Friday feels a long way off but still has a fresh sting. The people at the cross don’t want to believe it happened, but they cannot reconcile with their eyes the vision of a lifeless Jesus pulled from the cross and carried to the tomb. Since daylight was already receding, they couldn’t finish the process of a proper burial. Many of us have lost someone or something in the past year, and we have a heaviness in our hearts today. When we look at the meaning of the day, we know that we are supposed to celebrate, but it isn’t always easy to celebrate when we are hurting. Jesus knows we are hurt, and sin leads to hurt and pain. The suffering Jesus experienced on the cross doesn’t mean that hurt and pain are gone; rather, sin, hurt, and pain doesn’t have the final word. Something is different today. Today is a day that we can rejoice, even in pain and sadness, because we know that pain and sadness are temporary. After all, even though we live in the hurt of Friday, Jesus promised us Sunday, and He has risen!
Matthew writes of the women approaching the tomb below:
28 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 28:1–10.
The Marys were eager to finish the work of burying, which was their way of dealing with the death’s trauma; thus, they wasted no time and wanted to get to work as soon as it was permissible. When we face losses, we may go straight to finishing the ritual, but God often has to wake us up from our stupor. An Earthquake and an Angel proclaim that the tomb before them is empty. We know that the stone was not rolled away to let Jesus out but to allow the women to witness what was before them. Similarly, Jesus did not need the women to finish the ritual, and Jesus didn’t need help from the grave. Rituals and Actions can bring us closer to God, but we cannot let them distract us from what God is doing right in front of our eyes. The tomb was empty because Jesus was not dead. The powerful act of grace had been accomplished. The ritual was finished by God and not by the Marys. The Marys had a more important task ahead of them. They were called to go and tell the others of God’s miraculous grace.
They saw the evidence in the tomb, and with faith, joy, and fear, they ran to answer the call of going to the disciples and telling them the good news. As the women follow the instructions of the Angel to proclaim that Jesus has been raised from the dead, they encounter the risen Jesus. Many of us in the Western world approach any news skeptically, as we are not a trusting society. As we encounter Jesus, we must cast out all doubt that what the Angel says about Jesus is true. However, we have something to learn from the Marys, our encounter with Jesus comes once we move with faith, joy, and fear. Faith that when we hear the Gospel, we act on the news, Joy that God has done the heavy lifting carrying our sins to the cross, and fear-filled respect that the God that raised Jesus from the grave wants a relationship with us. The women cling to Jesus’ feet when they are met by Jesus uttering the first-century equivalent of “What’s up?” They show Jesus the honor of the Risen King. Today, as we celebrate and recognize that Jesus has risen, how do we honor the reason for our salvation?
Bowing down and clinging to Jesus’ feet lets go of all inhibition and trepidation, and gives oneself fully to worship of Jesus. To hear the words of Jesus to go and tell others of the Good News, we must let go of all trepidation and fear and allow our joy to guide us in worship. This isn’t just singing loudly and raising our hands, something many of us in the mainline denominations struggle with. Giving ourselves fully to worship forces us to set everything aside to worship God literally. Hand over our worries, thoughts, families, friends, and the impression we give others over to Jesus and fall at the feet of the Risen Lord. In response to worship, the women were told to go and tell what they had seen. Share the Good News with Jesus’ disciples. If we let go and fall at Jesus’ feet, we will also hear GO and TELL that Jesus is alive and death has been defeated.
Jesus’ resurrection is not a private matter. By nature, it must be shared with our friends, family, and acquaintances. We cannot hold onto grace for our small community; God tells us to stop clinging to His feet; instead, GO and TELL others of God’s mighty act! Jesus Christ has defeated death; the story did not end on the cross; Jesus rose from the grave. When the women encountered Jesus, they wanted to cling to Him, but their mission was to GO and TELL the disciples what they had seen. Christ moves in our lives, and while we might want to dwell and stay at His feet, Jesus also calls us to GO and TELL the world of His mighty act of GRACE!