Acts 10:34-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; Colossians 3:1-4; Matthew 28:1-10
Mary Magdalene and Mary to the tomb
In today’s gospel reading we hear about two women, followers of Jesus, who unlike the other fearful apostles, woke up early on the day of rest, probably before breakfast and their coffee, and went on an errand. Scripture tells us, “After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.” Sometimes we read a phrase in scripture and merely glance over it, but this little sentence is filled with significance for us who are celebrating Easter today. First, they make this trip on the Sabbath, but they were not going there to anoint the body or straighten the body wrappings (that would be work). Rather, they went to the tomb for some other reason, which scripture does not say for sure why.
Nonetheless, we are left to assume their motivation, but we find a clue as to the reason they made the trtheir the story, and it is right there before our eyes. Mary and Mary Magdalene were women of great faith, and they most likely remembered everything Jesus said. They knew that he had promised that he would suffer and die, and on the third day he would be raised. So, off to the tomb these two women went because they understood and trusted that Jesus had been raised. They went to the tome merely because they needed to see it with their own eyes.
We are people of faith today, not because we were fortunate like Mary and Mary Magdalene to see the empty tomb. We are disciples of Jesus today because of the witness of the resurrection proclaimed by these two faithful disciples, and by the billions of faithful Christians throughout the ages. In other words, we have faith because of the faith of those before us. What does that say about our responsibility to those Christians who come after us?
Guards and Angels
Here is another interesting fact about the story of the resurrection we hear about today. In first-century Palestine, the testimony of a woman was not regarded as authentic, and it was not accepted as fact. Do you not find it ironic that the first witnesses to the resurrection were people that most people would not believe? Now, believing the truth of the resurrection with that kind of cred takes extraordinary more faith. However, these were not average disciples, these women were fearless, courageous, and women of great trust in God.
How do I know? When the earth shook and the angel filled with light appeared, the guards, the big brawny soldier types were afraid, shook with fear and passed out. However, Mary and Mary Magdalene faced their fears and thus, they were brave and listened. These two disciples saw what they came to see, the empty tomb, but this little morning jaunt on the Sabbath did not end with just Good News. Their faith led them to belief in the resurrection, but it also led them to discover that being a follower of Jesus, means going out on a mission.
Go tell the others
The angel gave these two disciples a job to do. 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.’” Mary M and Mary were given a ministry, a mission call, a job to do. They were going to be the first evangelists, messengers, and bearers of the Good News that Jesus had been raised. They saw the Good News of new life, and they could not contain it merely for themselves.
“So, they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.” Mary M and Mary did what all disciples are called to do, experience the Risen Christ, and then go share it with others. You are thinking I bet, “Fr. Eric you are talking about evangelism even today on Easter Sunday.” Well, you would be right because is that not what Easter is all about after all? Christians experience the Risen Christ in their lives, through the community of faith gathered in mission, fellowship, and worship, and then we are so transformed by the experience of God’s grace, that we feel compelled to share it? But what if you have never experienced the Risen Christ? These two courageous disciples when they went to share the Good News, came face-to-face with Jesus on the way.
Jesus meets them in their mission call
As Mary M and Mary were running back to share the Good News, Jesus appeared to them. The gospel writer records that, “Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” Keep in mind that this little phrase was not merely a friendly “Hi y’all,” or a Western Jerusalem, “Howdy.” The Greek word we find in the New Testament, “χαίρετε” means, “Rejoice exceedingly, be glad, be well, and thrive.”
When Mary M and Mary encountered Jesus in their ministry and mission call to bear the Good News of his resurrection, Jesus offered them words of encouragement. Jesus told them to celebrate, to have hope, to live life fully and completely. That is what this is really all about my friends. When we experience the Risen Christ in our fellowship and worship and service with others, we are then sent out into the world to celebrate, to have hope, to live life fully and completely. In living our lives with that kind of joy and peace in Christ, we naturally become evangelist and bearers of Good News. Like Mary M and Mary, Jesus meets us in acts of faith, and assures that we can be joyful!
Worship and Mission
“How do I experience the Risen Christ, Fr. Eric,” you may ask. Let’s go back to our story for the answer. When Mary M and Mary saw Jesus, “they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him.” In all the rest of the gospel, when folks were listening, being taught, and learning from the Master Jesus, they were sitting as his feet. In other words, these two disciples did what any good disciple would do, they knew they needed to hear from Jesus. They were ready to hear what Jesus had to tell them. They prostrated themselves before him, a sign of humility and reverence and worship, a sign of waiting for the Master’s call.
Jesus told Mary M and Mary, “Do not be afraid.” In other words, to experience the Risen Christ, we have to go to the empty tomb and believe. We have to discover what our ministry and mission is as a disciple. We have to get on the road and tell others, and then be ready for Jesus to meet us on the way.
How do we experience the Risen Christ? In the lives of our sisters and brothers in the church. We gather for worship, we gather for fellowship, and we gather to do mission work together and in so doing, we become witnesses of the resurrection for future Christians.
This is our mission call: we worship together, listen to the Master’s teachings, be fed with the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and then, go tell the Good News in the world. Christ is Risen and that is a promise of great exceeding rejoicing in which we can be glad, be well, and thrive!
In the midst of the tragic times like the one we are in now, we can be assured of hope and joy in the empty tomb. We have glimpses of that hope through the work and dedication of so many people, sacrificing their own well-being to serve others. They are witnesses of hope in life lived in service to others and they should inspire all of us. These doctors, nurses, health care workers, truckers, first responders, police officers, military personnel, grocery workers, and so many more are like the Mary Magdalene’s and Mary’s of today.
Like them, we have experienced the Risen Christ, and so we must go and tell the good news. We too, must tell Jesus’ brothers and sisters, even in the shadow of death, even when all around is filled with fear and trepidation. Even now, when life does not seem normal like it did before, and in the days to come, may be forever changed, we do have the hope that there is “exceeding rejoicing, abundant gladness, and spiritual well-being.” We have hope in life everlasting in Christ. So, go tell the Good News and shout it loudly for all to hear, “Alleluia, Christ is Risen, the Lord is Risen Indeed.