Matthew 28:1-15

Easter Sunrise Service

St Barbara’s 16.04.17

Rev Tulo Raistrick

Of all the Gospel accounts of the resurrection, Matthew’s account is perhaps the most dramatic. It is just the kind of reading we need at this time in the morning when maybe we are just beginning to feel the effects of our early start.

Matthew leaves us in no doubt that something on a cosmic scale is unfolding.

There is a violent earthquake. Something similar happened  on Mount Sinai when God appeared to Moses to give the people the 10 Commandments. Here is something momentous – a new beginning. But a beginning defined by the awesome presence of God.

And then an angel appears, his appearance like lightning, his clothes as brilliant white as snow. And we are taken back to the Mount of Transfiguration, when Jesus is revealed to his three closest disciples as the Son of God. And we may be taken back before that to the angels appearing before the shepherds on the hillside above Bethlehem proclaiming a king has been born; or to nine months before that, and an angel appearing to a young Mary to tell her she would bear God’s Son.

Extraordinary, dramatic stuff. Matthew is setting the scene. Something beyond our imagination is about to unfold.

But, let us pause a moment.  At least two of those events took place on hillsides or mountain tops, places where God is supposed to be found. Its not just modern-day folk who find mountains and hilltops places of spiritual wonder. In Jesus’ day too people built their altars, made their sacrifices, on hills, closer to God. There was something special, holy, about such places.

But our setting for the resurrection is different. Its a graveyard, of all places. The place most likely to instil hopelessness, despair, sadness. The place most likely to shout out the denial of God’s power and might. Ultimately, death wins, death conquers all. There is no stopping it, no denying it. How can God reveal himself in a graveyard?

And yet that is the extraordinary truth. For the words “He has risen!” are spoken from the very tomb in which Jesus’ body is laid. Something extraordinary has happened. Life, love, holiness, mercy, grace, has in Christ burst through the power of death. It has gone into the darkest places and far from being extinguished has burst forth to bring forth glorious light to illuminate the entire world. Death has been defeated. Evil has tried all it can to snuff out the presence of God, and God in Christ has overcome it.

No wonder the earthquakes, no wonder the angels in their blinding raiment, this is truth on a cosmic scale, a truth to transform every corner of our universe, to bring hope to every atom of our galaxy. Evil has been defeated; death has been overcome. It may take time to realise this, to see its outworking, but the day has been won.

And then Jesus himself appears before the women. What will he say? What truth will he proclaim in this moment of wonder, this moment of seismic significance. Maybe “Behold – I am alive!” or “Today I rise victorious”. No. A simple ”Greetings”.

The ordinariness of that word, followed by a concern for their well-being – “do not be afraid” – and an eye for his friends the disciples – “I will meet them in Galilee” – tells us something further extraordinary. This Christ who has battled with the powers of death and overcome them; this Christ who has transformed the rules of the universe stronger than those of gravity; this Christ comes to us as awesome Lord and master, but also as loving friend. He greets us, he cares for us. This is the Christ of incredible power, and of the most intimate love.

This Easter, at the empty tomb, we meet the one who has changed the universe, and changed it so that we can be brought into the embrace of his love.

Like Mary and Mary, let us fall at his feet and worship him.