Matthew and all of the other writers need for you to see something super important: God is all over this event. “Three” means God is here.
I am going to continue to break the passage down in three’s today for my message. First, “Open Your Eyes.”
Matthew’s Gospel is a little different from the other gospels in that there is no mention of the women coming to finish Jesus’ burial. Remember that Jesus was buried in a hurry so that they would not be “working” on the sabbath. They did a quick burial and came back the first chance they had to finish the job. Here, though, there is no mention of that. Maybe this task was in their mind, and they had the supplies to do it, but what the gospel says is that they came to see the tomb.
This is actually pretty significant. There is a lot of “seeing” going on, and seeing is often believing here. The ladies – yes, the LADIES, are brave enough to come see the tomb. They see an angel. The Roman soldiers see the angel, and the ladies see the tomb empty and then Jesus himself. Then, Jesus promises to see the disciples in Galilee. The last several days have been excruciating. Their whole world was thrown on its head. All of their hopes for Jesus came grounding to a halt and were smashed. Just when they did not know what to think anymore, they have seen with their own eyes the truth: God in Christ has conquered death. Death is not on pause or temporarily shut down. Death is done. Jesus has opened a door that cannot be shut. Any power of death has been wiped away. Just open your eyes and see. This, friends, is the power of the resurrection. Life is for you and for me, now and forever. Life is beautiful in our Lord. This is what we see today in God’s glory.
Speaking of seeing, one group completely lost it at the sight of today’s story. Those Roman soldiers could not keep their eyes open in the radiance of God’s messenger but were knocked out cold. This is also very interesting. Bear in mind that it was NOT normal Roman practice to place an armed guard at a tomb. The authorities were so worried, though, that someone would come and steal the body (and maybe proclaim that as a miracle) that they made sure no one could tamper with it. Of course, that works brilliantly in the other direction because when Jesus is resurrected, we can say that it could not have been a play or scheme or trick. His body was under guard the whole time, but that guard was “empire” – the Roman Empire, in particular. The Romans represented all that was wrong or bad with the world. Even though they advanced many impressive and progressive things that we still use to this day, the Romans were a bloody, brutal, unholy lot. They easily and often profaned the Jewish faith, and they were very good at cruelty. This mighty empire was in possession of a huge part of the known world at the time. No one could stand up to them.
So it is especially notable that they fell before God’s messenger. No conflict, no violence, no warfare needed, just the sight of God’s angel and they were out so soundly that they were like dead. You can just imagine a big group of soldiers in a mass of bodies, weapons, and armor. You can also imagine that the sight was not so impressive on their part: “How about this for the might of Rome?” They were defeated without a drop of blood shed. Just the sight of God’s angel put them down. It is clear who the real power is here. Empire was powerless in the face of the resurrection.
The final chapter today is “You Cannot Hug a Ghost.” This sequence of events seems a bit awkward to me. Mary and Mary are sent by the angel to the disciples to tell them the good news and the plan: “Hurry to Galilee to meet Jesus.” You’d think they would actually leave then as directed, but before they went two steps, Jesus himself is right there. Obviously, this is a great relief. The one person they truly cared about was right there in the flesh. This was not an image, an idea, or a ghost. How do we know? It tells you that they hugged his feet. You cannot hug a ghost. Matthew gives us this detail for a reason. We are people of bodies, not disembodied spirits. We have physical form now and forever. Down the road and after the fact, we will have physical bodies but those bodies will be perfect and incorruptible. Jesus can walk through walls but can also eat. He can pop up here or there but can also walk with people. He is recognizable and can also be touched.
I actually really like this point because this is “resurrection.” Honestly, if we are just released like spirits at death, then there is nothing actually resurrected. We are not coming back or coming back to life if we are just spirits. There is no resurrection if we end up like Casper because part of us just doesn’t die. If we are actually, truly, and entirely resurrected, however, then we are back in the body, just a better body that will never fail. One body is gone but a new one is waiting. No, I have no idea if we get to tweak anything or make improvements. The whole thing, though, will be a huge improvement, and honestly, I doubt anyone will care about their body then. We will be so full of joy to be with each other, rejoicing as children of God, that everything else will be meaningless.
Please do not lose this point in everything going on. We are here to find meaning in a world that too often feels meaningless. All of these events in Scripture are happening for a reason. Our lives are also happening for a reason. We are here today for a reason. There is meaning all over what we are doing when we dare to live bigger than ourselves, when we dare to love. If you just live for yourself, then things will seem pretty meaningless, but the more we invest in what is out beyond and around us, the more we will find meaning in our lives and in the world. God has given us all of this for a reason: to share in life together with each other and God.
That’s why we are having a Baptism today. God is inviting us to share in life together as people of faith and as family in Christ. The Wine family has found room in their lives to reach other for God’s blessing and to grow in love. God is claiming them as they open themselves up to God’s grace. They are sharing in resurrection life.
Today is a day all about life. We have done the death march, and it has been swallowed up in something far greater. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (yes, three persons in one God) are working something beautiful in our midst in this very moment. With eyes open and hearts full, let us all receive it. To God be the glory. Amen.