True story. A United Methodist pastor was asked to conduct a graveside service for a member of his church. The only problem was, the cemetery was more than an hour and a half away from the church. The pastor wasn’t feeling well so he decided to ride with the Funeral Director in the Coach. By the time they arrived at the cemetery, the flu had invaded completely and he said he felt like the Chinese Army was having a pogo stick derby on his head and stomach. Feverish and sick, he made it through the service, but he was starting to look like most flu victims, like death warmed over. As they headed back home, the funeral director suggested the pastor stretch out in the back of the coach. It had curtains and nobody would see him. The pastor thought it was a good idea and promptly fell asleep. He awoke when the vehicle stopped. Taking a few minutes to fully awaken, he slowly sat up and drew the side curtain to see where he was. He was face to face with a gas station attendant, who was surprised and shocked to see a body in the back of the hearse staring back at him. With all the color drained out of him and his eyes as wide as saucers, the gas pump flew into the air, and the attendant ran on shaky legs back into the gas station, while the funeral director tried to catch up to explain the whole situation. (Sermons.com, Billy D. Strayhorn)
My guess is that this is how the women felt when they came to the empty tomb that Easter morning. They came to see the tomb, but soon they were running on shaky legs with their hearts pounding with shock and excitement. They ran to tell the disciples. Hear now the resurrection account from Matthew’s gospel.
Jesus said, “There they will see me.” On this Easter morning, oh how we wish we could see Jesus. We wish we could fall at his feet and worship him. He is the joy of our faith and the reason for this celebration. Now we could get lost in the drama of the earth quaking, the angel appearing, the guards being immobile, but what is really key is Jesus, the one raised from the dead, being seen. The women go in the light of dawn to see the tomb. The angel asks them to “come and see” then promises “you will see him.” Then Jesus telling the women to tell his brothers says “they will see me.” The resurrection of Jesus is founded on the fact that women and men were able to see our risen Lord. Not only see but then to tell.
A little boy, growing up in a community where his father served as a Baptist minister was outside playing. He was doing all of the things that a little boy does. He was climbing trees. He was swinging on the swing set and jumping off. He was playing with his dog. His mother called him for dinner and all of the family gathered at the table. His mother looked at him and said, “Young man, let me see your hands.” There was some rubbing of his hands on his blue jeans before he held his hands up. His mother looked at them and asked, “How many times do I have to tell you that you must wash your hands before you eat? When your hands are dirty, they have germs all over them and you could get sick. After we say the blessing, I want you to march back to the bathroom and wash your hands.” Everyone at the table bowed their heads and the father said the blessing. Then, the little boy got up and headed out of the kitchen. He stopped, then turned and looked at his mother and said, “Jesus and germs! Jesus and germs! That’s all I ever hear around here and I haven’t seen a one of them.” (sermons.com, Robert Allen)
We don’t get to see Jesus, or germs for that matter without a microscope, we do get to see Jesus at work in the world and feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in our time of need. We see Jesus when a prayer is answered, when renewed strength is given, when hope comes from the most unlikely place. We get to see Jesus when we share our faith and then see God work in that life. The angel told the women to run and tell the disciples, and on their way, running on their shaky legs, they see Jesus. They see their risen Lord, and Jesus says, “Greetings!” Now that is an Ok translation, but what that word really means is “REJOICE!, and be Joyful! Jesus is saying that to us today, “Rejoice and be joyful for I am alive and you will see me!”
We see Jesus in moments of faith, but ultimately, we see Jesus in his resurrection. The resurrection is not just a story, it is the foundation of God’s love for us. No matter what weight you bear, what struggle you face, what sin needs forgiveness, Jesus has already given his life for it! Jesus died on the cross so that he can live in your lifes. Now we will have moments when we feel lifeless and dead, like wooden cross that Jesus died hanging from. But that is not the end of the story. Your eternal life with Christ is like the living cross we are creating today: blooming, fragrant and alive.
Through the resurrection, God has given us victory over death. God raised Jesus from the dead so that these women could see and rejoice, and we can see and rejoice. God raised Jesus so that the disciples could see and tell the world that we have victory over death. Resurrection is not solely for Christ, but is our inheritance as Children of God. You and I are promised eternal life!
There’s a story about a young boy named Walter Elias. Born in the city, his parents one day moved out to the country to become farmers. Walter had a vivid imagination and the farm was the perfect place for a young boy and a wondering mind. One day in the apple orchard he was amazed when he saw sitting on a branch of one of the apple trees an owl. He just stood there and stared at the owl. He thought about what his father had told him about owls: owls always rested during the day because they hunted throughout the night. This owl was asleep. He also thought that this owl might make a great pet. Being careful not to make any noises he stepped over sticks and leaves. The owl was in a deep sleep because it never heard Walter Elias walking toward it. Finally, standing under the owl, he reached up and grabbed the owl by the legs. Now, the events that followed are difficult to explain. Suddenly everything was utter chaos. The owl came to life. Walter’s thoughts about keeping the bird as a pet were quickly forgotten. The air filled with wings, and feathers, and screaming. In the excitement Walter held the legs tighter. And in his panic, Walter Elias, still holding on to the owl, threw it to the ground and stomped it to death. After things calmed down, Walter looked at the now dead and bloody bird and began to cry. He ran back to the farm, obtained a shovel, and buried the owl in the orchard.
At night he would dream of that owl. As the years passed he never got over what had happened that summer day. Deep down it affected him for the rest of his life. As an older man he said he never, ever killed anything again. Do you see it? Something significant happened after that event. Something that Walter didn’t miss. Something which transformed Walter Elias, something that redeemed him from the pit of despair, something that resurrected him, something that made Walter Elias Disney give life to thousands of animals on the big screen. Because of tragic death Walt Disney brought animals to life.(Sermons.com, Brett Blair)
The resurrection changes everything. It transforms us. It moves us from despair to new possibilities of life. It takes the women’s grief and brings them great joy. It motivates action to go and tell- tell everyone about Jesus. The resurrection enables Jesus to make good on his promise to you, “You will see me!”
He is Risen
He is Risen Indeed!
Let All God’s Children say Amen!