And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is RisenMatthew 28:7
The above verse from Matthew’s gospel references what the women who went to Jesus’ burial place were told to do by an angel they met there. So the Easter message was about going and telling that Jesus had “risen” and that message came via an encounter with what were clearly spiritual beings. The rest of the story in Matthew tells us the women went from the tomb with fear and joy. Well … yeah! Fear of the unknown (I mean strange beings) and joy that Jesus, their teacher and friend, wasn’t dead anymore.
But what about the message they were to carry, “He is risen!” What did that even mean to them? Various theological understandings of Easter hadn’t yet developed. All they had was the idea that everyone concerned with Jesus, including Jesus himself, had just been given a second chance. For his followers it meant a second chance of continuing the relationship with Jesus, hearing his stories and teachings, maybe even being touched by his healing power. It meant that somehow the finality of death had lost its hold, at least temporarily, for one person.
For Jesus well … I’m not sure I know what the first Easter meant. Jesus was, after all, also FULLY HUMAN as well as FULLY GOD as one of our basic Christian creeds puts it. For the human side of Jesus, I have to think that fear disappeared since now there was nothing to be afraid of — life would somehow go on no matter what. And maybe that message touches our humanity too. For the God side of Jesus, Easter must have been the most outrageous expession of love to humankind. The great leveler of death that could or would remove God’s precious human creation from existence now had no more power and God’s love c.would forever have the final say.
Sure … maybe Easter is more complicated theologically than the above two paragraphs which simply highlight God’s great gifts of life and love. Yes, we could talk about sin, the need for repentance, what happens to those who don’t accept Jesus, is there a Hell for unrepentant sinners, etc., etc., etc. But none of those concerns or questions were in play when the angel said to the women, “Go quickly and tell his disciples that he is risen.” So, given that, this Easter I’ll stick with God’s affirming gifts of life and love.
Rev. Dr. Richard Haley