Easter Sermon: Matthew 28:1-10

Could there be a more glorious day than this?  For this day, the day of Jesus’ resurrection, will blaze forever in its glory and beam forth the light of heaven.  Indeed, this day, the day of Jesus’ resurrection, is by far the most glorious day of all time.  For Christ is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia! 

Earlier, during the Lenten season, we have been looking for Christ’s glory hidden in the cross.  And now on this day, that glory of the cross, that glory on and in the cross, reaches its incomparable peak! 

But notice yet again what we have noticed all through Lent.  Every step of the way in Lent there was glory, but it was a hidden glory.  And even today–this most glorious day of all time–the glory of Christ is still hidden.   

Did you notice that in St. Matthew’s report?  Who appears as glorious?  It’s not Jesus.  No, it’s the angel!  The angel descended from heaven, pried open the tomb, and sat on the stone that sealed its opening.  The angel’s appearance was like lightning.  His appearance was so glorious that those hardened soldiers who would stare death in the face fainted at the sight of the angel.  Stunned and terrified, they fell to the ground like dead men. 

When the women arrive at the tomb, the soldiers had recovered and were gone.  But the angel, so glorious in appearance, is still there.  He speaks to the women, who expect to find the dead body of Jesus.  For they awoke early Sunday morning to anoint Jesus, to finish the funeral rites that they had left unfinished on Good Friday. 

Yet, to their amazement, the women see an open tomb, for the stone had been pushed aside.  They see only an angel, who frightens them by his glorious appearance.   

The angel’s message, however, is far more glorious than his appearance.  “Come and see,” the angel tells them.  “See, Jesus is not here in the house of the dead.  He has risen, just as He said He would do.  Go and tell the disciples.  He will see them in Galilee.” 

But isn’t that all a bit disappointing?  Don’t we want to see Jesus–on this most glorious day–looking even more glorious than the angel?  Don’t we want to see Him robed in splendor, His face shining like the sun, and His garments white as the light?  Don’t we want to see Him looking the way He will look on the Last Day?  Shouldn’t our sight of Him on this most glorious day match the glory of the event? 

Our flesh says, “Yes!”  For our flesh wants to walk by sight; it always wants the truths of faith confirmed.  But our faith says, “No.”  For faith let’s God be God.  Imagine if Jesus did appear in all His glory.  If the angel caused the soldiers to faint in fear and filled the hearts of the women with fright, what, then, would have happened if Jesus blazed forth in all His resurrection glory?   

Jesus didn’t come to intimidate the women, or us, by His appearing that day.  For He has not come to terrify, but to comfort and console.  A day will come for His appearance in all His majesty and glory.  That day will be the Last Day–not Easter, not today. 

So even on Easter Sunday, Jesus hides His glory.  He meets the women in the same humble form that they knew and recognized during the earlier three years.  Oh, how different they reacted to Jesus’ appearance than to the angel’s.  They have no fear or dread.  They do not flee in fright.  Instead, they run to Jesus–not from Him!  They fall down before Him in worship.  For Christ is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!  

Indeed, Jesus has not come to terrify, but to comfort.  For He has finished His work of Good Friday.  He has forgiven your sin and washed it away in His blood.  And now is the day to proclaim the glory of that victory! 

But the glory of Christ’s victory is not in His appearance or form.  It is in His words.  In two short sentences, Jesus sums up the entire glory of Lent, the entire glory of Easter, and the entire glory of the Gospel.  He tells the women, “Don’t be afraid.  Go and tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.”  So don’t be afraid!   

Fallen with Adam and Eve in the garden, our sin separated us from God.  Death was our lot in this life, and hell our future in the next.  But Jesus died and has risen.  He did exactly what He said He would do and what was prophesied of Him already in the Garden of Eden.  He went into battle for us on the cross.  And He won.   

Easter Sunday is the proof of Christ’s victory.  Jesus paid for our sin.  So don’t be afraid.  Jesus has conquered hell!  So don’t be afraid.  Jesus has triumphed over the grave!  So don’t be afraid. 

But how can I know that Jesus did everything He did for me?  Could Jesus have chosen to save others but not me?  Listen again to Jesus’ words to the women: “Go and tell my brothers!”  What an incredible statement!  He calls the disciples His brothers!   

But didn’t they fall asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane after Jesus asked them that to watch and pray?  Didn’t they run away at the first sign of trouble, when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus?  Weren’t they all disloyal like Peter, who denied Jesus with curses when he was accused of being a disciple?  

Those disciples don’t deserve to be called His brothers!  And that’s exactly the point.  That’s exactly the glory of Easter.  The disciples don’t deserve it–and neither do we!  Yet, through faith, that is what we are to Jesus–brothers! 

For Jesus has taken our sins and buried them in the grave.  In Romans, chapter 6, the Apostle Paul says that our sins are buried in Jesus’ grave when we are baptized into Him.  He wrote:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  Therefore, we were buried with Him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too can walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united with Him in the likeness of His death, we will also be united with Him in the likeness of His resurrection. (Romans 6:3-5)

Since our sins are now buried in the grave, Jesus has no reason not to call us “brothers.”   

When Jesus calls you a “brother,” that’s another way for Him to say, “Don’t be afraid!”  You are by faith and through your baptism a dear, precious, beloved child of God.   

Behold, the glory of Easter!  Jesus died.  Now He has risen and will never die again!  You are redeemed!  Your sin is gone!  Hell is conquered!  The grave is destroyed!  For Christ is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!  

Yet, see how gentle Jesus is with us, how kind and considerate.  Does He shine forth in all His resurrection glory, which would only suffocate us in fear?  No, in His love and mercy, He still hides His glory.  He hides His glory in the preached Word.  He hides his glory in baptism, in absolution, and in His Supper, where His Word makes the sacrament a Sacrament.  That’s where we find His glory.   

Did you notice how our Gospel reading highlighted that fact?  Jesus promised that He would rise.  And He tells the women to report that to the disciples.  Yet, Jesus doesn’t immediately show Himself to His disciples.  He wants them to depend on–and believe in–the proclaimed Word.  He highlights that again when He tells the women to add this detail: He will see the disciples in Galilee. 

Again, Jesus wants them to remember this truth–to rely on His Word.  For soon His visible presence will be gone when He returns to heaven on the 40th day.  But His real-and-enduring presence will go on.  Jesus will be with His own until the end of time, just as He promised, in His Word and Sacraments (Matthew 28:19-20). 

So, then, do you want to find the glory of Easter?  If so, you’ve come to the right place!  For here–where Jesus’ Word is proclaimed and His Sacraments are celebrated–here, you will find His glory.   

To you–no less than to the disciples–Jesus says:

Don’t be afraid.  I am not coming to you this moment in majesty and might.  I am coming to you with a hidden power and glory in my Word.  That Word announces and declares that your sin is forgiven.  So don’t be afraid.  That Word is being proclaimed, right now, in this sermon.  So don’t be afraid.  That Word will make mere bread and wine my body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins.  So don’t be afraid. 

Jesus says:

Yes, tomorrow you will still have problems and temptations.  Yet, don’t be afraid.  For, I have died, but now I am alive.  I will not leave you or abandon you.  I know the grave lies ahead of you.  But don’t be afraid.  For I have conquered death in my death.  And because I live, you also will live.  I have defeated the last enemy, death, and the grave is now but a portal to life eternal. 

Indeed, Christ is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!