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With fear and great joy

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Read Matthew 28:1-10

Jesus was dead and buried.

The disciples scattered and then gathered together fearful of what might come next.

Their Teacher, their Master, their Friend was gone.

Nailed to a cross like a common thief, in fact between a pair of thieves, and then rushed into a tomb before nightfall so he wouldn’t be hanging on display during the Sabbath.

All in all, the Jews and Romans had made pretty quick work of this despicable drama that ended in the death of an unblemished Lamb.

If we understand the accounts correctly, Jesus was seized late on Thursday and was dead and buried before the sun went down on Friday. Perhaps we can’t pin this down exactly, but things transpired quickly and were completed before the Sabbath began at sundown.

He was sealed in a tomb and a guard post was established to make sure that no one would tamper with the body and claim he had risen from the dead.

The man who turned water into wine, walked on water, fed a multitude with one Hungry Man Dinner, gave a blind man his sight, and raised his friend Lazarus from the dead was now dead himself and nobody was going to come and claim his body.

But two women would go to look at the tomb. Perhaps they just went to mourn there. Other gospel accounts suggest that they would prepare the body of Jesus for burial. The rush job to get him buried before the sun went down Friday was not sufficient.

But on this morning there was an earthquake. The earth shook on that Friday as Jesus committed his Spirit to his Father and it shook on this Sunday morning.

The stone that had been sealed to the tomb was rolled away and an angel of the Lord sat upon it. Now there’s a two-fer for you—and earthquake and an angel on the same morning.

The soldiers on guard duty were paralyzed with fear. Roman soldiers were generally well trained. They could take on several attackers and still prevail, but they were ill equipped for earthquakes and angels at the same time.

As these women named Mary approach the tomb, the angel sitting on top of the stone began a short monologue.

· Don’t be afraid.

· I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.

· He is not here.

· He is risen.

· OBTW—He told you this would happen.

· Come and look for yourselves.

The angel then issued an order.

Go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.

The women headed out. They were afraid and full of joy at the same time, but they were following the angel’s directions.

And on their way to tell this incredible news to the disciples, they encountered Jesus. Unlike the account in John’s gospel or in Luke’s description of the Road to Emmaus encounter, these women recognized Jesus and they fell at his feet.

And what is the first thing that Jesus tells these women?

Hello, don’t be afraid.

Greetings, don’t be afraid.

Hey girls, don’t be afraid.

And his directions were the same as the angel’s orders. Tell all the guys to meet me in Galilee.

Don’t be afraid and get all of our close friends to Galilee.

That should be a lesson to all men who want to sleep in on Sunday morning. You never know what you might miss out on.

Now elsewhere in the gospel, some of the men do go check out this incredible thing that has been reported to them; but the story of the resurrection belongs to the women.

They first receive the good news.

They first see the resurrected Christ.

They are the first to experience fear and joy upon witnessing the impossible. Even though it was promised, none of the gospels have accounts of anyone heading to the tomb to see if Jesus was raised from the dead.

Nobody said, “Let’s get there at sunrise just in case he is an early riser.”

Nobody said, “Let’s bring a breakfast burrito. He’s is going to be hungry.”

Nobody said, “He is going to need a change of clothes.”

Nobody came to the tomb expecting to find or hear the news that we sing of every Easter, He Lives!

But that is exactly what these women encountered.

· Don’t be afraid.

· I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.

· He is not here.

· He is risen.

· OBTW—He told you this would happen.

· Come and look for yourselves.

· Now tell his friends to get to Galilee.

And they come upon Jesus and he said don’t be afraid and go tell my brothers to meet me in Galilee.

Now we have the advantage of hindsight and we could armchair quarterback this and say, “I would have gone to the tomb looking for the resurrected Jesus, and at least would have brought a coffee and an Egg McMuffin.”

But the disciples had been traumatized. They were scared. In the last days they were a part of some of the most insightful teaching and intimate fellowship with their Master and Teacher and Friend who had ridden into town only a few days earlier and been received as the Messiah.

That world was turned upside down is less than a day. The public and brutal nature of the crucifixion of their Master and Friend surely zapped every ounce of confidence that they had acquired over the past few years.

They were afraid.

The promises that Jesus gave them retreated to the furthest reaches of their minds.

They were scared.

And two women went to his tomb perhaps uncertain of what fate might await them. Surely the Romans would label them as sympathizers to a lost but rebellious cause.

I venture to say, that there was no spring in their step as they approached the tomb that morning.

In an instant, they were filled with fear.

In an instant, they were filled with joy.

In these moments, they were filled with joy and with fear, with fear and with joy.

The two emotions vied for dominance in these women.

But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid.”

Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid.”

And time and time again in God’s word, we find the words, “Fear not” or “Don’t be afraid.”

The women were full of fear and joy, but Jesus said, “Let’s stick to the joy.”

Today is about joy.

People spend too much time dealing with fear.

Let us be about joy.

On this day above all days, let us be filled with joy.

We may wrestle with fear another day, but today be filled with joy.

Today, without regard for who might second guess you, proclaim to all you encounter, “He lives!”

“He is risen!”

“He was dead but now he lives!”

Most of us are not headed to Galilee with good news today, but we are headed somewhere.

Because of what we know and what we believe, wherever that place is that we are going today, let us go with good news, proclaiming HE LIVES!