The Hope of the Resurrection

When I was a journalist and had some responsibilities about what would be in the newspaper the next morning, I would spend the first few moments of my day planning out what stories we would focus on. These stories mainly comprised of games we knew we were covering, planned features, or other news that had developed during the day. Once I had the plan in place, I would start working on getting things ready to meet our deadlines, such as writing stories, editing, and designing pages.

All this would change if a breaking news alert would come across. Now, when we think of breaking news we might think of an interruption to our favorite television show with the ominous theme music network news departments use to lead into the report. We may also think of the instant notifications that might pop up on our smartphones or tablets. When I was a journalist, a breaking news report was a sudden statement that came across The Associated Press’ wires, which would be followed by several other reports in rapid succession.

Any type of  breaking news comes to us suddenly and forces its way into the planned course of the day. These unexpected reports challenge the listener, reader, or journalist, to pay attention to it and to try and make sense of what is being announced.

Our passage this Easter morning from Matthew 28:1-10 comes to us as a breaking news report. Something completely unexpected and unheard of has taken place in a graveside tomb outside of Jerusalem. The report Matthew gives us forces us to consider what it means and how this news impacts us today.

We go to the scene of the breaking news where two women, Mary Magdalene and another Mary, likely the mother of James, report that the tomb that had contained the body of Jesus of Nazareth was found empty. The stone had been rolled away. If you will recall, it was Jesus who was among three people crucified three days prior during the Passover festivities in Jerusalem. Jesus was charged and crucified by the religious and political elites with crimes that he did not commit. He was placed in the tomb immediately following his death and a stone was placed to seal it shut. The women report that Jesus’ body was not found in the tomb. In fact, they report an angel was sitting on the stone who offered some clarification as to what happened to Jesus. The angel said, “He is not here! He is risen from the dead.”

This is not just any breaking news report. This is major news and news unlike that which anyone had ever heard of before or ever heard of sense. It is news that the tomb is empty. It is major news that Jesus is not dead, but is alive.

It is this news, this earth-shattering and life-altering news, why we have gathered today. Truthfully, there would be no other reason for us to be gathered here, this morning, if it were not for this news that Jesus is alive. Jesus’ resurrection gives confirmation to all and explains everything about what it means to have faith in God. It is the most important piece of news we could ever hear. More important than who won the baseball game last night. More important than which University of Kentucky athlete is going pro. More important than who will win the upcoming elections. More important that what happened on our favorite television show. This news of Jesus’ resurrection changes the game and changes everything.

Why? Because this is the news the world has been waiting for. Since the beginning of time, the world has desired for hope to break through the darkness that exists around us. For something powerful and wonderful to be written in the places where fear and chaos so often dominate. The resurrection is the answer to creation’s prayers for hope and new beginnings.

Today is about Good News. Good News that death and the grave could not contain our Lord. Good News that sin does not win. Good News that God wins. Good News that hope reigns.

For it is hope that we see is offered to all at the resurrection. That Jesus is not to be found in the grave but alive tells us that God is doing something new. The story is being rewritten to focus not on despair or agony, but on the hope of the kingdom of God and the peace found in connecting our lives not to the one who is dead, but to the one who lives and reigns in each of us and throughout the world.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ breaks through into the dark places of life. For Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, their experience going to the grave was defined by what they knew. All they knew was what they had seen and that is that Jesus was crucified on the cross for crimes he did not commit and was buried in the grave. With it, they believed, was also their hopes and dreams for what might have been.

Once they experienced the news of the resurrection and the Risen Lord for themselves their darkness was turned into hope. There experience with Jesus was no longer defined by what was, but by what will be. It was defined by the hope that Jesus’ words are powerful and true. As well, their new experience was defined by a new expectation and promise that God was about to begin a new creation built upon hope, faith, and love that would invite all people to experience the transforming and live-giving hope of the resurrection for themselves.

Like Mary Magdalene and Mary’s experience at the tomb, the resurrection breaks into our lives and offers us something different. The hope and promise that Jesus cannot be found in a grave breaks into the places of darkness and grief that we cling to. The resurrection breaks into the places of chaos and despair of our lives and offers something different. Something that we yearn for. That is hope. A hope that is built upon the hopeful foundations of God’s word and the love of Christ freely offered and given to all. A hope that is the trust that Jesus is alive and reigns today in our hearts as not just our Savior, but also our Lord.

It is a hope that changes and redefines everything about our lives. The fact that Jesus reigns gives us hope to face life’s difficult challenges and to live confidently that our Lord is with us in every place we could ever imagine. Because Jesus is alive there is not a place in our life that the resurrected Lord has not offered hope and is not already at work in. That is the promise of the resurrection. God is alive and God is at work rebuilding our darkness into places of hope centered on Jesus’ love and peace.

This is not simply a hope for us and those who have gathered this morning. It is a hope for all and we must share that hope with others. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were given instructions to tell the other disciples about Jesus and what had happened. It was a command first given by the angel and latter confirmed by the Risen Lord when they meet him on their way to seeing the disciples. The fact Jesus is not dead but is alive is not a message they could keep to themselves. They had to tell others that a new hope has broken into the world’s darkness. That hope is the Good News that Jesus is alive.

We are also called to share that hope with others. This is not the work of a few, but the work of all of us. We cannot keep the hope of the resurrection for ourselves. Being a follower of Christ means that we are reporters who share the breaking news of Jesus’ resurrection with all people, no matter who they are, what they have done, where they live, what they look like, or what they may think of us. Hope is not something just for us, but it is something for all.

The way we report the Good News is by living our lives in response to the hope of Jesus Christ. By connecting our hearts, action, and lives to the life Jesus lives, the words he teaches, and the ministry he calls us to claim for ourselves. Hope is about living in the confidence that we are never alone that the Risen Lord is with us. We are called to live in hope and not darkness. To live in joy and not fear. To live in excitement and not despair. To live with in hope in all things.

On that first Easter morning, Good News was announced. News that had never heard of before of Jesus’ resurrection. It is news that still rings out today. Good News for all the world. The tomb is empty. Jesus cannot be found there. He is alive. His words can be trusted. His life can be believed. His hope is real.

Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

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