The scene at the tomb in Matthew’s gospel is the most dramatic of all the gospels – there is an earthquake, and the startling appearance of an Angel, who rolls back the stone. The guards were so shocked the text says they ‘became like dead men’ – perhaps they fainted. At hearing the words spoken by the Angel, Mary Magdalene & the ‘other Mary’ were ‘afraid yet filled with joy’.
Several members of the church were involved recently with New Brighton Primary School, telling the story of Easter from Palm Sunday and through the events of Holy Week and finishing with the story we heard this morning of the empty tomb. I asked the school children to describe to me in words how the women must have felt when the Angel told them Jesus wasn’t in the tomb but had risen, and was alive again: “surprised” “confused” “terrified” “excited” “gobsmacked” “flabbergasted” – yes, I’m sure they felt all of this and more. The Resurrection is a fascinating and miraculous event of God. It was the most important event in the life of Jesus. But the Resurrection is far more than just something that happened to Jesus or even something that will happen to people at the end of time.
The Resurrection is also something that happens for us today. God used the miracle of the Resurrection to make available God’s very life to us even now. And why did God do this? Because God so loves the world. God is love, and it’s God’s love that gives us true life. And through the Resurrection comes our call to be Christ-like people, to be life-givers and agents of resurrection to our families, our communities and our world. And so the challenge for us who believe in our hearts and minds in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is to work out what that means for us, each and every day.
In our reading from Romans 6, Paul says that we discover our true identity when we count ourselves ‘dead to sin’ and ‘alive to God’. When we’re consciously aware of God’s abundant grace and love, and God’s presence in all things, then we can no longer be slaves to sin. If we find we’re not really feeling ‘alive to God’, we may need to look inward; and if we search deeply enough we’ll probably find that we’ve distanced ourselves from a fully conscious awareness of God’s abundant grace and love; we’ll find that the master of our life has shifted away from Christ Jesus, and we’ll find we’re being mastered by something or someone else. The good news is that each time we recognise this, we then can be released from enslavement to sin; we become free to return to the source of our Resurrection life, and that is the choice that we face each day, for conscious awareness of God’s presence in all of creation, in the darkness and in the light.
When the disciples see the risen Lord, he commissions them to a new way of life. The resurrection announces God’s new way of being human. And we’re called to remember that as we receive Christ, this becomes our story too. We’re then challenged to open our lives to the Resurrected life of Christ, to allow the life of God to break in and free us from all else that seeks to control or master us. Then we’re sent to bring life to others, in all places where death is at work in the world.
Each generation faces the question of how Resurrection can be experienced in places of disaster and conflict, poverty, abuse, oppression & disease. And each of us also must face the death that is within us – the self-centredness, apathy, destructiveness & cynicism – that keeps us and others from life; and we must choose to allow these dead ends to be transformed into life through openness to God’s love, forgiveness, grace and creativity.
We should be prepared to bring life to others wherever we can through compassion, hospitality, giving, involvement and advocacy for justice and mercy. If our activities rob the planet of life, we would gratefully seek to be more responsible and careful. If our choice of products or our tendency to consume more than we need leaves others in poverty or exploitation, we will shop more compassionately.
Living the Resurrection Life is about attitude and behaviour in everyday life, modelled on the attitude and behaviour of Jesus, demonstrated through inclusivity, forgiveness, loving our enemies and standing up for the poor, consciously trusting God through life's trials and circumstances. This Easter morning and every new day let us not be afraid. Let us look for all that is joyful about the work Jesus did for us on the cross and the power that the Resurrection brings to our lives and to the whole of creation. And let us pray for freedom from the control of the wrong master and for strength to live in the true identity of the risen Christ. Amen.