Easter Sermon : 1st April 2018

The Most Rev’d Geoffrey Smith



Mary Magdalene and the other Mary mentioned in this morning’s gospel reading probably went to Jesus’ tomb early in the morning as the day was dawning for some peace and quiet. Maybe some peace and quiet together at Jesus’ tomb saying their goodbyes to him. They hadn’t had much chance to do that on the day he was executed. And maybe it was lovely and peaceful just as the day was dawning like it is here in Adelaide this morning.


But the two Mary’s didn’t get their time of peace with Jesus as they’d hoped. Instead there was a great earthquake because an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, rolled back the stone which was across the front of the tomb and sat on it. When the guards at the front of the tomb saw this they fainted. And then what’s more Jesus whom they came to mourn was very much alive.

No peace and quiet, lots of action caused by God instead. It must have been very confusing for the two Mary’s.


There was a great contrast between Good Friday when God was silent and really seemed to be missing in action, an absence felt by Jesus so he cried out- ‘My God My God why have you forsaken me?’, and this morning when God is very much involved and active in the earthquake, the angel, the empty tomb and the very much alive Jesus. God seemed to be missing in action on Friday but here he certainly has the last word. God actually wasn’t silent on Good Friday because he was missing. God was silent on Good Friday because the events of Good Friday were critical to God’s purposes and here at the tomb God shows his presence and power.


The women at the tomb who were the first witnesses of the risen Jesus and the first apostles because they were the first to be sent to tell the message of the risen Jesus, didn’t understand the meaning of the resurrection at the time. All they knew was that Jesus was alive-he was really alive-the text says they fell at his feet and worshipped him. Jesus wasn’t just spiritually alive, he wasn’t a figment of their imagination, or a projection of their grief, he was actually physically alive. Not resuscitated but transformed, straddling heaven and earth. It wasn’t until later that the disciples began to understand the meaning of Jesus death and resurrection and we see something of that thinking in the first reading today from the letter of Paul to the Romans written probably around 25 years after the resurrection.


God did have the last word despite the way things looked on Good Friday. God’s last word is seen in four ways.


First, the resurrection is if you like God’s stamp of approval on Jesus’ ministry. It is Jesus’ vindication. Good Friday by itself looked like an abject failure. The horrible death of a good man, a tragedy, but not much more. The resurrection says all that Jesus said about himself and the future was true. The resurrection made trustworthy without doubt.


Second, the resurrection of Jesus completed his work on the cross. In some ways, the two are part of one event. Jesus’ death and resurrection brought reconciliation between God and humanity. It brought us back from the exile humanity had placed itself in by its rejection of God and the vocation God had given us. In the plan of God, humanity was to act as a mirror, reflecting God to the whole creation, offering God’s care and nurture to the whole world by our actions, and also to reflect back to God the praise, thanks and trust of humanity. That vocation had been lost because we rejected it, and humanity was exiled from God. Jesus’ death and resurrection provided the return, the reconciliation between humanity and God. We have been brought back and reinstated. Now we have the opportunity to once again take up our vocation to reflect God to the whole creation and reflect praise and thanks to God.


Third, Jesus’ resurrection means our resurrection. The first reading for today from the letter to the Romans says, ‘do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death’. And then ‘for if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his’.


Jesus’ resurrection is the guarantee that we who have been baptised and accepted Jesus will experience resurrection. We can know that when we die, we will rest in the loving arms of God, but then when Jesus returns we too will be raised to new life with him. It’s not a case of death and then floating around in a heaven far, far away as a soul without a body. That understanding is from the pagan philosopher Plato and is not Christian at all. But because of Jesus resurrection we have the hope of resurrection to eternal life. We will be renewed and transformed and fit for eternity with God. So, the resurrection guarantees a hope for us, there is therefore no need to fear death any more.


Fourth, the resurrection brings hope for the world. Jesus’ resurrection doesn’t just mean hope for humans but hope for the whole creation. The whole creation has been changed by the resurrection. The book of the Revelation in chapter 21 has an image of a new heaven and a new earth joined together. The realm of God and the realm of humans as one. What we pray for in the Lord’s prayer when we pray ‘Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ will be finally answered. This means there is no need to fear for the future of the world. We humans might be able to marr and damage the creation but we can’t destroy the earth, God won’t allow it. The earth is part of Gods future plans. God has a future of wholeness and healing and re- creation for the world and the resurrection of Jesus makes that possible.


Things were pretty bad on Good Friday. A really good man shamed, humiliated, tortured and horribly executed. But it wasn’t the end. There was more to the story and we see the ‘more’ in the empty tomb and the risen Jesus. He is not dead, he has been raised. God had the last word after all. And that last word means we can trust all that Jesus said and did. He has been vindicated by God. We can accept him as God among us through whom we can understand what God is like. We can accept him as Lord of our lives and trust him with all we have.


That last word means we can right now know reconciliation with God. No matter what we have done in the past forgiveness from God is available for us through Jesus death and resurrection. We can relate with God as forgiven and loved people in whom God delights. Just like the returned prodigal son we are back with God again.


That last word means we now have our vocation back. Our vocation is to reflect Gods love and care and nurture to all creation by our actions, and to reflect praise and thanks and worship to God.


That last word means we can know our future-a future of life not death. Resurrection life. We who share in Jesus death through our baptism will share in his resurrection. We too will be raised to life.


That last word means a future for the world. Not a future of destruction and fear, but a future of life and peace.


All of this is ours through Jesus’ resurrection. It’s ours to be accepted and lived. Accept what God has done for the whole creation in Jesus death and resurrection and live it. Live according to it.  Be the people who are loved by God, who are back with God, who have a future of life in a world with a future of new life too.

All because he is not dead. He has been raised and is alive. Hallelujah.