They got up bright and early. They bought their spices the night before at 6pm sharp, the very moment Sabbath was over and the markets opened. They were going to finish the job of Jesus’ Burial. There hadn’t been enough time a day before to do everything that should have been done. So they bought their spices, forgot there was a stone to roll away, and had no clue there was now a guard and a seal so they’d never get to the Body.
Then the earth quaked. God made it quake. An angel came down from heaven. He rolled away the stone and sat on it. The guards dropped down like dead men. They couldn’t believe what they were seeing. They were shocked. First the earth quaked, and now they quaked. They’d never seen an angel before, probably didn’t even think such beings existed. And now they saw they do exist, saw the angel totally disregard Rome’s authority, and saw that the grave, which they knew was occupied, was now empty! No way that coulda happened. They had to realize He was alive again and God in the flesh, right? No wonder they quaked!
The women didn’t know what to make of it. Here was this angel. Here were the guards. They weren’t expecting any of this. The stone was rolled away. They definitely weren’t expecting that. They were expecting to work on a dead Body. They never really believed Him when He said He’d rise again. Maybe they did, but after what happened on Friday can you blame them for forgetting He said He’d not be dead long?
But it was unmistakable. The stone was rolled away. And the angel’s words rang with truth. He said: Fear not! You’re seeking Jesus the Crucified. He’s not here! He’s risen! Just like He said. See the place! Go tell His disciples then go to Galilee to see Him! So off they went with fear and great joy to tell the disciples.
Where do you fit in? Those are strong emotions. Do you feel like you could drop dead right now from this message? Do you feel fear or even great joy? Those pagan sinful Romans dropped dead for a time when they saw the holy angel. What would happen to you if you saw an angel now? Those holy women had great fear too.
What is fear? We often think of it as being afraid. The Catechism tells us we should always remember God sees us wherever we are and whatever we’re doing, and that thought should keep us from sinning. After all, doing any wrong greatly offends Him, for He hates sin. And He can punish sin. He can punish it in an instant. The holy is completely opposite the sinful. It destroys the sinful before it. The sinner cannot see God and live, cannot abide the holy. We do well to keep this in mind in this place, in God’s house, and everywhere we go. The Risen Christ sees us and everything we do! Don’t do anything that would offend Him!
The guards quaked as dead men. They were very afraid. They had good reason to be. They knew not God’s mercy. We certainly don’t deserve God’s mercy. Our bodies and souls are constantly fighting sin. Sometimes we fight against it, but often we don’t. So often we don’t think at all about the heavenly future God has in store for us and only care about what’s going to happen next, what I want right now, what just feels right, what will pleasure me. Pious thoughts are so hard to think in this world that it’s hard to even try. Yet God calls on us to try. And He calls on us to repent.
We have never focused on God all the time like we’re supposed to. We have sinned. We are full of sin and cannot escape it. We deserve to be like those guards who fell down like dead men; we deserve to stay that way forever. Sin earns death. It earns the end of this life, followed by eternity in hell. We do well to remember this and live accordingly. We know God can do this to us. This should inform everything we do in this life. We have good reason to be afraid of God.
But then everything we do in life should be informed by what the angel says to the women: He is risen! That’s good news. The Crucified One is not in the grave anymore. How is that good news? God should be mad. He should be mad an innocent man died. He should be mad our sins killed Him. But Jesus is alive! And He wanted to see His disciples. What can this mean? It could mean a risen God is angry and wants to punish us. But it can’t mean that, because His invitation is full of love and joy. It turns out what happened was all His idea. Sinful man made it happen of their own free will, but God planned it in eternity. He planned to use their hatred of Him to save sinners.
So what happened on Calvary? Jesus was not murdered. He laid down His life willingly. He bore all your sins in His Body, all your sins of not fearing Him, of forgetting He’s watching you. He paid the price, He was punished, for them all. Why is His Resurrection not a scary thing? He bore all your sins and died. Death is the punishment for sin. His Resurrection must mean all the sins of the world, all your sins, all my sins, are forgiven by God the Father.
Sins are forgiven. Now we don’t have to fear death. It’s no longer the end. Death will give way to life again. We don’t have to be afraid of God. We should still fear Him; we should not forget He does punish sin, because when we do we are prone to sin – Jesus wants us to serve Him, not sin. But now we don’t need to be afraid of Him. Now we know God doesn’t hate us. He loves us. He wants us to live with Him forever.
So let’s go to Galilee to see Jesus. How can you do that? He ascended into heaven, so we won’t find Him on earth. The disciples did see Him in Galilee, but first He came to the women soon after they left the tomb; the men saw him that very night in the upper room. So how do we go to Galilee?
This is Galilee. This is where you meet with the Risen Christ. He comes here every week to meet you, to meet you with His Word and Sacrament. He wants to meet you here. He comes here to speak to you. He comes so you will confess your sins to Him so He can forgive them. He comes to preach to you about your sins and about His grace, so you will live for Him and not for yourself or the world. He comes to teach you what you need to know to be saved. He comes to give you His Body and Blood at this Altar. That is His physical pledge to you and your body that you will rise from the dead. For it is the Body crucified that lives again and the Blood shed for the life of the world, to give you life. Come, eat and drink, and have eternal life!
Christ is risen! So do not fear. Do not be afraid of God any longer. God loves you. He did not send Jesus into the world to condemn the world, but to save it, yes, to save you. Your sins are forgiven. God does not need to send you to hell. He wants to bring you to heaven. Believe it. Trust it. Then your body shall receive the glory of the Lord’s Resurrection when He comes again.