April 16, 2017
Categorised in: Sermons
Preached by The Rt Rev’d Tim Dakin, Bishop of Winchester using Matthew 28:1-10 at Mattins on Sunday 16th April 2017, Easter Sunday.
Suddenly Jesus met them, and said, “Greetings!”
And they came up to him, took hold of his feet and worshipped him (v.9)
- The women disciples have just been through some amazing experiences. They’d arrived very early at the tomb with spices for Jesus’ body, ready to begin the traditional period of mourning. They’d then experienced an earthquake, the great tombstone rolling away, the guards being paralysed, and seen an angel who spoke to them, telling them that Jesus had risen from the dead. The angel also told them to tell the other disciples about this, and be ready to meet Jesus.
- As they rush away they suddenly meet Jesus. In traditional Swahili, when young people meet older people they greet them, “Shikamoo”. The older person then replies, “Marhaba”. Literally, the young person says, “I hold your feet”, and the older person says, “You have my blessing”.
- The women disciples have a supernatural version of such a meeting. But because Jesus surprises them on the way, he greets them first with his blessing before they greet him. They are amazed and literally do what Shikamoo implies: they fall down, hold Jesus’ feet and worship.
- This kind of encounter with Jesus goes to the heart of our faith. Full-blooded Christianity is about holding the feet of Jesus, greeting him with Shikamoo, worshipping him as risen Lord.
- Christianity can include all our images of new life – bunnies, eggs and chicks – but none of these is about the resurrection. Christianity is about the supernatural reality of the risen Lord. We meet the author of life himself and discover what our life, in fact all of life, is for: it’s for God. So when the women disciples meet Jesus they fall down, they hold his feet, and worship him.
- Therefore the resurrection is not the proof that Jesus was God, it’s not the proof that Jesus was right and it’s not the proof that miracles happen. Jesus’ resurrection is God with us, saying Marhaba, “You have my blessing. I forgive you. I’ve died for you. I’ve risen that you might have new life. I’ve come to you to show you what new life looks like. It looks like me, your risen Lord.”
- Jesus’ death and resurrection changed the world, for ever. Our first response is, Shikamoo, and to worship Jesus. Yet from the first encounters with the risen Lord a new social movement emerged that expressed the new life of Jesus in all aspects of culture. Christianity is not a movement of religious activities concerning the destiny of the individual. Our faith is about the world, about all cultures discovering what it means to know the reality of the risen Lord Jesus. Later in chapter 28 Jesus will tell those worshipping him to go and make disciples of all nations.
- The Lord is risen, and our faith makes a difference in our culture and society. But you might say, “Isn’t Christianity declining, hasn’t faith become irrelevant?” The Christian gospel invites us to bet our lives on Jesus: Jesus is risen from the dead, everything has changed; our response is to live in a new relationship with the risen Lord, sharing his life and his love with all people.
- Christianity isn’t here to just survive; we’re here to share the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. As a social movement we could turn inwards and become an interest group for the like-minded. But I don’t see that happening. Culturally we may find people dropping the word Easter from their Egg Hunts, but our strength lies in our service of others, not just in good PR responses.
- A new report by the think tank Theos shows there is growing evidence that Christians are rolling up their sleeves and engaging with society’s needs in a new way. Christians don’t have the answers to the challenges of Brexit but we do have a responsibility to be part of the answer. As the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster and the Archbishop of Canterbury said in the report:
Ultimately, the future of Christianity in the United Kingdom – as, of course, everywhere – rests in the hands of God, who raised Jesus from the dead. For this reason we are firmly convinced that as Christians seek to embody the love of Christ in their service across the country, that future is one about which we can be full of hope. (Doing Good p.7)
- Matthew gives us a glimpse into the first encounters with the risen Lord Jesus. These eyewitness accounts tell us why Christians lived the way they did – they knew the living Lord Jesus. May you know the love and power of Jesus’ resurrection to better serve others, daily.