The resurrection was an event that changed the world, but how?
Seismic Events Change Things
Have you ever come across a big pond or lake. The water is completely calm and flat.
Then you throw a stone in the lake. Where the stone lands, there is a big splash, but then ripples spread out from the splash point and the whole lake is changed.
In the same way an earthquake or seismic event happens in one place, but the vibrations from the event spread out and soon the whole landscape is changed!
Sometimes there are moments or events in history, that happen in one place, but their effects spread out and change the whole world.
Recently, the outbreak of Covid in Wuhan in China, was such an event. The disease spread out from there and changed the whole world!
Of course, earthquakes and diseases are terrible events, that change the world for the worse – at least in the short term. Yet, today we remember an event that transformed the world for the better.
In our reading today, Matthew tells us about an earthquake, when the angel comes down and rolls the stone away from the tomb. What Matthew is hinting at is that something had happened that was going to change the whole world!
So how does the resurrection change things. What was the world like before the resurrection and what is it like after the resurrection?
I want to consider things from the perspective of ordinary people and especially those who followed Jesus. There are three things we can say about them, that is true for many of us when we have not fully understood the implications of the Resurrection.
The first is a life ultimately ruled by fear. In the first century, this is how the Roman’s ruled. Basically, it was do as I say or else we will kill you. The Romans were bullies and the ultimate means of bullying people was to crucify them.
So, when Jesus was crucified by the Romans as ‘the King of the Jews’, they were saying, this is what happens to anyone who does not do what we say. They controlled people with fear and there did not seem to be anyway to stand up against them.
Ultimately, the fear of being killed or even the fear of death can be something that controls us all. Of course it is not just death, but fear of all kinds of other things as well – fear of being criticised, fear of being lonely, fear of being poor. Such fears are often used to control us.
When Jesus was arrested and crucified, the disciples hid in fear of being arrested and killed themselves. The Romans and the leaders in Jerusalem, seemed to have the power of life and death. They were the ones to fear.
Secondly, people tend to be naturally deaf to what God is saying to them. That was certainly true of the leaders in Jerusalem who refused to listen to Jesus and had him killed in order to silence him.
But even the disciples did not hear Jesus properly. He told them again and again that he was going to die and rise again, but they did not want to hear that he was going to die. He told Peter that he would deny even knowing him, but Peter did not want to hear that he would let Jesus down. The disciples followed Jesus they learnt from him, but they were deaf to the things he said that they found difficult.
Thirdly, people tend to fail to be the kind of people God wants them to be. Pilate failed to uphold justice and had Jesus killed even though he thought he was innocent. The Jewish leaders failed to welcome God’s son, but instead had him killed.
Even the disciples failed Jesus. Peter when Jesus was arrested, followed him to the courtyard where he was on trial, but when asked whether he was a follower of Jesus denied even knowing him. As Jesus died, Peter must have felt an utter failure.
So, when Jesus was dead and buried, the disciples had good reason to be afraid, they were deaf to what Jesus had told them would happen and they felt like they had failed Jesus big time.
But then there was a seismic event! Jesus was raised from the dead!
So how was the world changed by the resurrection?
Firstly, Fear is turned to hope.
With Jesus dead and buried it looked like the bullying power of Rome was to be feared. There was no hope of anything other than being under their power or the power of whoever was strongest.
But, when Jesus rose from the dead, that threat and that power was completely undermined. This is shown almost comically in Matthew’s gospel. The soldiers guarding the tomb are completely terrified by the angel that comes to open the tomb and reveal it is empty! The forces that killed Jesus are powerless in the face of his resurrection.
Now there is hope. The fear of death has no more sway, if the God of Jesus Christ has power over death. We may one day face death, but we can have a confident hope of life with God forever more, if we are on the side of Jesus.
Secondly, the deaf can now hear the truth.
When the angel explains to the women what has happened, he says Jesus has risen, ‘just as he said.’
Before the resurrection, the disciples did not believe the things that Jesus said that just sounded crazy. Now, they can see that all that Jesus said was true. The resurrection proves that Jesus is right. They can now properly hear and understand his words and teaching.
Now they can go and make disciples of all nations, because only now have they come to fully trust in Jesus’s words. When we see that Jesus is the one who rose from the dead, just as he said, then we realise that we have to hear what he says and obey it.
Thirdly, the resurrection shows us that those who fail are welcomed as part of God’s clan.
The disciples failed Jesus. If he had stayed dead, then their failure would have remained. But, he came back from the dead and the key thing he says to the women, is to tell the disciples that he will see them again. As he does so he calls, them ‘my brothers’. In other words, they are now family, they are part of the clan!
The resurrection shows us that God’s ultimate aim is to welcome back those who have failed to live for him into his family, his clan. He came to create a new people, to live out this resurrection life, to hear his words and to have hope and not fear!
Has the resurrection changed your life?
So, has the resurrection changed your life.
Do you live in fear or hope? Are you deaf to what God is saying through Jesus or are you ready to hear him?
Do you feel that you are too much of a failure for God or do you recognise that he wants to welcome you into his clan?
Have the ripples of the resurrection event on that first Easter Sunday reached your heart yet?
Maybe this Easter Sunday, you need to take notice of the radical change that the resurrection has brought about and invite God to come into your life and change you, to bring you from death to life.