In All Our Galilees
Sermon 1857 Matthew 28.1-10 April 9, 2023
What a day! Easter! The bad weather has finally broken. The birds are singing! The flowers and blossoms are out. (Let’s not talk about allergies.) You all look terrific. Is that the aroma from the Easter Brunch I am detecting? If only this day could last.
I fear that is where so many Americans are today. They are as enthralled with Easter as much as I was captivated, having just gotten my permit, in the seat of my Dad’s ’65 Mustang convertible, revving the engine on a country road. “You gonna’ put it into gear?” he asked.
The best way to put Easter into gear is to recognize it is not about a day. It is about a life, our life. Tomorrow, the day after. Matthew tells us there was a very specific message on that Easter morning, repeated two times. That’s the key.
In All Our Galilees.
1. Hope (1-6).
2. Help (7-10).
“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men (1-4).”
You know how you can’t sleep when you are really troubled? You toss and turn and, finally, though it isn’t even light out, you get up and schlumpf around the house? The women were troubled. They had gotten up before dawn, met at dawn to go to the tomb where Jesus had been buried late Friday afternoon. They expect to see a dead Jesus. They have no hope. They expect to see a dead Jesus.
There is an equally hopeless situation at the tomb. An angel descended from heaven. He caused a violent earthquake as he rolled back the stone from the mouth of the tomb. Like lightning his face, his garments like snow. The Roman guards posted to watch over the tomb trembled with fear, shook, like a child shaking a snow globe, and then, out of terror, fell to the ground and pretended to be dead. It was the most unconvincing act in history. Theirs, too, was a hopeless situation.
Grinding duty and expecting nothing. Sheer terror and resorting to clutching at straws. That’s life without hope. But you didn’t come here today to hear about that. Tell us something we haven’t experienced!
The angel stuck around. He was waiting for the women. He had a message of hope for them. “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay (5-6).”
“He has risen.” Death wasn’t the end. It wasn’t even a detour. Death was done. Jesus had risen. He had come to life again. He rose. It was a miracle. They knew he had been dead. The soldiers at the cross pronounced him dead. These very women had buried Jesus. He had been dead. Now he was alive. He wasn’t here. He brought himself back to life, just as he had predicted. Jesus was the Son of God to have such power.
In all our Galilees there is hope.
Why worry about turning back the clock when we can live forever? Jesus lives and we will live, live with him forever in heaven. That was his promise. “Because I live, you will live (John 14.9).” His promises are good. When he rose from the dead he proved no promise was beyond his power to keep.
Not a one of us are volunteering to leave this earth, but the danger is always there. Especially the way people drive! Though the loss of a loved one hurts us with a hurt we’ve never felt before, a hurt that can’t go away, we leave the funeral home with hope. We visit the graveside with hope. Their souls are alive with Jesus in heaven right now. The day is coming, “in the end,” Job says, when our Redeemer will stand upon the earth and bring our bodies back to life. I myself, I and not another, with my own eyes, in my body. That’s what Job said. Nothing could rob him of that hope.
Nothing could rob our parents and grandparents, if we are old enough, our older brothers or sisters, from that hope, either. Even when a child was untimely ripped away from us we had hope and we still have hope. We shall see them again. We will be with them in heaven. Jesus was not in the tomb. The day is coming when our mortal remains will not be in their final resting place either. We will rise. How that hope fills our hearts and drives away every fear.
That’s Easter. That’s the first message of today. We have the hope of eternal life because our Lord and Savior rose from the dead, victorious over sin, death and the devil. Nothing is standing in our way. We will live in heaven one day.
That’s a great sound, that full-throated roar coming from that 289 four-barrel engine inside that Mustang, isn’t it? Without that engine, no power. But until we put it into gear, we won’t go anywhere.
In all our Galilees there is hope and there is help. The angel told the women at the tomb something else.
“Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you (7-8).”
As if an angelic message wasn’t enough, Jesus himself appears to the women with the same message. “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me (10).”
To Galilee. Back to Galilee. The Galilee where they had spent most of the past three and a half years together. By the Sea of Galilee. In the villages around Capernaum. Along the hillsides of Nazareth. On the slopes of Mount Tabor. Galilee. Good old Galilee. The old ways, the old habits, the old life. But now it would be different, it would be so much more. Jesus was alive. He would live in all our Galilees.
“You gonna’ put it into gear?”
Jesus is alive and helps us in all our Galilees.
I know there are mothers here today who have sent their children to preschools. Maybe ours. Maybe elsewhere. How your heart broke when you walked out of your child’s first classroom that first day. You worried about them. What if something happened in that Capernaum classroom? I also know there are some mothers here today who in the future will go through the first day of school fears and tears. Jesus lives to help in all our Galilees. He is with your child, watching over them, keeping them safe under the shadow of his wings. Nothing will happen to them without his permission. They are in, I know this is hard to believe, but they are in safer hands than yours. They are in the hands of the living Jesus.
I know there are military people here today and some of your sons and daughters are in the military. That is not a safe profession. Things blow up around military people. That’s just the point. Things are supposed to blow up. Bombs, artillery shells, missiles, they make sure they blow up on the enemy positions. The living Jesus will (how did the Bible say it?) “Carry them on eagles’ wings.” They will not fall from the sky. They will not sink to the depths. They will not go out and not return. The living Jesus, the Lord of the heavenly hosts, stands guard over them in every Tiberias tour of duty. Protection for your loved ones, help in all our Galilees.
I know there are young couples and elderly husbands and wives who worry about making ends meet. Living is getting so expensive and cost of living adjustments seem to be not enough for last year’s rise in prices, much less this year’s. And there are always gloom and doomsayers predicting crashes and the end of everything. I guess if they keep their drum beat going someday they will be right and then they can brag, knowing everyone will forget it took a decade or two for the predictions to come true. But you are facing the first of the month, its bills, its mortgage, its rent. The living Jesus helps in all our Galilees. The one who could miraculously multiply five pita loaves of bread and two small fish into a feast fit to feed over 5000 (and still have left-overs), can that same living Jesus not help us in our financial straits? Can he not give us a sense of discipline and wisdom to stretch a buck? He can make sure a Bethsaida break comes our way. Don’t rev that engine too long. Put it into gear. Pray and watch the living Jesus help in all our Galilees.
Sickness, new to the community, trying to get into a good college, looking for that special someone, trying to remind your spouse that you were at one time that special someone and can be so again, pregnancies, operations, job transfers, heartache, I could go on and on, but you have already caught on. The Easter message is not a message only for within the four walls of this church. Jesus lives in all our Galilees. He lives to help us in all our needs.
I know that because the angel said it. “He is going ahead of you into Galilee.” I know it because Jesus said it. “Go to Galilee; there they will see me.” I’m not even going to bring up the fact that since Jesus is going before us in all our Galilees, he takes care of so many problems for us that we don’t even see them. They are resolved before we get there, because Jesus got there first.
I know we can ask and expect help for all of these things because Jesus has told us so. “Give us this day our daily bread.” “Lead us not into temptation.” Deliver us from evil.” “Your will be done.”
Jesus is not just the Lord for linen and lace. He is the Lord for grease stained denim. Jesus is not just there to help under the crystal blue calico heavens. He is there for the days of storm, grey fabric skies. Gritty? He touched and healed those who had contagious diseases. Weary? He spent nights in prayer for those around him. Beat down, but never beaten, pressured, but never crushed. There is not a situation we face that he did not face. There is never a temptation dangling before us which he was ignorant of. And unlike us, he never fell into those temptations. He lived without sinning. He is the expert at overcoming and resisting temptation.
“You will see me there.” Yes, we will see Jesus in the worship, in the Word and in the Sacraments. But with the Easter eyes of faith, we will see him at our homes, at our tables, by our side every day of our lives.
In All Our Galilees.
1. Hope (1-6).
2. Help (7-10).
Yes, Easter Sunday 2023 is a beautiful day. Compared to what we have been through the last few years, it is idyllic. Everything is hitting on all cylinders, like an engine purring in the garage. But that’s not what a ’65 Mustang is made for. Put it in gear. Go places! And Easter isn’t only for this day, this hour, this church. See the risen Jesus in all our Galilees, in every corner of lives. Then Easter will take us far.