“The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.
Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing was white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.” (Matthew 27:62–28:8 ESV)
I want to share with you about Rocks!
I will not talk about rock formations but about the geographical movement of tectonic plates. I come from a land where earthquakes are expected, natural and part of the culture. I survived a 7.8 earthquake. I still remember its sound and how the earth beneath me shook with such velocity and overwhelming power, which turned into a deadly force. A place where you have no control whatsoever!
In an earthquake, you are never safe! Even though you do monthly drills at schools and places of work and have plenty of advice and preparation, nothing comes close to experiencing one.
My family used to set aside a pair of shoes, trousers, a top and a jacket if we needed to get out of the house and if an earthquake would come at night.
The truth is you are never prepared; the only thing you can do is to stay still and pray!
My friend and I experienced one of the most powerful earthquakes as we walked towards the town centre. We found ourselves in the middle of a field, with houses around us, electric wires on top of us, and trees that moved like paper against the wind!
We were trapped in an open field at the mercy of nature and God.
Earthquakes can re-shape the landscape, and on a day like today, resurrection Sunday, the landscape of humanity changed forever!
The soldiers were ordered to guard the tomb. They placed the stone blocking its entrance and put on a Roman seal. They secured it with ropes, and they stood guard throughout the night so no one would come and take the body of Jesus away. These Roman guards were the best of the best. They were a killing squad, feared, and I believe it would have been very foolish to challenge them.
To secure the tomb, the soldiers thought of any deterrent possible. Knowing and hearing Jesus saying that he would come back alive from the crucifixion. The Jewish leaders and the Pilate made everything possible so that this would not happen. They took every step and secured the tomb. They knew that there was a chance of Jesus coming back after three days. So, this tomb was guarded for three days.
If I was one of Jesus’ disciples, I would not have had the motivation to go to the tomb. I would have been so depleted and discouraged that my friend, my Lord Jesus was dead.
On Sunday morning at dawn, the women came to see Jesus’s tomb, and I believe that they also experienced the earthquake! Yet, unlike the soldiers who ran away from the grave, they pressed on to see where Jesus was buried.
Let us be fair to the soldiers! Some of them not only experienced the earthquake, but they saw lightning and a mighty angel full of the glory and holiness of God. Even though it was the most glorious sighting, I believe it was the terrifying event that they have ever experienced and will experience.
They not only had a physical reaction to it but a spiritual reaction. The Glory of God that was a presence with Angel was more than enough to bring the fear of the Lord.
“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.”
(Matthew 28:3–4 NIV11-GKE)
That mountain experience was like what the people of God experienced at the foot of Mount Sinai. The earth shook, and the people trembled.
Only a supernatural act of God could have done this.
The angel of the Lord moved the stone as God commanded him.
The Resurrection of Jesus was a mighty act of God.
Now, this is what I believe happened:
• The earthquake was caused by the power of the resurrection. The earth shook; the earth trembled at the sound of giving up, losing one that was more powerful than death. In every funeral that I conduct, I say earth to earth. Because the Bible teaches us that we were formed, created out of clay, earth and to earth, we will return, but not this time! Christ changed this curse forever! The sound of the earthquake is the sound of the mighty resurrection of Jesus. For the first time and forever, earth and death have lost their grip on humanity.
• The angel at God’s command came down to the burial site and removed the stone! Well, I believe that it destroys the rock! The roped snapped, the wax seal melted, and Jesus came out, alive in glory. I don’t know what is more terrifying, the sight of an angel appearing or the presence of a dead man walking! Jesus is all glory and power.
• Our bodies were created to hold all the fullness of God.
• The Angel of the Lord said to the women:
Don’t be afraid. I know that you seek Jesus.
He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay!
Go and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead – he is going ahead of you.
• How did the women react to what the Angel told them? They did three things:
They run from the tomb. They were frightened. They were filled with great joy!
Isn’t this the message of Easter?
The fear of the Lord allows us to be filled with great joy. A joy that is so powerful and persuasive that we cannot but share it with the world!
I could finish here, but I believe that we all know that this is the message of Easter. However, I believe that some of us need to hear what I believe the Lord has said for me to tell you!
Let me ask you this question:
What would you have done? Would you run to the tomb, like both Marys, or would you run away from it, like the soldiers?
The earthquake is the same. It was felt equally by those who happened to experience it. But would you run to Jesus or away from Jesus.
There are earthquakes in our lives, and some of them have the potential to be life-threatening. Some can shake the very foundations of our beliefs. Some make us doubt the goodness of God and the power of the Gospel. I have seen far too many Christians walking away from Jesus.
I want you to know what Paul said in one of his letters:
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Ephesians 1:18–23 NIV11-GKE)
Resurrection power lives in us!!