OK. Ready or not, here comes Easter!  In some ways it seems like this should be easy.  Resurrection, good news, life over death, this is what we’re all about.  But it some ways it can also seem like the hardest week of the year.  It’s the culmination of multiple services for many of us.  The crowd is often larger.  The diversity of people in the crowd is often higher, too. And as much as we love the story of the resurrection, it’s the resurrection story again.  We feel like we know and maybe have preached it a million other times before.

But Gals and Pals, we can do this. We have come to the tomb before; we have seen that there is new life.  God has called us, given us this message.  We can go and tell with fear and joy.

So, here’s where I like to do with a familiar text, especially a text that appears in three other gospel versions.  I like to start with the details that are unique to this telling.  Matthew has a few of these.

1. The earthquake – Matthew alone includes the shaking of the earth when the the women arrive at the tomb.  This is the second major (super)natural event that takes place in the Passion/Resurrection narrative.  The earth also shook as Jesus “breathed his last” just a chapter before (27:50).  Matthew makes sure we don’t miss the significance of both this death and this resurrection.  It’s no accident.  It’s nothing normal.  It is very clearly an act of one who has power and authority of even the very earth on which we stand.

2.  The stone and witness of it’s removal – Again, there’s no way to second guess what happened or who was in charge.  The women are there for every bit of the drama.  No reason to question if his body was stolen, even though that’s the plan the priests devise to deceive and explain it all away (v. 12-15).  The women see the guarded tomb go from completely sealed to open and empty, a feat only possible with the strength of an angel, and angel who sits smugly on top when the job is done.

"The Resurrection," Pieter Lastman (Dutch, about 1583 - 1633)
“The Resurrection,” Pieter Lastman (Dutch, about 1583 – 1633)

3.  The guards – None of the other evangelists place additional witnesses in the tomb garden.  What I love about the guards here is their dead-like state in complete contrast to Jesus’ new life.  In fear they tremble, or actually quake, just like the earth did.  Another angle or point of entry into preaching with the guards as one of the subjects is to note that both they and the women felt fear (v. 4, 8).  The difference between the guards who fell to the ground and the women whose feet stood firm wasn’t the absence of fear, but the presence of joy.  The resurrection didn’t tie everything up in a nice bow for them, but when they were able to receive what was presented with joy as well as awe, they were able to accept the angel’s commission to go forward, and eventually meet the Risen Christ.

4.  Meeting Jesus – Now Matthew’s account is not the only one where women meet (or at least a woman meets) the Risen Christ.  John’s story includes Jesus’ resurrection appearance to Mary Magdalene when she is alone outside the tomb after Peter and the beloved disciple have already left the scene.  But in Matthew’s gospel the women meet Jesus when they are on the way, when they are doing what the angel called them to do.  In a sense this gets the resurrection out of the tomb and out into the world.  It isn’t just an event that happened in this one place to this one body (a point that is made even in the story of the crucifixion in Matthew’s gospel, 27:52-53).  It is something we just point to in this one special service each year.  The resurrected Jesus is the one we encounter when we have come and seen (experienced the grace of God in our own life) and then go and tell (respond to God’s grace with our obedience, our simultaneously joy- and fear-filled answering of the commission).

Jon this conversation in the comments.  You are welcome to chime in with your ideas about Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and a Vigil if you have one.  Leave some ideas; use some ideas.  We’re all in this together.

10 thoughts on “Narrative Lectionary – Come, See, Go, Tell (Matthew 28:1-10)

  1. Thanks for this Stephanie…. I am taken with your statement that, the difference for the women is not the absence of fear, it’s the presence of joy. And also, that their action takes the resurrection out of the tomb and into the world. Beautiful!

    Our Maundy Thursday service contains scripture, a meditation, the Lord’s supper, and a tenebrae– and it takes place in our Fellowship Hall, which is beautiful and filled with light, and through which we can see trees and Main Street. It’s my favorite service of the year, hands down. Ends with the tolling of a low bell.

    Not ready. But thanks for helping nudge me in that direction!

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    1. That Maundy Thursday setting sounds wonderful. I am so not ready for MT yet. I’m feeling drawn to the service and maybe even preaching (I often don’t), but I have felt led by the Spirit in any directions yet. Soon.

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  2. My intent (as shown by my sermon titles) is to use the two earthquakes as a linking device between Friday and Sunday. Because I think we (possibly through familiarity) have largely lost the earth-shaking magnitude of the story.
    My GF early thoughts:
    http://ministerialmutterings.blogspot.ca/2015/03/looking-forward-to-april-3-2015-good.html
    And for Sunday:
    http://ministerialmutterings.blogspot.ca/2015/03/looking-forward-to-april-5-2015-easter.html

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    1. I liked the idea of working with the earthquake in both, too, but I don’t get to preach Good Friday this year. I could draw back to it on Easter Sunday and make the connection, but I don’t know. It would be much more fun to bookend them and preach both. I like your thoughts looking forward for sure.

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  3. I’ve been planning to pick up the earthquake theme as well, and to wonder when was the last time we allowed God to shake our foundations…when have we had an experience so profound it shook the earth beneath our feet…when have we seen something so amazing we couldn’t help but go tell about it…etc?

    Though i’ve also been pondering whether there’s anywhere to go with the idea that the women see the stone rolled away…and the tomb is already empty. It isn’t like Jesus strolled out the door when the angel rolled it back.

    Now I kind of want to just read this post and call it a sermon. 🙂 Thanks Steph!

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    1. There’s a helpful way to phrase the earth quake stuff. Hmmm…. I might be able to work that in with the fear and joy which seems to be where I’m heading although I didn’t think it would be. The ground shaking feeling can be both exciting and terrifying at the same time.

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    2. I’m wondering if we are more aware of the earth shaking moments of bad news but less able to recall the good earth shaking moments. I spoke with someone today who recalled her husband being diagnosed with cancer. She talked about the bottom dropping out at the news but never mentioned the quake when he was healed.

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