He is not here, He has risen - Rev Anne Hibbard
Updated: Apr 11
Matthew 27: 55-61; 28: 1-10
Don’t be afraid. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.
Today we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. However, it feels like the world, and even the church is in a tomb. Many of us are watching and waiting to see what will emerge when the coronavirus epidemic has run its course.
The focus for us today are the women who followed Jesus. Their example is for all disciples today, both women and men. These women in our story from the gospel of Matthew were in a place of watching. At the cross (v 55) we see many women watched from a distance what was happening to Jesus. They would have watched as the soldiers nailed him to the cross and cast lots for his clothes. They were watching when those passing by, the Jewish leaders and the rebels all mocked him. They would have seen when darkness came over the earth, and Jesus, calling out “Eli, Eli, Lema Sabachtani” and when he gave his final breath. They would have seen the earthquake, the rocks splitting and the change of attitude in the centurion and guards.
These women we hear had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. All of us need to come to Jesus for him to meet our needs, and especially to forgive our sin. But then in thankfulness we in turn care for him as the women did. This can be in our prayer devotion, but also as care for the least of Jesus’ brothers and sisters, knowing as we do it for them, we do it for him.
Among these women who cared for Jesus and who watching at the cross were Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of James and Joseph and the Mother of Zebedee’s sons. It is significant that these women didn’t stop watching even after Jesus died. They were there sitting opposite when Joseph of Arimathea placed Jesus in the tomb. Their duty of care wasn’t over. How hard it is for people during social isolation around the world who cannot honour their loved ones in the way they want who have died. We were made by our Creator to have extra energy in grieving to dig graves, and put our loved ones to rest.
Late last year, in that time when the air pollution was very bad in NSW because of the bush fires, my little dog Bonnie who was 15 years old died. My husband and I had cared for her through her heart disease going often to the vet for help. When she died, my care didn’t stop. I wanted to do something with her earthly remains that would honour her as the good little friend she had been to me. I
These women didn’t stop their role of caring for Jesus even though he had died. They wanted to care and honour his earthly remains and to put him to rest. They kept on watching over his body. It is significant that Jesus had asked the disciples to watch and pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, but instead they ended up deserting him and fleeing.
We are to watch and pray over the world, and the church during this season. It is tempting for us to get lost in depression, entertainment or addictions ourselves. A study researching how the first stimulus packages was spent, found that instead of food, or even technology, the most money was spent on online gambling. Another recent study found that most crime during the virus was going down in Australia, except for domestic violence which is going up. Let us be alert as the church and watch and pray over our own families, and the ones in our street.
But our story is not only about death, but more importantly today it is about life. After the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake for an angel of the Lord had come down from heaven and going to the tomb rolled away the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothes as white as snow. The guards there were so afraid that they became like dead men. The angel went to the women and said “Don’t be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 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.”
The women saw everything shaking. When Jesus died, the earth shook. At the empty tomb, the earth shook. When we are in an attitude of watching and praying instead of sleeping, we will know what to do when everything is shaking and changing around us. Instead of becoming like the guards so terrified they became like dead men, we can hear Jesus’ heart and shift and change our actions and purpose.
Instead of caring for Jesus’ earthly the women now are to tell others about Jesus’ resurrection, and to do it quickly. They hurry away afraid yet filled with joy to tell the others. On the way, Jesus meets them. He too tells them not to be afraid, but to go and tell his brothers that he has risen from the dead.
The women have been commissioned to be the first to tell others the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. They would have told them in words. Yes, we are to care for others in this time, but I believe it is also a time for us to tell the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. In this time of sorrow and death, the world is aching to hear the message the women spoke to the disciples. Both the guards and the women were afraid, yet the guards ended up telling lies for money, whilst the women spoke the truth.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the women who followed Jesus and kept watching out for him and caring for his needs even after his death. Thank you that in that place of watching they could hear the risen Lord’s call to tell others about his resurrection. Help us to keep on watching and praying during this season of social isolation. Grant that we may be ready when occasion demands to confess your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ in fresh words and deeds. In Jesus mighty name, Amen.
Christ is risen! He's risen indeed!