As I’m writing this, we’re one Sunday past Easter, and I’m sitting up at the Iron Skillet in Oak Grove. I’m enjoying breakfast, and getting ready to go into a couple of meetings for today. There’s something about Monday mornings that are relaxing and enjoyable for me. I know most of you probably think that I’m crazy, but Mondays are my day off….sort of. I don’t normally get in a hurry on Monday mornings, and it gives me a chance to sit back and think about things.
This morning my thoughts have been drifting to Easter. For pastors that’s the biggest Sunday of the year. We prepare for it, and plan for it, and spend a lot of time thinking about it. One of the problems that we have, though, is that we do this every year. While I haven’t hit my first decade as a pastor yet (I’m getting closer), I already know that Easter can be a challenge. You want to tell the Good News of Jesus’ Resurrection, but how do you do that year after year?
One of the things that happens is that the longer we do this, the more we get into the weeds. We start following all sorts of little rabbit trails, and we don’t just look at the trees and miss the forest, but we start looking at the leaves and miss the tree. I’m sure I could add some more overused analogies here, but I think you get the picture.
Sometimes I think it helps if we take a step back and look at the whole picture. Too often we can get caught up in the importance, and weight of Easter. Every once in a while, we need to step back and look at the pure joy and power that comes with Easter morning. To be fair, it’s not all our fault. Many times the Easter story that we focus on doesn’t help. In Mark, Luke, and John there’s delayed joy. They find that the tomb is empty, which is followed by pain, sadness, and disbelief. This is especially true for the disciples. The disciples are the hardest to convince of what’s happened, because they are the most effected.
You may have noticed something in the previous paragraph, and it wasn’t a typo on my part. There’s one Gospel that’s missing. Matthew is different. Read Matthew 28. There’s a story of power, of hope, and of goodness. Nothing is delayed in this story, and the power behind what Jesus is doing becomes clear very quickly. Sometimes we need to stand back and remember this. We need to stand back and remember the power that Jesus has, and just be in that presence. There are times when we need to let that power take a hold of us, and fill us with that kind of joy that can only come from God.
Two of the Marys come to the tomb, and they don’t know that anything has happened. In Matthew’s telling of the story, the stone hasn’t even been rolled away yet when they get there. But that’s when craziness comes.
“Look, there was a great earthquake, for an angel from the Lord came down from heaven. Coming to the stone, he rolled it away and sat on it. Now his face was like lightning and his clothes as white as snow. The guards were so terrified of him that they shook with fear and became like dead men.”
–Matthew 28:2-4 (CEB)
Can you imagine what it would take for someone’s face to be like lightning? The pure power from the angels presence would be enough to terrify me, and it was enough to cause the guards to faint. And then the angel, in verse 5, has the sheer audacity to tell the Marys not to be afraid. Like that was going to happen.
The angel then tells them that Jesus has been raised from the dead, and that their job is to go tell everyone else. Then they go to do just that, with fear and excitement! The fear was understandable. Remember that there were guards at the tomb, and the second part of chapter 28 has the guards report. There was a lot riding on this, and many people who wanted to make sure that Jesus stayed dead. But the most important part of that was the excitement. There’s no hint of disbelief or sadness; just excitement to go and tell everyone!
Then guess who they meet on the way? They see Jesus! He’s risen, he’s not dead, and giving them a message to give to the disciples. I don’t know about you, but I would have made record time getting back to Galilee to tell everyone. Can you feel the power and excitement?
Its in the last part of chapter 28 that we get one of the most important passages in the Bible. Jesus appears to his disciples for the first time, and then he commissions them to “go and make disciples of all nations…” There’s no hint of anything but Jesus’ power to go and do and command.
If Hollywood was going to make a blockbuster movie about the Gospels, this would be the way they would tell the story. This is the power of Easter morning. This is the power and joy that I think we miss sometimes. We get there eventually, but sometimes we need to be reminded of the immediacy of what Jesus does and the power that he has.
There is power in the message that we get to share, and there is amazing power in the Savior that we serve. Sometimes we need to step back and be reminded of it. I encourage you, over the next week to take that step back. Let yourself feel and be amazed by the power that comes from Christ. Go and tell the Good News, with fear and excitement. As you’re on the road to tell that good news, watch as Jesus will meet you there, and be ready to be sent beyond all of your expectations.