The Narrative Lectionary points us to the ultimate Good News of the Gospel: Jesus is Alive! Last Sunday was centered on the triumphal entry. Hopefully during the week Christians focused on the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary, perhaps at a Good Friday service. This is not the day for reflection on death. It is the true celebration of life!
Matthew 28 is our chapter for the next two weeks. This week is the first ten verses of that chapter. I wonder if any of us are able to truly put ourselves in the place of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary who went to the tomb early that morning. What did they think when the earthquake hit? How do you picture the stone rolling away and the angel sitting on top of it? Is it all white and glorious or kind of cool like ‘yo, what did you expect?’ It was enough to make a tough Roman guard faint dead away. But not
Three Marys are present in the last moments of the life of Jesus and his burial in a borrowed tomb. All three watch as Jesus dies on the cross (Matthew 27:55,56). Mary Magdalene and Mary mother of James and John watch as Joseph of Arimathea takes Jesus to his tomb and rolls the stone across the entrance (Matthew 27:61). Mary and Mary are the only disciples named in Matthew’s account of the discovery of the empty tomb.
These three Marys were an integral part of the story of Jesus, each in their own way. We know little of Mary Magdalene (of Magdala) except for Luke’s plaintive statement, “Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons” (Luke 8:3). Equally, we know little of Mary the mother of James and John, aside from her maternal interference (Matthew 20:20-21). No mother really blames her, do they? We know more about Mary the mother of Jesus, but mostly only what is connected to the birth story. The three Marys remind us of Jesus’ love and compassion for those who are rejected and downcast. A demon possessed
Michael Frost, on both Facebook and Twitter, pointed out that so often it is said that at the crucifixion of Jesus all the disciples everyone fled and left him alone. It just isn’t true. These women stayed near. On Twitter, Frost (@michaelfrost6) retweeted Elizabeth Esther’s (@elizabethesther) startling but excellent tweets:
Have you ever noticed how many times Christians say: “Jesus was abandoned by ALL His friends”? Because NO. The women never left. THE WOMEN STAYED. Until His last breath and beyond. A WOMAN was the first to discover he was Risen! … and like every time a dude is all: “You would have denied Him three times, too” I’m like: Nah, bro. By God’s Grace, I would have been with the other women weeping at the foot of His cross. Cuz Mama doesn’t run away. Mama stays. Mama watches until the v. last breath.
Angels announced His coming and purpose. Angels ministered to Him in the wilderness of temptation and in the garden of prayer. An angel announces that He is not here, He is risen!
And now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen.1 Peter 1:12
I’m not complaining, but it does seem that many of our Easter celebrations have very little to do with the greatest news humanity has ever heard. Bunnies and eggs (still working out how those two go together) and chocolate and such are nearly secular in their celebrations. I can understand why a godless world would want an Easter without a Resurrection, but not us, right? So in our churches, we must take time to not just notice the empty tomb, but
We must do all we can to remember the resurrection of Jesus every day. For by it we know that the divinity of Jesus has been declared with power! (Romans 1:3-4). It in our participation of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus in water baptism that we receive the new life (Romans 6:1-5). It is through the power of the resurrection that we can have a clean conscience before God (1 Peter 3:21).
How will the resurrection of Jesus be front and center in your worship celebration this coming Sunday? Will the Risen Savior be a part of your family reunion, egg hunts, baskets of treats, and overindulgence at the Easter table?
Preachers have a lot to think about as they work through this text. I will choose to focus on Matthew, where we have been reading all year. The other accounts give us interesting details, but Matthew has a point. He tells us about three Marys who faithfully follow Jesus to the tomb, hear the gospel, go and tell, and change the world. They weren’t Wonder Women, they were regular everyday women filled with wonder. They were you, and me and they were told to ‘Go’. So were we, but that is next week’s text!
You’re invited to join my Facebook Group Narrative Lectionarians where we share resources each week on the text.