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MATTHEW 28:1-10 ESV
1 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.
2 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.
3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.
4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.
5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.
6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.
7 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.”
8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.
10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”
Our text is so special today because it is the ultimate story. Death being swallowed up by the hunger of God’s love. But the women who come to the tomb don’t know that yet. They have no expectations of joy or life. Their hearts are broken, their joy has been shattered, and they come to the resting place of the one person who had done for them something that no one else had been able to do. Jesus had touched them with power in the center of their souls. Life had never been the same since Jesus had come into their lives.
Now, rather than feeling the warmth of His life-changing, soul-saving embrace, they would feel the cold and stillness that death had pressed upon their Savior and King as the finish the burial process.
These blessed women had watched Jesus work throughout His ministry and their connection to Him was was real and personal. He had turned water into wine for a married couple as he attended their wedding; he healed a lame man, whose friends took him to Jesus, lowering him on bed through the roof of an overcrowded house so he could be touched by God’s power; He raised a young girl from the dead, as her pale face flushed with life-giving blood once again.
Even they, the women who come to the tomb, were touched by Jesus, as He pulled them out of the life-draining circumstances He found them in. Oh, to experience His ministry of touch once again. But not today. Today there would be no warmth in His touch, no miracle to marvel over, just the mundane and sorrow-filled task of burying the one who should not have died.
They hated death. We hate death. We hate what it does to us. We hate what it does to those we love. We hate, with an everlasting hate, its cold grip. And so does God. As the women come to the tomb to embrace that dreadful and yet inevitable moment, they are touched by awe and disbelief. How was the curse reversed?! How is the inevitable undone?! The stone has been moved. They are greeted by an angel who gives them their task. And then, there, before them, is Jesus! Risen and ready to receive them! And He does, as the women fall to ground and take hold of His feet.
And there it is! That’s the moment we must take with us this morning. For in taking hold of Jesus’ feet, these women had proved to them that this moment was real, that it wasn’t too good to be true. The real Jesus, with a real body, really stood before them and they grabbed hold! Taking hold of His feet was the appropriate response for those who longed to experience His power and presence again. Death was dead and Jesus lived again.
Later, when He ascended into Heaven, it was difficult for the disciples to fathom how they would function without Him physically there. And yet, through the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus promised and God the Father sent, the very real presence of Jesus Christ was IN and WITH them, as He is with us today.
This is the will of God, that until Jesus returns, we would live with the real presence of God in our hearts and lives. Jesus prepared His disciples for this reality as they were gathered together in the upper room, as He taught them saying, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23 ESV).
For those who have welcomed the Holy Spirit into their hearts, they have Jesus with them always. This is not a sentimental memory, like remembering the love of your grandmother or the strength of your dad. Residing within our hearts is the very life of God, moving in and through us, facilitating change in us and throughout the world.
For the women at the tomb, they were able to take hold of the risen Lord. For us today, we may take hold of the Presence of God (the Holy Spirit), anticipating His return, when on that day we may all be received by His powerful embrace.
Some in this room today need to be reminded of their love of God, that through that love you may have the power of God rekindled in your heart again. I pray that you will stoke the fire of your faith, feeling once again the powerful touch of God in your soul. Remember that the tomb is empty and that your Savior lives!
Others in this room today need to know that Jesus Christ desires to live within you, giving you an understanding of your need for His love, an assurance of salvation from your sin that comes only from accepting Him, and the power that comes from letting Jesus Christ rule in your heart, rather than your self-made self.
It is through the Church that God’s people “take hold” of God until He returns. He has promised His Spirit and we see God at work everyday in the lives of you, His saints. And so take hold of the word of God; take hold of your baptism and of Holy Communion each time we come to His table; take hold of His work and ministry, outside and inside the Church; take hold of Him in through our families, in our schools and community, and in the world.
You can take hold of Jesus, because He has given us tangible ways to unleash His presence in the world. Ministry and witnessing to His work in your life is your most effective way to touch the risen Savior for yourself. Will you do that today? Will you take hold of Jesus here and now, later and beyond? Your task is before you. Take hold! Amen.