Watercolor painting by E. J. Kirsch

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Jan 7, 2018

“Two Messages” 1-7-18

Matthew 28:1-15
January 7, 2018

According to Matthew, on the day Jesus rose from the dead, there was an earthquake and an angel rolled the stone away.  As I read this, I am not sure whether the earthquake was caused by the act of the angel moving the stone, or the earthquake and the moving of the stone came at the same time.  It really doesn’t matter.  But what I love in Matthew is the detail he gives us about the angel.  He moved the stone and his doing so, and perhaps the sight of him doing so, caused the soldiers guarding the tomb to faint.  But the detail I love is the posture of the angel after moving the stone.  The angel is impervious and unapologetic.  After he moved the stone, he sat on it, Not the least bit concerned that someone might take action against him.  He sat there, putting forth flashes of light like Lightning does, and wearing clothing that was as white as snow.  I think his posture was an unspoken challenge to the guards and to those who had employed them and to the Governor whose wax seal had secured the entrance to the tomb.  His posture of sitting on the stone was clearly saying to them “I moved this stone and opened this tomb that you were guarding and had sealed with the authority of the Roman Governor, What are you going to do about it?”
The only people who saw him at that hour of the day were the guards, who were afraid of him, and the two Marys, who probably would have been afraid of him, but he told them not to be.
After the angel told them that they were not to fear him, he gave them a most important message.  The Jesus, for whom they were looking, had been raised from the dead.  They were to enter the tomb if they wanted to so they could see that his body was gone.  But they were not to spend too much time in the tomb, because they were to proceed immediately to the Apostles and inform them that Jesus was risen and that he would meet them back in Galilee.  Jesus would go ahead of them to Galilee and meet them there.
As they were rushing from the tomb feeling a mixture of fear and joy, the resurrected, living Jesus met them.  After they worshiped Him, He repeated the message of the angel, that they were to inform the Apostles that Jesus had risen and that he would meet them in Galilee.
While they were on their way to inform the Apostles, the guards had awakened and went to the men who had hired them, the chief priests, and told them about the Angel, and the stone and the empty tomb.
The chief priests conferred with members of the Sanhedrin and decided to pay the guards to lie, and say that they had fallen asleep and that the disciples of Jesus had stolen the body while they were asleep.  This was a life risking proposition for the guards because sleeping on guard duty was a capital offense.
This message was also an interesting twist in the Priest and members of the Sanhedrin.  During the night between the Thursday and Friday before, they had accused Jesus of being a Deceiver of the people.  When I read this part of the story I want to shout, “Who is the deceiver now?!”
Those are the two stories or messages about the resurrection of Jesus that were started that day.  They are both in circulation today.
Those seven of you who stood up here with me and professed your faith before this congregation are people who have heard and believed the first message.  You and all the rest of us who believe are to tell that message to others.  Jesus is the son of God who died for our sins and rose from the dead to demonstrate his power over death and to become the first of many who will rise to an eternal life.
We verify that message every time we eat this meal.  The meal is a memorial of his death, but we are still remembering and reenacting his death because we also know that he did not remain dead, he arose. 
And as we believe that message of the angel and Jesus, as we tell others, and as we eat this meal with the confidence that he did not stay dead, that other story, that other message still circulates. 
Matthew wrote that the other story was in his time still in circulation among the Jews.  It is no longer limited to that group and can be found in our time everywhere.
Many variations of it have come into being.  Some say Jesus never existed in the first place, some say Jesus was God and only appeared to be human, so he could not die and therefore did not rise.  Others still believe that the resurrection was a fake.  But the message is the same: Jesus did not rise from the dead and he cannot save any one from anything.
Our message, the message of our new members, and our not so new members and all Christians everywhere is that Jesus did rise from the dead, and that he did conquer death and that those who believe in Him will have eternal life.
And, as we go into a new year full of uncertainties and sometimes facing opposition from those who believe the other message, there is some comfort for us in our message.  The message of the angel and of Jesus was that the risen Jesus would go to Galilee ahead of the Apostles and meet him there.  As we go on into this New Year, Jesus will go on ahead and meet us there.  He knows what is coming and he will be with us in it.


Pastor David Horner
Faith Presbyterian Church
West Lafayette, IN 47906