April 20, 2014
Matthew 28: 1-10
Earthquake. Go. Galilee.
These are three words from today’s gospel. If we combine them together, the deepest meaning of Easter will emerge. Matthew is the only one of the gospel writers who includes an earthquake in his Easter story. It is not there as a casual detail. Throughout the Bible, earthquakes are signs that God is changing things, that God is transforming the world. So Matthew includes an earthquake to make it clear that the resurrection of Jesus is not only about Jesus, nor it is only an event that happened two thousand years ago. Jesus’ resurrection is about God changing the world today. You see, on that first Easter, God began the process of cleaning up the mess of this world. God began to destroy every evil and all that was opposed to God’s will. God raised Jesus up and made him the Lord of a new creation, a creation without poverty and hunger, a creation without injustice and violence, a creation without sickness and death. Now of course this new creation is still a work in progress. It will not be completed until Jesus returns again in glory. But it started at the empty tomb. That is why the earth shook, because it knew that its transformation had begun.
But the earthquake leads to the command: “Go.” Both the angel and Jesus tell the women to “go.” Easter is not about hanging around the empty tomb or clinging to the risen Lord. Easter is being sent out, going out to participate in Jesus’ mission. If God has begun in Christ to establish a new creation, we are to go and become a part of building it. We are to be God’s agents in the world, attacking poverty and hunger, opposing injustice and violence, comforting the sick and the dying. Being a disciple of Jesus is more than avoiding sin or coming to Church or learning our catechism. Being a disciple of Jesus is joining with Jesus in building the kingdom of God.
Now how do we do that? Here is where the third word is helpful: “Galilee.” Galilee was the home of Jesus and his disciples. They left Galilee to come to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. There, Jesus was crucified and raised up. But on Easter the women are sent to Galilee. They are sent home. They are to go to where they live, where they have connections and influence. The presence of Galilee in today’s gospel is a reminder to us that as agents of God’s transformation we are to go to where we live, to where our work on behalf of the kingdom can have the most influence. We will not be able to bring about peace in Syria or the Ukraine, but we can be peacemakers in our own families by our patience, by our honesty, and by our willingness to forgive. We cannot free those who are oppressed by inhuman working conditions in South East Asia, but we can stand up for the kid at school who is bullied or support the woman in our workplace who is demeaned or treated unjustly. We might not be able to feed hungry children in Africa, but we can cooperate with our friends and our colleagues to look at the issues of hunger in our own city and discover ways in which the poor can learn skills that will allow them to support themselves.
Earthquake. Go. Galilee.
Easter is about God cleaning up the mess of our world. We are called to go to those Galilees where we live and have influence and join in the effort. Easter is not about bunnies and pastel eggs. It is a bold proclamation that God has begun to transform this broken world, and that we are to go out in Jesus’ name and help God shake the earth!