The Lord Has Risen [From The Dead]
"Good Morning" From Christ
1. When we read the scriptures, there are several passages that spontaneously bring a smile to our faces and make us laugh. The passage we read today is one of them, especially verse nine. "Thus, as Jesus met those who had come and as he said, 'Good morning,' the women came up to him and embraced the feet of Jesus, and bowed before him," (verse nine). In the version by the Bible Society which I used to use, the word Jesus used [for "Good morning"] is translated "Be at peace." Yet, this is not a religious word in particular. In the original Greek it is a quite typical word for saying hello. So, it would be appropriate to translate this as "good morning," since it was morning. But, in spite of this being the usual way of greeting, the greeting "good morning" was unexpected [here]. These women were at the very depths of despair only moments ago. They lost their hopes because of the Lord Jesus' death and were in such a state they hardly felt like living anymore. Jesus appeared to them at that point. He had risen from the dead. For them a tremendous thing, enough to topple the universe, took place. But, Jesus just says, "Good morning." He should have done something more, like saying something a bit more spiritual or serious sounding. Nevertheless the phrase used by Jesus was very simplistic and in a certain sense it was a down to earth word having the fragrance of life. Matthew tells us that it was the first words Jesus used after his resurrection.
2. Incidentally, we have another narrative that Luke told. Based on the way Luke passed on the story, the risen Christ was eating cooked fish in front of his disciples. He was devouring it up. (Luke 24:43) Of course, he had a theological purpose in providing a proof against some mistaken understanding of the resurrection. But, despite that, isn't his description sort of the kind that tempts us to laughter? The disciples were at the depths of despair. Just shortly before. They had lost the Lord and were almost no longer able to live. Jesus appeared to them at that moment. He had beaten death. In addition, no matter how you think about it, a resurrection was an event that lied outside the human experience. We would expect it to be truly a mystery of mysteries that is completely unexplainable. Since the resurrection must be such an event, he didn't have to be standing there and eating fish at his resurrection of all events, did he? This again is Luke telling us about a risen Christ as a very down to earth character.
3. Yet, while this indeed makes me crack a smiling face, and as I read this passage again just this recently, I thought again that "Oh, is this really [all] that he was [trying] to say in this message on the resurrection in [Matthew's gospel account]?"
4. Make no mistake, this story is not from the genre of a children's bed time story. That's right, we should not forget that this is a story which was read, heard and passed on under very severe circumstances. There was persecution going on. There were all sorts of heavy burdens in the every day lives of Christians. There were hardships and hard times. Furthermore, since its inception never has one hundred years passed but that there has been unending confusion within the church. We can already see in the New Testament traces of a debate in many forms over what the resurrection from the dead really means. But for those living under such severe circumstances Matthew actually tells a simplistic word of greeting, a "good morning" from the risen Lord.
5. Can't you hear him calling out, "First of all, let's all be happy together in rejoicing over the resurrection of the Lord?"
6. "Good morning" from the Lord. These words were not out of some kind of high spirituality or deep thought to which only certain special people can attain. Neither were these words out of some unique mystery which only a limited number of people can experience. They are normal expected words from daily life where ordinary people like us laugh and cry. It was a "good morning" from the Lord to us who live such a very normal expected lifestyle. What is echoing out from this gospel as it relates such a phrase [of 'good morning"] to us is this message: "Perhaps we may be having a great deal of severity and trouble in our every day affairs, but won't we somehow or other live rejoicing in the resurrection of the Lord?" Therefore, today I would like, before [we do] anything else, for us to rejoice together. I would like us to focus our attention together on the message by the apostle on the resurrection, to respond together and to rejoice together.
The Rock Over The Tomb Rolled Away
7. So then let's focus our attention together on what the gospel is telling us. What do we have written here? The Sabbath had ended. It was the first day of the week. It was Sunday. Mary Magdalene and another Mary went to see about the tomb. They were headed for the Lord Jesus who had been crucified. They were going to the Lord Jesus who was in his grave. About all they could do for him was to anoint his decaying corpse with perfume and spices. What humans can do is limited. Human beings can't do much about death but are powerless. So, they went to his tomb to do what they could at least do.
8. But what did they see there? They saw an opened tomb. It was a tomb dug out of rock. Its entrance was supposed to be blocked by a large stone. The rock it had was moved out of the way. An angel of the Lord was sitting on it. It says in the text that an angel of the Lord had rolled the stone to the side and sat on it. The angel said, "Do not be afraid. You might be looking for Jesus who had been crucified, but he is not here. Just as he had told you before, he rose again [from the dead]. So please look where his remains had been lying," (verses five and six). After the angel said, "please look," they naturally took a look there. There was no body of the Lord Jesus [to be found]. It was an empty tomb inside.
9. The rock over the tomb had been rolled away. The four gospels are uniform in their transmission of this. But, it wasn't the fact itself of the rock getting rolled away that was important. The rock could have been moved by any number of adults pulling together. And we know that, generally speaking, rolling away the rock from the tomb doesn't make any difference in the situation. Because even if the tomb were opened, the gate way to death was not. Even if the grave had opened, a corpse was still a dead body unchanged. Bones stay bones. When the church has the ceremony to lay a deceased person's ashes at his or her grave, they open the grave. The bones are one thing there inside that don't change. After you close up the grave they return back to where they were. If what was written in this text was the same kind of thing, perhaps there wouldn't be much value in what they wrote. But, as the four gospels dared to record this, it must be because the stone which was rolled away was symbolic of a very major event. It meant that death itself (not just a tomb) was no longer confining.
10. I suppose the image of a sealed tomb clearly demonstrates the reality of death. It is a world of gloom with no escape. That is where a corpse lies. But, when you give it some thought, being shut in by death is not necessarily confined to only the dead. I would say the living lie there too.
11. Death is not at the forefront of human life. I wouldn't say that a person is unconcerned with death until one gets there. Some have said, "A person carries the burden of death on one's back while he or she also lives." [A human life is] like both sides of the same card. At a particular time one flips over on one's backside. At the back of the card of one's life death takes an authoritative existence. In other words, our lives could be described as already imprisoned within the confines of death. A grave is not just a place one soon enters for ever. You might say our lives are in graves already. Because [our lives] get shut in within the confines of death.
12. I think that the confining of a person's life imprisoned within death is seen even in the lives we live by habit unconsciously. Why do people end up getting shoved about by what happens right before their eyes? Why can't we see things calmly and with composure? Everyone knows "taking the long perspective of things and seeing the big picture" is important, but in practice no one can see that way. Why is that? Because we know that time is limited. As long as people carry death on their backs and are imprisoned in death, there will be a hedge of limitation around their lives. They know there is no turning back They know that they cannot go back to the starting point. They know that when [things] fall apart they cannot pile them back up again. When things break for good, they know they cannot be rebuilt again. You can see things at your ease only when there is another chance. When there is no more possibility of redoing, you can take the long-term view no more.
13. However, a hole was opened on death which had imprisoned humanity in its darkness. Moreover, the hole was pretty big. The stone was rolled away. That is the event written about here. Who rolled it away? The angel rolled it away. In the Bible when an angel comes on the scene, it represents the fact that God is taking part in the situation. That He opened death means it is a miracle of God. We have here something impossible for man or woman to do. Of course human effort is valuable, but we have something here impossible to do on human effort. Humans cannot by themselves overcome death. Help does not come from the grave but must come from outside the grave. Salvation does not come from human beings locked up in death but must come from beyond death. And salvation has come. The stone was rolled away. The four gospels told us this fact first of all and with joy.
The Resurrection Of The Lord Jesus
14. However, this miracle of God, the event of salvation, still did not result in joy and hope for these two women [named] Mary. God had certainly rolled away the stone. But, this event still did not result in their salvation. The marvelous spectacle they were seeing only brought them fear.
15. So then, what did the angel do? First he said, "Don't be afraid." Then he told them of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. What they should have understood was not merely the fact that the tomb was opened, but the fact that the Lord Jesus had risen. "You might be looking for Jesus who had been crucified, but he is not here. Just as he had told you before, he rose again [from the dead]. So please look where his remains had been lying," (verses five and six). So the messenger showed them inside the opened tomb. The Lord Jesus wasn't there in it. "He is not here." What the angel's words symbolize is the fact that the Lord Jesus was no longer inside of "death." It didn't just mean that he wasn't in the tomb. That's why he said, "He has risen from the dead." [He was referring to] this Jesus who had been crucified and whom they had been searching for among death. This very one was no longer in death. He was standing outside of death. This is the fact that he was making known to them.
16. Then, what happened? Jesus who was no longer locked up in death, [that is] the Christ who was standing outside of death had come to meet the two women [named] Mary who were imprisoned within death. With the message of "good morning" they approached Jesus, embraced his feet, and bowed before him. "They bowed before him" -- this phrase is repeated thirteen times in The Gospel According To Matthew. When it first appears it does in the actions of the wise men of astrology who had come from the east to visit baby Jesus. These [magi] bowed themselves before Jesus. When it last appears in [Matthew] it is in chapter twenty-eight and verse seventeen. In that text the disciples laid themselves prostrate before the Lord. This phrase means the worship of the Lord Jesus. This subject [of worshipping the Lord Jesus] permeates the gospel from beginning to end. Here in this text these two women [by the name of] Mary are also depicted as worshippers of the savior who conquers death and stands outside of death.
17. What is happening in this text? The event of the stone getting rolled away is connected by the worshipping by the two Marys of the risen Lord. It was because the risen Christ made an announcement to them, they had met the risen Christ, they worshipped the risen Christ, and they were with the risen Christ that they had stopped being people confined to death.
18. The stone rolled away. The Lord rose up from the dead. The angel made the announcement to the women about the resurrection of the Lord. Then, he said to the two of them, "Hurry and inform the disciples." The [same] women who had met the Lord Jesus also made the announcement of the resurrection of the Lord to the disciples. This event took place on that Sunday. In addition, the resurrection of the Lord has been announced for generation after generation and has been told all the way to us as well.
19. What happened on that Sunday happens on this Sunday, too. We who are with him who conquered death are no longer confined within the darkness of death. We may have some of the burdens of every day life. The struggle of life does continue. There might have been times we have been struck down by sorrows. But if we are with Christ we are not confined to the gloomy darkness of death. The light of life shines into our lives. A heavenly wind blows in from out of the gates of death which have been flung open. Our joy lies in this. Our hope is here. We don't need to be some kind of special human being. As [normal] people who conduct business as usual, we are invited to live with joy over the resurrection of the Lord. Today is Easter. Let's have great joy. The Lord is risen!