Easter is an Earthquake

“Easter is an Earthquake”
Matthew 28:1-10
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Easter Sunday
I’ve never experienced an earthquake first-hand.
I’ve read about them and seen their aftermath on the TV news.
The recent stories about the devastation in Japan 
certainly show us how horrible these events can be.
But, unless you have actually lived through a major earthquake, I wonder if you can really understand what it’s like.
If you lived in Oklahoma in 1952 you may recall the “Great El Reno Quake” of April 9th that year…
Measuring 5.5, this quake was felt in seven states…
Chimneys were knocked off homes, plate glass windows were shattered, and damage amounted to several thousand dollars – according to the US Geological Survey.
Pretty minor stuff compared to the big ones that measure 8 or 9 and level entire cities
I imagine that rebuilding after a major earthquake would be a pretty daunting task…
It seems to me that a major quake might change the landscape so completely that you could never really put things back the way they were…
My guess is that the people and communities affected by major quakes like Japan, Indonesia, and parts of California would find that everything has changed so much that there is no way to back to the way things were.
V2: “And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.”
Suddenly the world is changed forever because of one survivable earthquake that moved a single big stone and rendered a few Roman soldiers speechless.
Suddenly, nothing will ever be the same as it was and we can never go back.
Let us pray…
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, Almighty God, my strength and my Redeemer.
Amen.
Matthew’s gospel is the only one to mention this sudden earthquake…
Mark, Luke, and John are content to tell us that the stone was rolled away and leave us to speculate as to how it happened.
There may be a danger in leaving this to our imaginations because there’s no telling what we might dream up…
Maybe Jesus was abducted by aliens!
Matthew doesn’t want us to wonder…
He wants us to be absolutely sure that this was a deliberate act of God designed to show everyone that the tomb was empty BEFORE the stone moved.
God raised Jesus from the dead and God didn’t need to move the stone out of the way.
The only reason the stone needs to be moved is so that we can see inside and testify that the tomb is empty.
It isn’t necessary for us to know HOW it happened, only THAT it happened.
So Matthew gives us an earthquake…
He leaves no doubt about the message here…
First, the women FEEL the message…
Then they SEE the message and the messenger – Angelos in Greek – the angel of the Lord, a divine messenger…
Finally, they HEAR the message:
“Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.”
This message becomes a never-ending after shock – “Go and tell.”
We don’t get to hear the conversation between the women and the other disciples…
Matthew tells us that, while they’re on their way, Jesus appears to them and repeats the angel’s command to, “Go and tell the disciples.”
I’m not quite sure why this appearance is needed here…the women were pretty convinced as it was…
Maybe this confirmation is used to add drama to the scene or credence to the angel’s words…
Whatever the reason, the women apparently do go tell the others what happened because later in the story they all travel to Galilee and meet up with the resurrected Jesus there.
It looks like Matthew’s version of the story is really about that first announcement that becomes a continuous chain of announcements with one messenger repeating the message to the next, down through the ages:
“Do not be afraid; he has been raised from the dead, just as he said.”
New Testament professor Donald Juel, reflecting on the Resurrection stories, wrote:
“None of the Gospels can really end the story of Jesus. The whole point is that it continues…and that its significance continues.”
Easter is an earthquake because it shifts things so much and changes everything so significantly that its message results in endless aftershocks…
This is a story that is “to be continued” in you, and in me, and in every life that is ever touched by the power of the good news that, “He is risen, just as he said.”
The history of the world literally pivots during this sudden earthquake and there is no way to ever go back to the way things were before.
Under “frequently asked questions” on the US Geological Survey website someone asks:
“Will California eventually fall off into the ocean?”
You’ve heard the old joke: “I’ve got ocean-front property for sale in Arizona.”
The short answer is: “NO.”
It seems that the way the tectonic plates line up along the San Andreas Fault cause the Pacific Plate to shift slightly northwest with respect to the rest of North America.
This is happening roughly at the rate your fingernails grow – pretty slowly.
Earthquakes are caused as the plates stick and slip past each other from time to time.
So, since the plates are moving horizontally past one another, California is not going to fall into the ocean.
However, Los Angeles and San Francisco will one day be next door neighbors!
Like the earth’s crust, Jesus is full of surprises.
The world’s uneasiness in the presence of the Risen Lord is fully justified.
He will not be bound by the traditions that define human life;
even death could not hold him for long.
The end of the Gospel story really only marks the beginning of the story – the beginning of the Good News that Jesus, the one who challenges us to give up our lives so that we might live, becomes the source of our life in the midst of an earthquake.


It is only fitting that this story cannot contain Jesus any more than the tomb could contain Jesus.
Jesus is not bound by the end of any story told by human beings…
Jesus continues into the future that God has planned for Creation…
In the meantime, there is only The Word, the Bread and Cup, and the promise that we do not need to be afraid…
Easter is an earthquake…
As disciples and witnesses for Jesus, we are the aftershocks…
We must go and tell…
We must expect to see him just as he said…
We must trust that one day God will finish the story, just as he promised…
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…Amen
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