Sermon Easter Sunday
Text: Matthew 28:1-10 – Fear and Joy
If we could sum up the feeling of the world at present I believe the word “fear” best sums up how people are feeling.
Fear of catching COVID-19
Fear of the economic cost
Fear of keeping my job.
Fear of how long this is going to go on for.
Fear of inadvertently breaking the rules and getting fined like that teenage girl who received a $1,600 fine when her mother took her out for a driving lesson.
Fear is also at the heart of our Easter Sunday Gospel reading.
When the 2 Marys went to the tomb to tend to Jesus’ dead body a great earthquake happened – an angel of the Lord came and rolled away the stone covering the tomb and then sat on it.
Matthew says that the guards there shook with fear and became like dead men.
When the angel spoke to the 2 Marys – they too feared.
But their fear was different.
It says they left the tomb quickly with fear AND GREAT JOY.
Notice the difference.
The guards had fear and they became like dead men.
The 2 Marys had fear but it was a fear that was comforted by Joy.
Joy in the knowledge that Jesus was alive and had risen from the dead.
Likewise, as we live in the midst of this pandemic – we have a level of fear – even as Christians.
We don’t become flippant about it and disregard the warnings.
We don’t act irresponsibly and ignore the safety aspects thinking “God will protect me from getting it”.
That’s how Satan tempted Jesus when he told him to jump off the top of the temple because God will not let him get hurt and catch him.
No, we abide by what the Government has asked us to do.
We follow all the recommendations of hygiene, social distancing, self isolation.
We haven’t looked for loopholes or flaunted the rules.
Following the rules is not a lack of faith or suggesting that God is not in control.
The difference is that we place God above it all, knowing that he is in control of everything.
The 2 Marys believed that Jesus had risen from the dead and had great joy.
But they still lived in the midst of knowing that the Jewish leaders who put Jesus to death and the Roman Government were still hostile towards them – so there is that physical fear – it’s human nature.
They weren’t quite sure what the future might hold for them physically but they knew that Jesus was alive – and that created joy.
And that’s the same situation for us.
It’s not a lack of faith to be fearful of what is ahead.
The difference for us is that we can place all our fears upon Jesus.
That’s what St Paul encouraged us to do in the mixture of heavenly faith and earthly fears.
He says: you have been raised with Christ – the Easter message.
So seek things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God – the Easter resurrection message.
So Paul is clear on our Christian joy – Christ has risen and ascended – and we too have been raised with Christ.
Notice Paul writes in the present tense – you HAVE been raised – not WILL be raised.
But Paul also acknowledges that even though we have been saved by Christ that we are still affected the things of this world that can create fear.
He says “your life is hidden with Christ in God”.
Hidden behind the veil of sin and worldly flesh that still strikes fear.
But what is different for us who put our hope in Jesus Christ is that we have that comfort and joy of knowing that anything the world throws at us that can create fear does not have the final word.
And that’s the joy that Easter Sunday brings to us – is that God has the last word.
Whereas death was the last word – life in Christ is now the new last word.
A life that is hidden with Christ – safe with Christ until Christ returns and reveals his glory and our glory.
At present that glory is hidden to the world.
A world that has been brought to its knees in fear.
But we have been brought to our knees in praise of Jesus Christ.
The world around us is closing down – including our church buildings which have been closed.
But the grave has been opened forever and no one can close it.
At the moment we are caught between 2 worlds.
The world we live in physically – we are in the world but not of the world – as we often say.
But we are also citizens of heaven.
So, we live here but our true citizenship is in heaven because of Easter.
So it’s okay to be fearful but our fears are overcome by the joy of knowing that Jesus has won the victory.
That Jesus has defeated death – the worst weapon that Satan and the world had against us.
So Jesus says to you – as he said to the 2 Marys in their fear – Do not be afraid go and tell the others that they will see me.
Friends, let us also not be afraid when the fears of the world confront us as they presently are –
But let us go and tell the world about the joy we have and the joy they too can have because Jesus has been raised from the dead and so have we.
Christ is risen – he is risen indeed.
Let us go in the peace of the Lord.