Video - Easter Day
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
Matthew 28:1-10
April 12, 2020

The Resurrection of Jesus Empowers Faith and Hope

Matthew 28:1-10

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia.

The Apostle Matthew tells about the day that Jesus rose from the dead. It began early in the morning at dawn. The sun was beginning to come up. Jesus rose from the dead as the sun rose above the horizon. The sun dispelled the darkness of night, shining its light on a new day. Jesus dispels the darkness of death. He brings peace and empowers faith and hope.

Of course, the sun always rises according to the laws of nature. It’s unfortunate that in our day and age, the laws of nature and Jesus’s resurrection have been set against each other. God created the laws of nature, but people have often used them to assert that Jesus’s resurrection could not have happened. There is no contradiction, however, as far as God is concerned. God created the laws of nature for their own purposes. The resurrection operates according to its own rationale, for its own purposes, for its own reasons. To set them against each other is an unfortunate misunderstanding. We human beings do not live by the laws of nature alone.

Two days ago we read the account of Jesus’s suffering and death. Jesus was innocent of the charges the human authorities brought against Him as the reason for putting Him to death. This was not just. They used law and judicial proceeding to put an innocent man to death. Judas, Jesus’s friend, betrayed Him to the authorities. He became part of their unjust scheme.

We also saw how Jesus’s disciples were afraid. Peter denied Jesus three times; not just once, three times. At the last supper he boasted confidently that he was ready to die with Jesus, but he boasted in his own strength. In his own strength, he failed. When they pressed him about being a follower of Jesus, he denied it out of fear. The other disciples ran away as well. They were afraid.

Jesus was also innocent of any sin before God. Yet, we talked about on Good Friday how He was our substitute under God’s just judgment against our sin under God’s holy and righteous Law. The innocent One became sin under God’s law so that we sinners could be regarded by God as righteous before Him. So we talked about how this can make us sad because it was so unfair that Jesus, the innocent one, should have to die our death in our place.

 On Good Friday of that first Holy Week, there was much fear, sadness, and sorrow.

But today, we see the reversal of these things. Jesus lives. He speaks peace to us. Peter sees Jesus alive again. Jesus sees Peter again. Jesus says to Peter: “Peace to you.”

I bet Peter thought that Jesus was going to say something else to him. How could you deny me Peter? How could you abandon me? You are useless.

There was none of that. Jesus lives, in spite of Peter’s denial. Jesus lives. He lives to speak peace to him. He speaks peace to all of them. The living Jesus calls them brothers.

And He lives to speak peace to us. Our sins put Jesus on that cross and laid him in the tomb. But He lives. He is risen. He says to us: “I forgive you all your sins. Peace to you.” Now we see that Jesus being put to death for our sins does not end in His death. It ends in His life. He rises from the dead. The sentence of death against us is satisfied and reversed. He lives. God answers the sadness of Good Friday with joy.

Matthew’s account of Jesus’s resurrection has a couple of wonderful details in it. First, the angel speaks to Mary Magdalene and the, quote, “other” Mary, the mother of James the less (not James the brother of John) and Joses or Joseph. The angel tells them that Jesus is not there. He has risen. He directs them to the place where His dead body was laid.

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had taken Jesus’s body down from the cross to bury Him. These two Marys had followed Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus when they put Jesus in the tomb. They not only saw where the tomb was, but they saw where Joseph and Nicodemus had laid Jesus.

Now the angel tells the Marys to see the place where Jesus had been laid. They knew that place. Now it is empty.

Then, as these two Marys are going to tell the disciples that Jesus was risen, Jesus greets them. They realize it is Jesus. What do they do? They fall at His feet. They take hold of His feet and worship him.

The important detail is the feet. Two days before they were at Golgotha where the soldiers crucified Jesus. They saw and heard the soldiers pound nails through His feet. They watched Him die there, hanging in such cruel agony. What sorrow? What rage? What despair? How could this happen?

Now on the morning of the Third Day He meets them. They are overwhelmed. They fall at His feet. They clutch the once nailed-pierced feet. He is alive. He is my God, my life, my hope. God reverses the injustice of Good Friday.

Now they can stand up again and tell Jesus’s brothers that He will see them in Galilee. It all began in Galilee. There He walked along the beach or past the tax booth and called to them: “Follow me, and you will catch men.” In Galilee, the risen Jesus will give them the great commission: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go. Make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:18-19). In Luke’s Gospel, the risen Jesus tells them to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:47).

We need reconciliation with God. Jesus died. Jesus rose. God is reconciled as far as He is concerned. He calls us to be reconciled to Him, in confessing our sins and hearing the risen Jesus forgive us. Then faith arises and gives us a new perspective on life.

We need a faith that God’s purposes prevail, whether in the smaller victories of this life, or in terms of the complete, total and ultimate victory and final judgment. We need this faith within our hearts when external circumstances seem to rage out of control in so many different ways; and when even our own bodies are threated with death; and then one day ultimately do wear out and cease to work anymore.

Here is the source and power of this faith. Jesus is risen. Hope burns bright and strong in our hearts because Jesus lives. Because Jesus lives, we rejoice, even in the middle of difficult, uncertain, and stressful times. God’s purposes will prevail. Jesus is risen. He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Now the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, the peace made possible because Jesus is risen, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.


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