Sunday, 20 April 2014

Jesus, Two Marys and All Us "Other Fellers": a short homily for Easter Sunday with reference to Matthew 28.1-10

Jesus is, as always, the main character in our worship and our Scripture readings; especially in this morning’s Resurrection gospel, along with two Marys. His is the story that defines us and it’s full of dramatic action. Suddenly a great earthquake (Mt 28.2), although with none of the destruction and loss of life that happens when we hear about earthquakes on the news these days—quite the opposite, in fact!—an angel of The LORD who looks like lightning comes down (Mt 28.2-3). Guards shake and become corpse-like (Mt 28.4). The two Marys, senses reeling, are told to go quickly and tell the disciples what the angel said: Jesus is raised from the dead (Mt 28.7) and has gone on ahead! They obey and go quickly, terrified and joyful, all at once. They run (Mt 28.8). Jesus meets them suddenly. “Greetings!” he says. “Don’t be afraid. Keep going and tell,” he says. And the Marys set off again.

What’s in it for people like you and me? Apart from delivery from sin and death and the promise of abundant and eternal life and everlasting felicity, I mean? Four things:

First, look at verse 7, Jesus IS raised from the dead. Fact. There is too much evidence to doubt that. Most of the disciples died violent, nasty deaths because they believed it. And I’ll remind you of erstwhile Baptist, now Roman Catholic, Professor of Philosophy, Peter Kreeft, who wrote: Christianity is the only major religion that requires belief in miracles. That Jesus supernaturally and miraculously rose from the dead is the main one.

Second, also in verse seven, Jesus went on ahead of the disciples. Jesus is always ahead of us, too. It’s like Jesus is the fastest checkers player in the world, someone said, it’s always our move. The smartest man that ever lived, wrote Dallas Willard. There were two thousand people at the field house on Good Friday and one hundred thousand for mass in St Peter's square today because of him. All we can ever do is follow someone like him in awe, adoration and obedience—hence our mission statement: to follow and enjoy Jesus Christ in worship and service so that everyone will come to know him.

Third, although dramatic earth-shaking encounters with angels who look like lightning are rare these days, I think Easter reminds us that they can and do happen. Look at verse nine. “Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greeting!’” (Mt 28.9) Jesus can still show up suddenly to say, “Hi!” in a healing or a word of prophecy. The two Marys show us how to behave when that happens. They go to him, approach him, get as close as they can to him, take hold of his feet and worship him. Then they go and tell everybody that he is alive.

Fourth, I like that there is the “other Mary” (Mt 28.1) in the story. It makes me feel as if I could be an “other” guy in the story, too. I could be an “other” Gene. It gives me a place in the story and its telling. You could be the “other” N and N and N and…in it, too. The story isn’t over. “Go and tell,” the angel of The LORD and Jesus said. The “other Mary” did. I suspect all us others are called to, too. Chosen as witnesses. It reminds me of Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers. We’re the other fellers—only we know who Buddy really is. You and I are here this morning because a whole host of “other fellers” were obedient to the call to go and tell, too.

Here’s another thing I like about this gospel reading this morning. It’s the beginning of the chapter which ends with the Great Commission. After Mary Magdalene and the other Mary did what they were told and told the disciples ‘…the eleven disciples also did what they were told and went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him just like the two Marys; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”’ (Mt 28:16–20)

You and I are called to be goers and tellers along with all the other fellers.