2021-04-04 Easter Sunday
Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
The stone was rolled away, the tomb was empty because Christ is Risen! This truth was despite the efforts of the religious establishment who tried to say such claims were #FakeNews! St. Matthew records it for us as the chief priests and pharisees flock to the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate: “Sir, we remember how that Impostor said, while He was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples go and steal Him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first!” (27:63-64). They tried to cancel the resurrection of our Lord 2000 years ago! But guess what? A gaggle of jealous Jews and a rabble of raucous Romans soldiers couldn’t stop it no matter how hard they tried! And, a world-wide viral pandemic WILL NOT and CANNOT stop the resurrection of the Lord of life either! The tomb remains vacant! The promise of resurrection and life everlasting from Christ the crucified cannot be cancelled!
You may have noticed that we now live in a “cancel-culture.” What does this mean? It means that the “woke army” continues daily to destroy free speech and push their agendas. Rather than have a lively debate about contentious topics and then allow people to use logic, reason and facts to make an informed decision, the woke army freaks out and has a tantrum. They chastise all who disagree with them for “wrong think.” The uproar of these squeaky wheels always gets picked up and championed by the fear-mongering, fakenews media and is promoted non-stop, squashing all dissenting views and effectively “cancelling” any alternative points of view. This has progressed far beyond preventing individuals from speaking at Universities. They came for Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato head for crying out loud! And now the statue of Canadian Prime Minister John A. MacDonald in Regina has been cancelled too. Or, how ’bout Mr. “Coat Of Many Colours” Don Cherry who was cancelled for daring to tell people to wear a poppy and remember what was sacrificed for freedom!
Cancelled. This was the same thing that the establishment tried to do to Jesus and His disciples. Palm Sunday made it crystal clear what they had in mind. “So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!” (JN 12:19) We need to cancel this Jesus! One chapter earlier, in John 11, it showed us their clear cancellation plan: “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let Him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation. But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they made plans to put him to death" (11:47-53).
Their goal was to cancel the Christ! To delete Him from the public record. To erase His miracles and teachings and parables. But their efforts were an abject failure! Nothing could stop the Lord of life from rising from the dead! Nothing could stop the stone from being rolled away from the tomb. Nothing could stop the disciples and followers of Jesus from proclaiming the sweetest message in the universe: Christ is Risen from the dead! But the failing, unbelieving world still carried on with their cancel culture. Later on in the book of Acts, St. Luke records for us what happened to the disciples when they refused to have their message cancelled. They were brought before the Sanhedrin, the council of the Jews and heard this: “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us” Notice that high priest Caiaphas couldn’t even bring himself to say the name Jesus!“But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging Him on a tree. God exalted Him at His right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him” (Acts 5:28-32).
And so we see that nothing can cancel the Christ! Nothing! Not councils or high priests, not Roman governors or soldiers, nor anything else in all creation can stop this Good News from being proclaimed. Jesus Himself said: “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (LK19:40). Even when the establishment was “greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:2) the disciples proclaimed the message all the more! Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and to those in tombs bestowing life! Come receive the light of life that no darkness can overcome!
Everything hinges on this truth, dear friends. Everything. St. Paul drops the sledgehammer on this in 1 Corinthians 15:14 when he says “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” If it isn’t true that Christ is raised, then who cares?! If the tomb wasn’t empty and if Christ isn’t alive then faith doesn’t matter. If death isn’t a defeated foe, face-down in front of the conquering Messiah then all we have is fear. This is why so many people are having such a hard time with the pandemic. They are so scared and terrified of not only getting this virus but also dying from it. And then said people go ballistic on you when you don’t show the same terror and panic and fear! But St. Paul also drops the sledgehammer on this too: “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2Tim 1:7). Power because death is dead! Christ destroyed the power of death through His cross and resurrection. And here’s the newsflash folks, you are going to die someday. So will I. So will all the living! Whether it’s Covid19, a variant thereof, a heart attack, cancer, a car accident, old age, you name it, death will come for us all. The leading cause of death in the whole world is being born!!!
But the rock solid promise we have from God is the promise of eternal life. We will live even though we die. Our baptism washes away our sins and brings us into this promise of God’s salvation (1 Peter 3:21) and Christ risen from the dead. Sin, death and the devil are themselves crushed, dead and defeated! The blood of the Lamb of God is our guarantee. The proclamation of the empty tomb by people who would rather die themselves - and did - rather than to deny it was true. Death holds no fear for the Christian! For it means that we get to depart and be with Christ which is far better (Phil 1:23).
And, dear friends, if it wasn’t true, why cancel it???
Why try and delete and erase the message if it’s just fanatical hogwash? Why promote a cancel-culture of death and no hope? Perhaps to encapsulate the people in a cloak of fear and control. But you know better! And you ought to know better! You trust God’s promise of resurrection and life everlasting, right?! The Old Testament prophesied about Christ being raised from the dead! (Psalm 16:10). If those who opposed Jesus wanted to silence His disciples, just produce a body and prove He was dead - but they could not! Many eye witnesses saw the resurrected Christ - evidence that would hold up in a court of law! And many of those eye witnesses became martyrs, giving up their very lives, shedding their own blood for the truth of this message. Why would anyone do that if it was only a fairy tale? And, why would the world work so hard to suppress and cancel it if it wasn’t the absolute rock-solid truth?
It’s because it is the truth! Christ is Risen from the dead! Alleluia! This message drives out all fear and lets our hearts rejoice, even in the midst of a world-wide pandemic! Covid19 cannot cancel Christ! For our triumphant Lord of life is risen from the dead now and forever more! Alleluia! Amen!
~ St. John Chrysostom’s Paschal Homily ~
If anyone is devout and a lover of God, let them enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival.
If anyone is a grateful servant, let them, rejoicing, enter into the joy of his Lord.
If anyone has wearied themselves in fasting, let them now receive recompense.
If anyone has laboured from the first hour, let them today receive the just reward.
If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let them feast.
If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let them have no misgivings; for they shall suffer no loss.
If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let them draw near without hesitation.
If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let them not fear on account of tardiness.
For the Master is gracious and receives the last even as the first; He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has laboured from the first.
He has mercy upon the last and cares for the first; to the one He gives, and to the other He is gracious.
He both honours the work and praises the intention.
Enter all of you, therefore, into the joy of our Lord, and, whether first or last, receive your reward.
O rich and poor, one with another, dance for joy! O you ascetics and you negligent, celebrate the day! You that have fasted and you that have disregarded the fast, rejoice today!
The table is rich-laden: feast royally, all of you! The calf is fatted: let no one go forth hungry!
Let all partake of the feast of faith. Let all receive the riches of goodness. Let no one lament their poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn their transgressions, for pardon has dawned from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Saviour’s death has set us free.
He that was taken by death has annihilated it! He that descended into Hades and took Hades captive!
He embittered it when it tasted His flesh! And anticipating this, Isaiah exclaimed: “Hades was embittered when it encountered Thee in the lower regions”. It was embittered, for it was abolished! It was embittered, for it was mocked! It was embittered, for it was purged! It was embittered, for it was despoiled! It was embittered, for it was bound in chains! It took a body and face to face met God!
It took earth and encountered Heaven! It took what it saw, but crumbled before what can not seen!
O death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown! Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is risen, and life reigns! Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb!
For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the first-fruits of them that have slept.
To Him be glory and might unto the ages of ages. Amen.