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Easter: Easter as an Earthquake Matthew 28:1-10

By William H. Willimon
"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." (Matthew 28:2)

John says that they got to the tomb on Easter morning, and it's empty. Then, they go back home.

Go back home? Reminds you of the two disciples in Luke on the way to Emmaus. "Some women told us that Jesus had been raised from the dead, but we had already planned to have supper over in Emmaus, so we couldn't change our reservations."

A man is raised from the dead and you can't cancel lunch? How dumb are these disciples?

So my friend Stanley Hauerwas, in dialogue with dear Marcus Borg of the errant Jesus Seminar says, "Marcus thinks the disciples had an experience. They said, 'Wasn't it great being with Jesus before they killed Him? You remember those great stories He told? The lectures, er, sermons? Just thinking about it makes Him seem almost still here. Yep, by God, He is still here. Let's all close our eyes and believe real hard that He's still here. Okay?'"

Hey, Jesus Seminar, the disciples weren't that creative! These were not imaginative minds we're dealing with here. They were the sort of people who could see an empty tomb and not let it spoil lunch. You don't get an idea like the bodily resurrection of Jesus out of people with brains like Simon Peter's.

In short, the disciples were people like us.

People like us are the sort or folk who like to believe that you can have resurrection and still have the world as it was yesterday. We want to have Easter and still have our world unrocked by resurrection. We are amazingly well adjusted to the same old world.

I think that's why Matthew says that when there was Easter, the whole earth shook. Luke does Easter as a meal on Sunday evening with the Risen Christ. John has resurrected Jesus encounter Mary Magdalene in the garden. But Matthew? Easter is an earthquake with doors shaken off tombs and dead people walking the streets, the stone rolled away by the ruckus and an imprudent angel sitting on it.

I've been in an earthquake, even though I'm not from L.A. I was preaching in Alaska and during my sermon, the earth heaved a moment that seemed forever. The little church shook. The Alaskan Methodist "How about that, the light fixtures didn't fall this time." I ended my sermon immediately. I was shaken by the earthquake, but also a bit shaken by those nonchalant Alaskans. Afterwards (at lunch!) I asked the pastor, "What the heck would it take to get this congregation's attention? I'd hate to have to preach to them every Sunday."

Matthew says Easter is an earthquake that shook the whole world.

We modern types try to "explain" the resurrection. One says that Jesus was in a deep, drugged coma and woke up. Another said that the disciples got all worked up in their grief and just fantasized the whole thing.

You can't "explain" a resurrection. Resurrection explains us. The truth of Jesus tells on the faces of the befuddled disciples who witnessed it. Not one of them expected, wanted Easter. Death, defeat, while regrettable, are utterly explainable.

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