Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 April 4, 2021
“He Is Risen”
We have been building toward this day for weeks—and with special intensity last week. We cry, of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, “He is risen! He is risen indeed!” Indeed, our Lord Jesus is risen—and, by virtue of His resurrection, He stands victorious over sin, death, the grave, and hell. Let’s hear today one Biblical testimony, the Spirit-led testimony of Matthew, to this incontrovertible fact. May the Holy Spirit indeed quicken His Word to our souls today.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
Today’s text cleaves neatly into three smaller blocks. First, women come to the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, in which Jesus’ body was laid less than forty-eight hours ago. These two women, Mary Magdalene and one whom Matthew calls the other Mary, behold most unusual things that early Sunday morning long ago. They see the large stone, sealed the day before by the Roman authorities, rolled away from the mouth of the tomb. They see an angel of the Lord sitting on the stone he rolled away previously, with appearance as lighting and clothes white as snow. They also see those guarding the tomb both trembling with fear and being as dead men—a remarkable fact, considering that these guards are seasoned, hardened Roman soldiers. Yet the spectacle—an earthquake, brilliant light, an angel, and something else—overwhelms them, and they get no comfort from on high. These women do receive comfort—to staggering degree—in our text’s second block.
The angel, glorious in apparel and mighty in deed, speaks to the women (5-7). He speaks first a word of assurance, “Fear not.” Again, the women saw and experienced all that the soldiers did, and, hence, we understand if they fear—but they alone receive angelic reassurance. Then the angel declares the incontrovertible fact of the ages: Jesus is risen, just as He said. The angel tells the women that He is not here, in Joseph of Arimathea’s borrowed tomb, and then he invites them to come and to see the place where Jesus lay—as further evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. Then he issues these women commands. He urges them to go quickly and to tell Jesus’ disciples that He is risen from the dead, that He goes before them into Galilee, and that there they will meet Him. With the angel’s speech now ended, these ladies comply quickly with his directive—and this compliance begins our passage’s third block.
The women depart from the tomb (8-10): quickly, as commanded, with fear and great joy intermingled—as we might expect. As they hasten to tell Jesus’ disciples the news, and as they come to grips with what they saw and heard at the tomb, Jesus meets them. He says, “Greetings” (or “Rejoice ye.”). Upon this sight and sound, the women approach Jesus, take hold of His feet, and worship (or bow the knee to) Him. He then restates, in His familiar, beloved voice, what the women heard earlier: Jesus commands them not to be afraid, and then He commands them to go and to tell His brothers to go to Galilee, for there they will see Him. Presumably, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, now likely more filled with great joy than with fear, complete their holy errand—for the eleven remaining disciples went into Galilee, according to Matthew 28:16.
The resurrection is a momentous event, to say the least, and the tidings concerning it are momentous as well. Yet some, from those never acquainted with Jesus and His Gospel to certain under-informed Christians, may well ask, “Why does this matter?” The Apostle Paul, a quarter-century after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, states our fundamental problem, and its solution, well in his first letter to the Corinthian Christian households. First, he states the problem: “For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:16-19). Then, without interruption, Paul continues to the solution: “But, in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:20-21). Let us now sum the whole.
Because Jesus lives, we have forgiveness of sin in His atoning death. Because Jesus lives, we have life abundant (John 10:10) and eternal (John 3:16) in His resurrection life. More than this, because Jesus lives, certain other truths bear upon our lives—and for these, we refer to the well-beloved Christian song “Because He Lives.”
Because Jesus lives, we can face tomorrow—no matter the exertion or grief it may bring. Because He lives, all fear is gone. These are true because Jesus holds the future. He is already there, and He orders those events—as we arrive at them in time and space—for His glory and for our good. Hence, as Bill and Gloria Gaither rightly affirm, “And life is worth the living just because He lives.”
Indeed, because Jesus lives—as proven by His resurrection—we shall live also (cf. John 14:19). Therefore, let us rejoice exceedingly this day in Jesus’ resurrection—both within ourselves and with one another.
 Greek chairete (cairete)—from chairein (cairein): to rejoice.
 Greek proskuneo (proskunew).
 “Because He Lives,” words and music by William J. and Gloria Gaither (1971).