Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Dear friends in Christ Jesus:
I know we said it already, but I think I’ll say it again: “Good morning!” That’s a greeting you probably use every day. Have you ever stopped to think about what that means? It’s really more than just a greeting. It’s a wish for the other person. When we say “Good morning,” we’re saying that we want that person to have a morning that is good, full of happiness and well-being.
In the world that Jesus walked around in 2000 years ago, the second language that most people spoke was Greek. And the Greeks had a word that was an all-purpose greeting: Chairete. When used as a greeting, Chairete meant, basically, “I hope all is well with you.” In other words, I’m wishing you happiness and well-being. So, if you said “Chairete!” to somebody early in the day, it was much like when we say, “Good morning!” On the morning our Savior rose from death chairete is the first word he spoke. To the women who had just visited his grave, Jesus said, “Chairete!” And that was the perfect thing to say, because that morning was the best morning of all, a morning that makes every morning a good morning!
It did not start out as a good morning for a number of people. For Jesus’ disciples and everyone who had believed that Jesus was God’s promised Messiah and Son of the living God, Saturday was horrible. Seeing their Jesus dead meant they spent their day of rest in mind-numbing confusion, gut-wrenching grief and fear. And on Sunday all that was left to do was to anoint Jesus’ body for burial. Not exactly a “good” morning!
Sunday didn’t start out as a good morning for some Roman soldiers guarding the tomb. Oh, everything had been normal during the last watch of the night. All was quiet and boring until, very suddenly, it wasn’t. In a flash, boredom gave way to terror. It started with an earthquake, a “violent” quake, the kind that puts the fear of God into a person. Magnifying their fear was this: “an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.” We don’t know what visible form he assumed, but it was impressively supernatural: “His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.”
This was one of God’s holy and powerful servants, made visible so that the guards could see exactly what was happening. The angel shoved that big roundish stone away from the tomb, so that it lay flat on the ground. Then he calmly sat down on it. Matthew says: “The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.” These soldiers were not raw recruits but veteran fighting men, the kind who’d be stationed in one of the perennially hot spots in the empire. They fainted dead away at the sight of this holy, powerful creature from heaven, who arrived complete with an earthquake.
Fear is the way people react to both earthquakes and holiness. With good reasons! A violent earthquake reminds us how quickly our life can be in danger and that, in fact, death could be right around the corner. And the appearance of one of God’s holy creatures, straight out of heaven and the presence of God, is enough to knock anybody down. Fear is the natural and appropriate response of sinful human beings in the presence of holiness. Fear is what you and I feel, when we honestly face those two facts: We’re going to die and we are not holy.
What we are is sinful. We’ve proved it by sinning against God every hour of every day we’ve lived. Selfishness? Check. Greed? Check. Hatred? Check. Bitterness? Check. Lying? Check. Envy? Check. Serve ourselves rather than serve others? Check. Love nice things and fun stuff more than we love God and his Word? Check and check. We don’t measure up to what he demands, and the sentence is eternal death. So you see, fear is precisely the correct response to an earthquake and an angel.
Well, when the women arrived the guards were gone, but things were still frightening for them. There was the stone thrown aside. There was the unblocked entry to the death-place. There was God’s holy angel. And what’s the first thing he said to them? “Do not be afraid!”
The only time that make sense, the only time that’s a good thing to say to somebody, is if there’s a good reason for them to stop being afraid. In this case, there was. He went on, “for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.” Then came the take-away-your-breath announcement: “He is not here; he has risen.”
The angel then invited the women to step into the tomb so that they could see for themselves: “Come and see the place where he lay.” What did they see? The wrapping cloth, rumpled and abandoned. Now they had a much happier job to do than their original plan. Instead of taking care of a dead body, they got this assignment: “Go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’” Matthew tells us that they “ran to tell his disciples.” He also tells us how they felt; his Greek words literally say “with fear and great joy.”
Then, the best morning ever got even better: “Suddenly Jesus met them.” The crucified Jesus. The formerly dead and buried Jesus. The risen and now-alive Jesus. And what was his first word to them? “Chairete!” “Good morning!” he said.” And it was a very good morning indeed! Note also the second thing he said, as they lay at his feet, worshiping him: “Do not be afraid!” Again, that’s a meaningless thing to say unless you can offer a good reason for the person to stop being afraid. Well, what better reason is there? The risen, living, conquering Savior, Christ Jesus, the Lord himself is standing there, telling you to stop being afraid!
And if he says you can stop being afraid, you can stop being afraid. His rising from death is enough to quiet all our fears. It doesn’t matter what fears you may have, and there are a lot of them we can have in the course of a lifetime. It doesn’t matter what fears keep you awake at night, or what fears wake you up in the morning. It doesn’t matter what fears today threaten to make tomorrow morning a very bad morning. All that matters is that Christ has risen from the dead, and his resurrection quiets all our fears. It quiets, first and foremost, our fear of God’s punishment and with it, our fear of death. Having done that, it then quiets all our fears of living in such a scary world. If the sin-removing, death-conquering, risen Lord says you can stop being afraid, you can stop being afraid!
And doesn’t that make it a good morning? For those who know the power of his resurrection, every morning is a good morning. Because Jesus has risen eternal life in heaven is ours. Because Jesus lives his promises is in effect, “Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you.” We have Jesus on our side.
“Good morning!” he said. And indeed, that morning was the best morning of all. It still is, because that morning quiets all our fears. That best morning of all makes every morning a good morning. So, I think I’ll say it again: “Good morning!” And Happy Easter! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.