215: April 16, 2017
59: April 20, 2014
What makes this story different?
Lectionary cuts out guards at the tomb and the guards’ report, which is before and after this passage, and only found in Matthew.
Matthew’s inclusion of the guards reveals that there was a rumor that the disciples had stolen Jesus’ body.
Justin Martyr referred to this rumor a hundred years later (Douglas Hare, Interpretation: Matthew, p. 328)
“Matthew was attempting to answer a group of no-sayers by asserting that theft was not a possibility—that there were guards posted at the tomb when the women arrived "toward the dawn of the first day of the week." Therefore he added to the story a witness or two at the grave whose failure to see the tangible—to witness thieves in the night—might possibly help the rest of us to affirm the intangible: that one might rise from the dead” (Cynthia Jarvis, Interpretation, 42 no 1 Jan 1988, p 63-68)
Still - what does an empty tomb prove?
“The empty tomb is presented not as proof but as a sign of the resurrection. That the sign is ambiguous is indicated by the negative interpretation given to it by Jesus’ opponents (v. 15).” (Douglas Hare, Interpretation: Matthew, p. 330)
What is unique about Matthew?
They come to see the tomb
“Hauerwas does not begin with sad women carrying spices to anoint a dead body. He says: "Mary Magdalene and the other Mary believe what Jesus has promised, that after three days he will be raised."1 Because they believe what Jesus has promised, they go to see the tomb. Indeed, there is no mention of spices. No worry lines on account of the stone...they go, Matthew says plainly, to see the tomb.” (Kimberly Clayton, Journal for Preachers, 31 no 3 Easter 2008)
Earthquake-(Jerusalem was “earthquaked” on Palm Sunday, Earthquake at his death, the guards “quake”)
cf: Daniel 10:5-6 and Rev 1:14
Rolls away the stone
The Angel lied! Jesus appears on the way back to Jerusalem
Role reversal: Jesus who was dead is alive, Empire which was alive is now dead (the guards)
Worship is where is should be- focused on God, not Caesar
“Do not be afraid”
“The angel tells the people "no longer be afraid." This command concerning fear is in an on-going tense. We should never be afraid any more! Jesus has won. I would offer a pastoral way to hear the command to no longer be afraid. As Christians, we can no longer be afraid of grief. Not that we will avoid grief, but that we do not have to fear visiting the tomb. We can "go there" and mourn and even mourn with others. The power of the resurrection is revealed as we let our hearts experience the sadness of our goodbyes. Only one who knows they will say hello again can give a proper good-bye and miss a person!” (Rob Myalis, Lectionary Greek)
Angel’s words and Jesus words to the Marys
What are we afraid of?
Do we want Jesus to come back?
Do we truly want a crucified savior that asks us to give everything for the sake of the gospel...everything including our lives?
“When the angel says, "Do not be afraid," or when Jesus says, "Fear not," it is not assurance that nothing can go wrong, because often things do go wrong. It is not assurance that everything turns out for the best, because, if we are honest about it, it seldom does. Rather, it is assurance that, whatever may happen to us, whatever a day may hold, God has the power to strengthen us and uphold us; that whatever we must face, we do not face it alone; that nothing we encounter is stronger than God's love; that ultimately God gets the last word; that in the end—and sometimes even before the end—God's love is triumphant.”
Response is joy and fear.
Jesus’ first resurrected words are “Greetings. Do not be afraid…”
If following Jesus doesn’t scare you- you aren’t doing it right.
“See and Go”
See the tomb
See the earthquake
See where they laid him
See him there
Go to Galilee
Go tell my brothers
What are we called to “See”? Where are we called to “Go”?
“Come and See”/“Go and Tell”
Role of the women
Passion narrative begins and ends with women
Woman anointed Jesus with expensive perfume
Women watched the crucifixion
Women were not coming with burial spices. Coming simply to “see”
There is no mention of their fear at the earthquake
Their fear is “Fear and joy,” which is very different from terror.
Never are confused about who Jesus is.
Their first reaction at Jesus is appropriate.
“The Easter event is properly seen as God’s comment on Good Friday. It is not just a ‘superlative miracle,’ like the raising of Lazarus, but the resurrection of the crucified Messiah. Jesus cry of dereliction from the cross is answered. His obedience is honored by his Father. It is only in light of God’s affirmation that the disciples are able to understand Jesus’ death as a victory instead of a tragedy” (Hare, Interpretation: Matthew, p. 328-9).
The theme for all of the texts on Easter is God’s victory over death.
The resurrection is a sign that all Jesus did on earth should be carried on. The resurrection is proof that Jesus is Lord of the living and the dead - all things.
Peter’s Elevator Witness
Used to describe what Baptism and Christian faith are about
Fear of God - i.e. faith
Doing right - i.e. works
These are Peter’s words at the home of Cornelius, who had gathered friends and relatives to hear Peter. In the previous passage, it is revealed that Cornelius is a Roman Centurion, but “a righteous man, and a God-worshipper who is well-respected by all Jewish people.”
This setting is very important - and Peter even says so immediately before this speech, which is about God’s mercy being open to all.
Must be understood within context
Peter just had a vision that abolished the food laws of clean and unclean
Cornelius has a vision to summon Peter
Peter goes and preaches to and among gentiles
“What God has made clean, you must not call unclean” - this is basis of God’s impartiality
The Good News is for everyone
There are no cultural or ethnic requirements
God calls all people through Jesus Christ
Not new to scripture- Deuteronomy 10:17, “God is not partial and takes no bribe.”
New to Peter
Alan Gregory - Poetic rhythm of the story
You must fear God and do right
Jesus preaches peace to all people
Healing and freedom from oppression led to death
Jesus’ ministry was that of “doing good and healing everyone oppressed.” Jesus did this, and for it, he was killed.
Death is met is resurrection
Resurrection by judgement
Judgement with forgiveness
And we return to the impartiality of God
God is not partial to you or to your enemy- God is partial to reconciliation and forgiveness
How do we determine what is of Christ and what isn’t?
healing the oppressed
Whoever believes in him
Jesus or God?
If you do not believe in God or Jesus- do you care if you are forgiven?
An inclusive message to believers - NOT a message of judgement against unbelievers
Israel received the message first, but are not the exclusive receivers of the message
Immediately afterwards, this group of Romans began to speak in tongues, and were baptized.
After this episode with the Roman gentiles, Peter is questioned by the Jerusalem Church.
This is Peter’s 30 sec elevator witness - what is yours?
If God is impartial to Israel or the Jews, then isn’t God also impartial to the church? What does this mean for the church and our mission?
If God’s primary focus is forgiveness and reconciliation- How is the church living into this mission? How are each of us?
What cultural barriers stand in our way of participating in God’s mission? (just as not associating with Gentiles stood in Peter’s way)
Repeated text - do you go back to last year, or do you try to read it fresh?
What makes this story different?
Both Mt and Jn have angel talk to women first, but in John the tension is extended. Mystery drawn out.
Intimate exchange between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
Only place in John where Mary is referred to as “Mary Magdalene” are here and at the cross.
In fact, only place where “Mary Magdalene” occurs in all four gospels are at the cross and at the tomb.
Only exception: Luke 8:2:1Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him,2as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,3and Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.
“Woman why are you weeping?”
This is the a choice for a reading every Easter, years A, B, and C.
Early in the morning, while it is still dark. (Easter sunrise services?)
Mary Magdalene is alone. Sees that the stone is rolled away.
Mary gets Peter, but Peter is slow. Beloved Disciple gets there first.
Beloved Disciple - no where does Bible say that this is John.
Authorship of Gospel is anonymous.
BD stands at door, sees linens
Peter comes, runs in, saw linens, including face cloth folded neatly.
What does this signify? Not grave robbers? No grave robber would fold up the linens neatly.
BD then comes in. He “saw and believed.”
Raymond Brown says “The fourth evangelist does not challenge the tradition that Peter was the first of the Twelve to see the risen Lord (Luke 24:34, 1 Cor 15:5); but in his consistent desire to exalt the Beloved Disciple, John has that disciple come to faith even before the risen Lord appears or prophetic Scripture is recalled. Thus the Disciples becomes the first full believer.” (Raymond Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament, p. 359)
Unclear what, exactly, he believed. Next line is “They didn’t yet understand the scripture that Jesus must rise from the dead.”.
Perhaps they believed Mary’s report that “they had taken Jesus body.”
Peter and BD find empty tomb, believe, but don’t understand. Then they go back.
They come to check on Mary’s report, see that she is speaking the truth, but go back completely untransformed. The empty tomb wasn’t enough for them. In fact, this scene ends with Mary going back to tell them, but in the next scene they are still locked in a room.
Many bizarre details that are hard to make sense of.
Mary is alone but says, “we don’t know what they’ve done with him.”
Why are the linens so meticulously described? Face cloth folded, and placed apart from the rest.
Jesus Appears to Mary
“At the heart of the Gospel reading for Easter is the resurrection appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene, leading to her confession, ‘I have seen the Lord.’ The narrative tells a wonderful story of a seeking woman, who is surprised by what she finds, or better, by the One who finds her. Hearing her name spoken by Jesus’ familiar voice brings a transformation of her grief and the opening of a new world.” (Charles Cousar, Texts for Preaching, Year C, p. 273).
Mary lingers, crying.
Mourning is important. Cannot get to healing without mourning first. Resurrection does not take away tears, it just means tears are not the end of the story.
Two angels ask her “why are you crying?”
“They’ve taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve put him.”
Sees Jesus, but does not recognize him until he says her name.
When he speaks, “Mary,” she responds “Rabbi.”
There is a poignant beauty in her recognizing him only after he speaks her name. “My sheep listen to my voice.” (John 10:27 - will be the text in a couple of weeks)
Jesus tells her “Don’t hold on to me, for I haven’t yet gone up to my Father. Go to my brothers and sisters and tell them, ‘I’m going up to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.’
Relationship status is one of equality. Disciples are siblings. They share the same Father.
Translation issue - NRSV has only “Go to my brothers.” Not really a problem, but something to be aware.
Empty tomb is not good news, it is disturbing.
Practical issues are the first ones that Mary thinks of. She has work to do, to try and go back to normalcy.
A dead a body is moved, in a “normal” world, the only explanation is that someone else moved it.
Two disciples come, see it is empty, and believe not in the resurrection yet, but believe Mary’s testimony that the body is missing.
Resurrection does not occur until Mary’s name is spoken.
Everything that was once “normal” is broken.
There is a new normal. New life. New reality
Crucifixion, which was devised to not only kill, but to erase a person - level so much shame upon the name of the one crucified as to completely obliterate it - has been rendered impotent.
Preaching Thoughts and Questions
“The resurrection of Jesus is more than a miracle; it is an eschatological event that makes possible a radical style of new life. Closed world are broken open, and old perceptions of what is plausible and possible are shattered. The future becomes a promise of sharing in the resurrection” (Charles Cousar,Texts For Preaching: Year A,p. 255)
Can you remember the first time your name was spoken? What does it mean to have someone call you by name? Graduation - how great is it to actually hear the name read. Wedding - naming the couple is at the beginning, and always a part of the vows I Robb, take you, Sarah… What does it feel like to be called by name into resurrection.
Frederick Buechner: “They are not trying to describe it as convincingly as they can. They are trying to describe it as truthfully as they can. It was the most extraordinary thing they believed had ever happened, and yet they tell it so quietly that you have to lean close to be sure what they are telling.”
Jesus first appears to Mary. This fact cannot be overstated. In a world where men continue to try and use the Bible to justify subordination and violence, the fact that Mary is the first to recognize that Jesus had risen is important. She is the first witness to proclaim, “I have seen Jesus.”
“Don’t hold onto me… Go.” As wonderful as Easter is, we cannot hold onto it. We need to move forward. The great anthems, the packed pews, the new faces are all so great. It should be celebrated, but we cannot hold onto it. Monday is coming. Easter 2C is coming. We need to go. Go into the community. Go into the places where people are and need to hear “I have seen Jesus."
Lectionary selection for both Palm Sunday and Easter for all three years, though the selected verses overlap.
Both weeks read the intro v 1-2: “Give thanks to the LORD because he is good, because his faithful love lasts forever. Let Israel say it: "God's faithful love lasts forever!" (CEB)
v 24-29 overlap
“This is the day the LORD acted; we will rejoice and celebrate in it! LORD, please save us! LORD, please let us succeed! The one who enters in the LORD's name is blessed; we bless all of you from the LORD's house. The LORD is God! He has shined a light on us! So lead the festival offering with ropes all the way to the horns of the altar. You are my God—I will give thanks to you! You are my God—I will lift you up high! Give thanks to the LORD b ecause he is good, because his faithful love lasts forever.”
Psalm 118’s place in Ancient Hebrew worship is debated. One theory is that this was a Psalm that “celebrated the reenthronement of the Davidic monarch” (James Newsome on p 232 of Texts for Preaching, Year A).
Fits Palm Sunday as an enthronement psalm, when Jesus is acting as a new kind of King in his triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
End of what Clint McCann calls the Hallel collection (113-118) which came to be used at Passover.
Can also be seen in context of Israel’s return from exile. It’s use is versatile, as thanksgiving, victory.
Tone and emotions of the Psalm are all over the place. Lots of praise, also distress, so the lection tries to cut it up to make it fit Palm Sunday and Easter.
“A psalm of thanksgiving sung by one who has been to the edge of the abyss and who has been delivered by God” (James Newsome on p 231 of Texts for Preaching, Year A).
Non Palm Sunday section
v 1-4 Call to Worship - Let all say “God’s steadfast love endures forever”
v 5-13 I was in distress, but God saved.
v 14-18 God is victorious
salvation, victory, valiant, strength
v 19-24 Procession
In midst of procession is reminder of the failure that preceded this celebration
v. 22 - The stone that was rejected has become the cornerstone.
The people have come to celebrate, but it is the Lord that is taking action
v. 24 This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad.
This is the proper order - Acknowledge God’s action, then rejoice.
v 25-29 Call for salvation and thanksgiving
Ending verse mirrors the opening
118:29 “Give thanks to the LORD because he is good, because his faithful love lasts forever”
Preaching Thoughts and Questions
Pattern of praise and petition affirm God’s sovereignty. More realistic as a whole psalm, instead of chopping it up. Isn’t most of life full of both praise and petition?
Powerful as communal prayer and individual promise. Martin Luther called it “My own beloved psalm.” (Clint McCann, New Interpreter’s Bible, v. IV, p. 1156).
Thank you for listening and get in touch:
Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com, @pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”, "Real Ride" and “Summertime”) and The Steel Wheels for our transition music(“Nola’s First Dance” from their album Lay Down, Lay Low) and Paul and Storm for our closing music (“Oh No”).