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“From Grief to Greeting: Golly!”

Easter SonRise - April 20/14 (6:30 a.m.) Matthew 28:1-10

          It was a dumb idea, going to look at the tomb. The men disciples had probably told the women it was pointless. After all, Pilate had ordered the chief priests and Pharisees to take a guard and make the tomb as secure as possible. They’d even put a seal on the stone besides posting an armed guard. What point was there in going to look at the tomb? The deed had been done, the miracle-working Christ had been killed. It was a stupid idea. But something inside the women’s hearts tugged them toward the tomb. The heart has reasons the mind knows nothing about. Perhaps it was their faith pulling them there – He who had been right about so many things could not be wrong about this. And God has a way of taking what seems stupid to the wise and turning it into His crowning glory, exceeding the capacities of His creatures.

          Matthew’s account of the events which unfolded early that morning presents us with 5 “G’s” as hooks on which to hang the story. First, GRIEF: v1 “After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.” When someone dies, to those who have been most closely attached to them, the things associated with them become extra special. I recall one family that made their deceased teenage son’s room into a sort of “shrine”. People are drawn to cemeteries to place flowers at the grave of family members. We see crosses at the roadside where there’s been a fatal traffic accident. Grief draws us like a magnet to the place of burial, to the photos, the personal articles we associate with those we’ve loved.

          As we come with the women to the tomb at dawn today, are there things you’re grieving? Relationships or harsh realities that didn’t turn out the way you expected? Loss of health or wealth, some dashed hope? Maybe you can relate a bit to how disheartened the two Mary’s must have felt. But they didn’t see how this could be the conclusion of the plot for the miracle-working, truth-teaching, hypocrisy-confronting Rabbi from Galilee. And so maybe even in your present grief, God has another chapter coming.

          Besides Grief, there are GUARDS. V4 mentions the guards that had been posted by the religious leaders. They would be armed to prevent robbery or interference of any kind, and they had sealed the stone on the tomb to lock in the body.

          If Grief is about LOSS, “Guards” are about LIMITATIONS. Something’s locked you out. You’re hitting a brick wall. What’s holding you back? Finances, perhaps – always too much “month” and not enough “money”? Is it limited physical ability – your age is slowly creeping up on you and affecting how much you can do? Is it lack of time – never enough hours in the day to accomplish what you’d like to do? Or limitations of a different sort – maybe someone in your past has fed some negative thoughts into your head that always rise up to jinx you, that become an invisible wall stopping you from taking that next step. Somebody’s said, “You’re not bright enough” or pretty enough or strong enough; “You’ll never amount to anything.” In our subconscious, those curses from the past have powerful force to hold us back, to block us from becoming who God designed us to be. What forces are “guarding” you negatively, blocking your way, intimidating you?

          But God’s ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts than our thoughts (Is 55:9). No matter what our griefs and guards, our losses and limitations, the Almighty God has some surprises in store for those who come to Him. Call this the GOLLY factor! Now the word “golly” is not in Matthew’s text, but that would be our reaction if we witnessed vv2-3: “There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.” GOLLY! V4 “The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.”

          An angel is a messenger of God, one sent at His command to enact His will. God’s POWER is linked to His PROMISE, His stated purpose. When God shows up, when He steps into the middle of our most despairing circumstances, sparks will fly! Stand back! Jesus had pointedly predicted to His disciples on at least 3 occasions that He’d be crucified, dead, and then rise from the dead, but it didn’t seem to register with them. The angel Gabriel had reminded Jesus’ mother before His birth, “Nothing is impossible with God.” (Lk 1:37) In Matthew 19(26) Jesus had looked at His disciples and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” At Gethsemane, wrestling with the agonizing decision about going to the cross with its ultimate pain and shame, Jesus prayed, “Abba Father, everything is possible for You.” And the Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 3(21) that our Lord Jesus “by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Never underestimate God’s power – faith allows for a “golly” factor! Don’t dismiss God out of the equation of your life circumstances. All things are possible with Him – Resurrection morning is proof of that!

          Grief - Guards - Golly - the 4th G is GREETING. The empty tomb is one thing – the apostle John seemed convinced even just by the way the graveclothes were laid out with the body seemingly vaporized from between them – but Christian faith is not based on the lack of something. Vv8-9 “So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.Suddenly Jesus met them.‘Greetings,’ he said.They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him.”

          Somewhere, back centuries ago, at the very first of all these Easter celebrations, historically definitely spatially and in-time, somebody met a risen Jesus bodily present. They could clasp His feet. They had come expecting a place - to look at a tomb - but they encountered a Person. He greeted them; and so He meets us today, one-on-one, challenging us as He did Martha outside her brother’s tomb – “I am the resurrection and the life.He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.Do you believe this?” (Jn 11:25f)

          For any other religious system, take away its founder and the system still stands more or less, as a body of teaching, a system of principles. But Christianity is different: without its founder, it just doesn’t work, it makes no sense. You can never reduce Christian faith to a bunch of rules to live by: at its core is the God-Man who seeks relationship with YOU, greeting you, inviting you to follow Him and know Him and take up His cross and live with Him eternally! Will you grasp that – Him – clasp His nail-pierced feet?

          The last “G” this morning is GO. What did the angel tell the women in vv6-7? “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.Come and see the place where he lay.Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee.There you will see him.’” And what did Jesus tell the women when He met them? V10 “Do not be afraid.GO and tell my brothers to GO to Galilee; there they will see me.”

          GO...The Good News about Jesus is not something stationary that we can polish like a silver trophy and keep on a shelf, to look at once in a while and feel good. “That’s what I believe; isn’t it exquisite?!” No, the Easter message is dynamic, portable, meant to be taken on the road wherever you go and to whomever you meet: “He has risen! He’s alive! YOU can meet Him, too! History will never be the same again.” And my story will never be the same again – because knowing Him transforms all my griefs and limitations. His power shakes and shapes me, His forgiveness and mercy receive and redeem me, His love heals and holds me. Because HE lives, life for me will be from now on forever different, guided and guarded by His divine hand.

          So – what are you waiting for? You’ve got truly Good News to share! Let’s “go quickly and tell His discples.” Let’s pray.