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The First Easter – Matthew 28:1-10

Easter 2020 was the first virtual Easter ever. We thank God for modern technology, but remember the Church is not a building, it’s people. The Church has been enduring for over 2,000 years and Liberty for 120 years. God has brought His Church through epidemics, pandemics, world wars, the Great Depression, recessions, etc., and He will bring us through our crisis today. “Through many danger toils and snares, we have already come, tis grace hath brought us safe thus far and grace will leads us home!”

Death, hell, and the grave could not stop the first Easter and COVID-19 cannot stop the Church now. We are certainly not immune to feelings that come with a crisis, but we have a hope that anchors our soul. As you may be experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions today, be reminded that many of the same feelings were felt on that first Easter.

“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb” (Matt. 28:1). These women watched Jesus suffer. They watched him die and be buried. We read about it in Matthew 27:55. Death is a fact of life and it always brings grief. Some of the saddest stories in the past few weeks have been about people dying in hospitals alone. Family members are not allowed to visit. They died separated from loved ones. There are funerals with no visitations and graveside services with only ten chairs, each six feet apart. Jesus was a man of sorrows acquainted with grief. The shortest verse in the Bible is, “Jesus wept” (Jn. 11:35). It was at the graveside of Lazarus. Jesus also wept over Jerusalem. God made us with the ability to cry. It is part of the healing process. It is an expression of love. First Thessalonians 4:13-18 remind us that we don’t grieve as those who have no hope because Jesus died, rose again, and we will be with him forever. If you are grieving now, we grieve with you. The bible says, “Weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15).

In Matthew 28:2-4 we read of a violent earthquake and an angel that came and rolled the stone away. In verse 5, the angel tells the women, “Do not be afraid.” Common phobias include fear of the future, change, failure, public speaking, heights, snakes, etc. The ultimate universal fear is death. Certainly, there is fear right now surrounding the Coronavirus. Luke 12:4-5 says we should not be afraid of those who can kill the body, but we should fear Him who has the final say on our eternity. Second Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Don’t give in to unhealthy fear. Don’t give in to anxiety or let it overwhelm your mind (Phil. 4:8). The message of Easter is, don’t be afraid of living and don’t be afraid of dying. You don’t have to live in fear.

The women were filled with joy when the angel told them that Jesus had risen (Matt. 28:6-8). Notice the difference between the women and the soldiers. Both were afraid, but the women were filled with joy. God can turn your sorrow into joy! Some of you need to pray Psalm 51:12, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation.” The resurrection transformed them from sadness to gladness, from victim to victor. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him…” (Rom. 15:13). The joy of the Lord is our strength (Neh. 8:10) and because He lives we can face tomorrow!

The women saw Jesus again (Matt. 28:9-10)! They were totally shocked and surprised. The first Easter was nothing like they were expecting. Jesus was dead and all hope was gone. They went to pay their last respects to someone who was dead. Were they ever surprised to find the stone was rolled away! Surprised the tomb was empty and surprised that Jesus made Himself known to them! We did not see this virtual Easter coming. We did not see this pandemic coming. It was a surprise to us all. God knew though and I believe He has another surprise in mind. He wants to reveal Himself to you like never before! Just like the women encountered Jesus in the midst of all their emotions, you can encounter Him too. Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God? Are you allowing the weight of the resurrection to transform your heart in the midst of your emotions?

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