( preached at a sunrise service on Easter Morning)
This morning we have come at this early hour to mimic the two women named Mary that went as a new day dawned and discovered the empty tomb.
It was a day unlike any other that these women had experienced in their lifetimes. The time of sadness was about to turn into the greatest and most wondrous joy.
I don’t know if they felt the violent earthquake, but they must have. Our Scripture this morning states that it was a “violent earthquake”. The earth shook when Jesus died, so it is only fitting that it should shake at the discovery of His resurrection.
Either the earth quaked as the angel appeared from Heaven or as he was rolling away the stone. Either way, the Roman guards were terrified. One wonders how Jesus came forth from the dead, since the Roman guards were still at their post. Nevertheless, when it was time to announce it, the earth shook–undoubtedly rejoicing. We know that Paul says, “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up tot he present time” (Romans 8:19-22, NIV).
The earthquake could have been enough, but it was not. They two women named Mary were to have an angelic encounter. Undoubtedly, like the Roman soldiers, the women were terrified. For the first thing the angel says is, “Do not be afraid.” But then he goes on to state, “ . . . I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.”
I laugh at this point! I laugh because the wisdom of God indeeds turns the wisdom of man upside down. In this case, the soldiers were guarding an empty tomb! Man’s wisdom was to keep the body from being stolen, God’s wisdom was to give Jesus His resurrection body, which was immortal and spiritual, though still physical, and yet it could even pass through walls. In God’s New Earth, things are different, they are eternal and pure and undoubtedly glorious.
Once the women examined the empty tomb, the angel then gave the command, “ . . . Go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead oaf you into Galilee. There you will see him.”
The women went at once. What glorious words those are–they spark of obedience. They were the first to share that glorious and wondrous news that Jesus was no longer dead, but was alive. The first, the conquer death eternally. He was raised to never die again. The Scripture makes it plain that Jesus was the first fruits. Just as a tomato plant or a leaf of lettuce produces its first edible crop with much more to follow. Jesus is the first to rise from the dead with His brothers and sisters to follow when He comes in His Second Advent–examine in your Bibles 1 Corinthians 15! Oh, joy that is ours this early morning in April!
As the angels command found obedience in their hearts, Jesus met the women and greeted them. They touched Him and worshipped Him. Can you imagine the joy and peace that flooded their hearts and dissipated their sorrowful spirits. He echoed the command for the women to go and “tell”.
We, too, are commanded to go and tell others the glorious news that Jesus is the Savior and they can repent of their sins, trusting in His completed work for salvation. Further, we share that Jesus is the first fruits from the dead and that One Day He’s returning for God’s redeemed throughout the ages. Jesus will raise them to an eternity in God’s presence in the New Heavens and the New Earth, wherein will dwell righteousness. The old order of things as we know them today, will be gone. No more sin, evil, fear, death, sorrow, sadness. Instead, there will be a Sovereign God, a reigning Jesus, and joy and connectedness through the Holy Spirit! There will an eternity for all that God has for His redeemed children. Paul echoed the words of Isaiah 64:4 when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:9 “ . . . No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” Isn’t it wonderful that we are reminded of all these things by an empty tomb and risen Lord.
Therefore, let us believe in Jesus’ resurrection by confessing our sins and repent–placing our faith in the completed work of Jesus Christ on the cross. And then let us go quickly and tell others that Jesus is alive, and just as He came back from the dead, so will we when He comes.