But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” (Matthew 28:5-7)
These verses are from the Resurrection story in Matthew’s Gospel.
Many of you know that my daughter Annabel and I have just returned from the Holy Land, where we made a pilgrimage with our Bishop, Shane, and nearly 30 other pilgrims.
One of the last things we did in Jerusalem was to walk the Via Dolorosa and visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which according to tradition dating back to the 4th century, contains the sites of Jesus’s crucifixion and the tomb where he was buried. As I knelt at the site of the crucifixion, I felt an overwhelming heaviness, and profound grief. I had expected to feel this kind of emotion. What I felt at the site of the tomb, though, was unexpected! I thought I would feel similar grief and sadness there, but not so! What I felt, reverberating, was what we hear in Matthew’s Gospel: he is not here, for he has been raised as he said. He has been raised, and he has gone ahead to Galilee; there you will see him. We left Jerusalem and made our way to Galilee the very next day and we spent the remaining days of our pilgrimage there. The “he is not here” at the tomb was not absence, but rather a profound sense that Jesus was not in the tomb because in being raised, his presence saturates all of creation.
This – this saturating presence – is what we celebrate in the Resurrection. We celebrate this all the time, but especially on this feast of the Resurrection, Easter Sunday.
The Resurrection has never been about about cold hard facts. It’s not about a convincing telling of what happened with all the right details. It’s about God’s passionate and powerful love, made known in Jesus, saturating not only the walls of that empty tomb, but all of creation. It’s about the Resurrection – the Risen Christ – infusing our lives, infusing all of creation.
Matthew’s Gospel tells us that the women go – they run! – with both fear and joy. Jesus is raised, and that infuses their fear with deep assurance that lets them feel joy at the same time. God’s assurance in Jesus that death is not the strongest power, that love is, infuses all our dark emotions – especially fear – with joy, with hope, and with the potential for transformation.
May each of you feel that saturating presence this Easter. May your hearts and minds and souls be infused with the assurance that love is stronger than fear, stronger than death, stronger than anything. Every blessing to you and yours,