Easter Day 2017

(Acts 10:34-43; Col 3:1-4; Matt 28:1-10)

Easter greetings to everyone today. It’s great that you’re here and making Easter Day special in the best possible way – so may you and your families be truly blessed this Easter with new hope, wonderful joy and courage in the face of all that the world presents to you these days.

Of course some of the events of Easter are mysterious and other worldly. As we read about them in the bible they challenge our senses and our intellects in many different ways. And just maybe you are one of those who reads or hears the Easter story – that famous story of the death and resurrection of Jesus and you might think to yourself, this really doesn’t make sense. People simply don’t rise from the dead. They don’t do things like that. I’d like to believe it but I just can’t.   

What I’d say to you on this special morning is that if you have difficulty believing, but you’d like to, then don’t despair. Countless people who have gone before you have been in just that situation. Even people in the Bible, like Thomas, have thought it was too difficult, too supernatural, for a person of their day and age to accept.

I want to speak with you especially in mind this morning. Because along with all the people here today, you are beloved by God and God is calling you especially to come closer and to live life with him as your life-giving heavenly father.

When I read the gospel accounts of the death and resurrection of Jesus I am struck by the human and rational side of the people in the stories.  They are so real in the way they are portrayed. They cry, they grieve, they care for each other, at times they are afraid, and at times they run away in fear.  

Today we meet Mary Magdalene and someone else who was also called Mary on their way to the tomb because they wanted to care for Jesus’ body in a way that honoured him, as they hadn’t had the chance up to this point. They did this because they cared for their dear friend. This action doesn’t come from a cold religious author but from a real human being of flesh and blood and feelings.

Then, shock of shocks, there is an earthquake. I wonder how many of you have lived through an earthquake. I come from Newcastle and my wife and I experienced the December 1989 Newcastle earthquake. It is vividly imprinted on our memories, as the Hunter region felt the effects and lived with the results for a long time afterwards. And the earthquake itself was very scary, with 13 people killed and 160 injured. We were afraid for days after of the possibility of aftershocks and further damage.

What happened after the earthquake was that many old buildings were demolished and new one’s built. There were many good things that happened in the recovery following the quake. New life came to the city as the old was swept away.

But why is that only Matthew speaks of the earthquake? We really don‘t know. But we do know that as Jesus left the tomb of death, the world was shaken to its very core. We know that our very understanding of life and death was shaken from its foundations and the rumblings would never stop.  

Whether it was an actual or metaphorical earthquake, we know that the world at that time was shaken. The disciples’ world was suddenly changed when they understood that Jesus was risen. And the power of God displayed again and again continues to change the world even today. There would be no church here at all if that was not true. When a person like you accepts the risen Christ into their life, their world is changed, their life is changed – they themselves become a new creation.

The angel in Matthew is also a very impressive supernatural figure. 

3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.

This is no altar server in an alb. We might think, well we don’t see many angels these days. The people we read about in the Bible didn’t see many angels either. They only appeared at very special times such as at the birth and the resurrection of Jesus. Angels appear when a message from God is very important. That’s what the word means – an angel is a messenger from God. Through the angel God speaks into the situation. So, yes, angels are supernatural but that is the rationale.

But what about this resurrection? Is it just too much? The anti-religious movement in the Western world at this time says so. Anyone who listens to what Jesus said and did, loves him. But the resurrection? For many that’s going just too far.

But it’s actually not going too far. Jesus proves his identity time and again as the Son of God. His miracles, stilling the storm, walking on the lake, feeding the 5000, water into wine, healing a man born blind, bringing Lazarus out of the tomb, his many other miracle healings – these all present to us a man that is more than a man. This is divine, the Son of God, who has been sent into the world of human beings to heal and restore the relationship between human beings and God.

Only he can do it. There is no other. Only the one who is perfect is able to offer the perfect offering for our sins. Only Jesus can do it and he does. And God’s love raises him from death. Death and its hold over us is overturned forever. There is now more to life than life as we know it because of Jesus and because of Easter. When Mary Magdalene and her companion hear the message from the angel they are immediately filled with great joy and fear. Fear in the sense of awe. These real women are supercharged with emotion and energy – and so they set off to race back to the disciples to share with them the incredible news. It was incredible news! I’m sure they were thinking as they ran, “what on earth are we going to say? Will they believe us?”  Which is how we might feel when we go home if our family members are not believers. Will anyone else believe us?  We can only try.

This is the clincher. The women come face to face with the risen Christ. In spite of all the “it doesn’t make sense” logic that surrounds the whole story of Jesus but especially the resurrection, it’s when they and we meet the risen Christ that we are changed and when we truly believe.

Should we get the opportunity and we have the courage we can tell others of the way that when the world is lost in hopelessness, the risen Christ fills us with new hope. When we are spiritually hungry, the risen Christ gives us the bread of his body and cup of salvation. When we feel the darkness of the world closing over us, the risen Christ, the Light of the World, calls us into his light. When the storms of this world threaten to overwhelm us, the risen Christ calls on the storm to cease and be calm. Let us pray for that courage to tell others about our experience with Christ risen.

Meeting him will not always be like St Paul’s experience on the Damascus Road, where we are confronted by a blinding light. It may not be like the experience of Mary Magdalene as she was running back to tell the others. But it could be through the body of Christ as the Church bringing healing and wholeness to part of your life. It might be that as you receive Holy Communion today, you experience Christ’s own hands feeding you and caring for, sustaining you. 

The great power of Easter and the reality of the resurrection is in the experience of God’s people, from those first days, through the ages and especially today in this world of turmoil – of the risen Christ.

The risen Christ continues to touch the lives and the hearts of millions upon millions of his people. The risen Christ touches the hearts of his faithful here in Dandenong again and again.

This is what has given Easter its incredible power and its endurance. The Easter Story makes perfect sense to us who know the risen Christ. So my invitation is to you today – if you too want to know the Risen Lord Jesus Christ and to have a new life – come! The table will be set for you week in and week out. Sit and eat with us at the table of the Lord. Learn from the word of God, feast at his table freely and often and you’ll find that you share in this greatest victory of all time and know that it all makes very good sense indeed.