Go and Tell

Posted: April 12, 2012 by Todd in Sermons
Tags: , , , ,

This sermon was preached at Grace UMC on Easter morning during our sunrise service.

Text: Matthew 28:1-10

Jesus predicted on many occasions his death and resurrection.  We know from the events of this week, the horror that met Jesus.  He seemed to know what the religious authorities and government leaders would likely do as he challenged their way of doing things – upending the tables of the money changers in the temple; he knew what they would do as his popularity rose among the people.  Jesus knew that power protects itself and that those in power would come after him with all they had.  In the face of public execution and humiliation, his disciples basically abandoned him, yet he continued in obedience even to the cross.  For Jesus’s faith was not only in the evil of those around him, who would certainly kill him. His faith was also in the God who would not let such a truly evil act be represented to the world as act of righteous justice.  Through Jesus, God was reweaving human evil into saving grace.  The religious leaders would have us believe that the crucifixion was for the common good.  In reality, it was an act born in the evils of violence, fear, and greed.


Culture after culture, anthropologists tell us, find ways to make peace amongst factions within themselves at odds with one another, by finding a scapegoat – usually an outsider, often innocent, always someone who can’t adequately defend themselves.  The stereotypical example is of tribal cultures plagued with war who throw a virgin into a volcano or some such thing to appease the Gods.  When it seems the Gods are no longer angry, the need to engage in war is reduced.  After the sacrifice, the parties at odds with one another can come to peace, each either blaming the scapegoat for the problems or sometimes praising it for being part of the solution.  And for a while – it works, peace ensues.  Sometimes, and I believe regrettably, the Christian story is told as simply being another example in the human history of scapegoating.  Yahweh is upset because of human sin.  A righteous, blameless victim must be scapegoated to satisfy the wrath of God.  Jesus’s crucifixion satisfies that divine anger.  The anthropologist, Rene Girard, who is credited with recognizing the scapegoating phenomena within virtually every human culture, himself became a Christian after seeing something unique in the Christian story of sacrifice.  Like other scapegoating stories, Jesus is indeed blameless.  His death promised the Jewish leaders, the Roman government, and the people of the area with peace.  The dynamics for those participating in the crucifixion is the same as all those other scapegoating enterprises.  Yet, this scapegoating is different.  This time God becomes the sacrifice.  God becomes the sacrifice.  Jesus walks willingly to the cross.  It is the sacrifice to end all sacrifices.  The chief priests may think they are appeasing God, but in fact, God is the recipient of the evil they are doing in God’s very name.  And this time peace is achieved not temporarily through blaming a scapegoat, but through the resurrection of the scapegoat, exposing the lies of those who tried to pull it off.

That’s the Easter message this morning and every morning – God’s peace has come and is coming to earth not through human deceit, but by God taking on the pain of unjust actions perpetrated by broken humans.  It was the culmination of Jesus’s teachings to suffer for the sake of others, to give our cloak AND tunic, to walk a second mile, to turn the cheek to those who would strike us, to pray for those who persecute us, and all these things we’ve been hearing on our Lenten journey.  All of these teachings are examples of refusing to let evil tell lies to the world, refusing to let evil solve our problems.  The resurrection proves that this way of being in the world works.

The chief priests did their best to make sure what they thought they accomplished through the crucifixion would hold.  They went to Pilate, on the Sabbath day, as Matthew covertly states, and urged him to seal the tomb and guard it.  The chief priests, you see, weren’t so much concerned with keeping Jesus from rising from the dead, but rather in squashing this new Jewish movement that had been growing in popularity and therefore power.  Either a resurrection or a successful body theft could fuel the movement that threatened them.  So Jesus was buried deep in stone, surrounded by guards, officially sealed in a tomb, all to keep the peace, as the chief priests saw it.  All to preserve the lie, as it turns out.

Yet, after the resurrection, they were thrown into disaster control mode and tried to hold the lie together through further dishonesty by bribing the guards not to tell what they had seen.  It was a clever PR move, for the resurrection could happen, but if knowledge of it could be contained, discredited, then even despite the resurrection, the scapegoating lie they told in the crucifixion could be preserved.
You see, there is power in the telling.  The angel and Jesus both instruct the women to go and tell.  The chief priests and the elders paid a price even higher than the bribe they paid to Judas in an attempt to prevent the telling.  Why is telling so important?  Isn’t the story over with Jesus’s resurrection?

The telling of the resurrection – the Good News of Jesus is important to illuminate the seductive lie that played pervasively then and now – that doing evil buys us something.  It isn’t just these primitive religious scapegoating narratives – in so many ways we have fooled ourselves into believing the lie that evil pays.  Sometimes we embrace it as openly and boldly as the chief priests did.  Other times we are like Pilate and do little to actively resist the evil forces that pull us along.  Still other times we’re like the crowds that shout Hosanna, Hosanna upon Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem, either not really understanding his message or willing to abandon him when things get tough.  In the end, evil does not win.  God wins.  This is a message worth spreading – and quickly as the angel urges, and with great joy as Mary and Mary did.

There’s a warning in our passage this morning about going and telling.  There is fear involved.  Mary and Mary, the text says, had a bit of fear – who of us could blame them after what they just witnessed – they we’re doing quite well compared to the guards who had become like dead men.  But twice, we’re urged in this passage – “Do not be afraid” and when Jesus says it, it is the last time fear is mentioned in the gospel.  And I think there is something to the running that Mary and Mary did and the angel telling them to go quickly.  Self-development expert, Tony Robbins says the best way to conquer fear is to just do something right away as quickly as possible so fear doesn’t paralyze you, as it did the guards.

There was one more instruction that the heroines of our story were given.  Go to Galilee.  It was a place where Jews were a minority and was full of Gentiles.  When Jesus does meet them at Galilee, he gives them the Great Commission to go into all the world, telling, teaching, and baptizing.  Jesus wanted them all to understand the bigness and expansiveness of this “Go and tell.”  Only then will the lie die and only then will we finally and fully experience the abundance of God’s kingdom. Through the miracle of the resurrection and the going and telling of God’s people, God is continuing to establish the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven by taking our sin and pain and somehow raising up something beautiful out of it.  No, we don’t have an angry God who lusts for blood sacrifice, but a God who transforms the evil of blood sacrifice and the lies it tells, a God who beats spears into pruning rooks, a God of resurrections.   We entered into this week as people of the crucifixion.  Let’s be people of the resurrection.  Let’s expose the lie.  He is risen.  Go and tell.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *