2022-04-17 Easter Sunday
Updated: Apr 18
Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
It feels great, doesn’t it? After 40 long days of no Alleluias, we get to shout them with joy again this morning! The bright sadness of Lent has given way to the blinding brightness and joy of the empty tomb! How glorious! The One who was crucified for us is risen from the dead just as He said He would. Christ is Risen from the dead, beating down death by death and to those in tombs bestowing life! Death, our greatest enemy has been slapped harder than Chris Rock at the Oscars! It has been defeated by the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Sin, death and the devil, that ancient trio of unrighteousness are squashed by the amazing love of our Heavenly Father.
Every single Easter, you hear on the news a headline that says something like this: “This is the day that Christians believe that Jesus rose from the dead.” But it’s misleading and fake news on 2 fronts. 1, we don’t know the actual date our Lord’s tomb was found empty on. We know it was a Sunday, the first day of the week. But we don’t know the year so we don’t know the exact date. And 2, it’s not that we believe Jesus rose from the dead, but rather that He truly DID rise from the dead! It’s a fact attested to by eye witnesses. Nobody ever accused the survivors of the Titanic of imagining that it sunk or merely believing that it did. Nobody thinks that the twin towers didn’t really come crashing down on 911, that it was a made up myth. Why? Because people were there! They saw those things happen. There were witnesses. And, there were important eye witnesses at Jesus’ empty tomb too.
Some women folk were the first to see it. They went to the tomb in sadness to anoint and care for our Lord’s body but when they got there, the stone was rolled away and Jesus was gone. Then came the disciples Peter and John to check out their story. Then the other disciples saw Jesus, then 500 people at once, and finally St. Paul saw Him in a very blinding light on the Damascus road. How many eye witnesses do you need to make a point?! It’s safe to say beyond all shadow of doubt that Christ truly is risen!
And if this isn’t the case, if this isn’t the rock solid truth, if the eye witnesses were wrong, we might as well pack it up and go home right now! If Christ isn’t risen from the dead, if He did go and marry Mary Magdalene and have 8 little “Jesus-Juniors” riding their tricycles all over the Holy Land as the Davinci Code guy thinks, then our faith is useless! All y’all are wasting your time here this morning! You might as well go now and scarf down some mini eggs because chocolate is all you’ve really got! Bunnies and egg hunts become the true meaning of Easter if that tomb wasn’t 100% empty.
If Jesus isn’t risen from the dead, if there is no resurrection, then everyone you know who is dead is gone forever. ‘Dead is dead’ as the unbelieving Jews say. There will be no reunion. Life ceases when you breathe your last breath and that is it. There’s no point in worrying about the meaning of life, morality, judgment, sin, grace, or anything really. You might as well just live for today, make yourself happy. Embrace hedonism and anarchy. Who cares!? You can jump in with the ancient Greeks who said “let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die.” That’s all life is if Christ is not risen from the dead. It’s just eating, getting fat and passing on our flawed genetic cesspool to the next generation who will spend all their money on iPhones and electronics! People become a bunch of dog eat dog consumers, survival going to the fittest exactly as Chucky Darwin predicted.
But we know better than that, dear friends. We know something DID happen that Sunday morning. Something earth shattering. Even the angels in heaven had to come down and take a peak see at what took place. Science and biology and medicine were baffled at what the women experienced. They expected to see the dead corpse of their friend – the guy they watched die on the cross just a couple of days before! They came to see that mangled, scourged and blood encrusted corpse. They had the spices in hand for their mission that laid before them. But they forgot Christ’s words that went something to the effect of ‘He’d be crucified but on the third day rise from the dead.’ But even the backwoods, country bumpkins from Galilee and Bethsaida knew that all dead people do is stink. Normally.
But what those ladies found blew their minds. The stone was rolled away from the tomb – not so much to let Jesus out, but to let the world in. His body was gone and all that was left there was a pile of laundry. His burial clothes were there, neatly folded up. You remember when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead? He came out of the grave like a zombie, still wearing his burial clothes. But that’s because he would need them again. Not so for Jesus. He was risen from the dead and this time, death was the defeated foe.
But it wasn’t all joy at first. Nope. No sir. It was tears and sadness. Mary was devastated standing outside the tomb crying. Then she thinks she sees the gardener. But as our Lord speaks her name, her fears are calmed and her tears are dried. “Rabboni!” she says as she realizes that it is true. Jesus who suffered, died and was buried is truly standing before her right now in the flesh. Her beloved teacher was there, staring Him in the eye. The marks where the nails had been are in His hands. The unthinkable has happened! Mary has seen the Lord and we believe it for a fact!
Death is defeated, Christ has conquered. Do you dread the grave? Are you worried about your own death? Then dread it no longer for Christ our Lord has changed death into a sabbath rest. Do you grieve for your friends and family who have already died or soon will? Then grieve in hope and trust because in Christ, the dead will rise too. Are you suffering or burdened with despair? Then rejoice in those difficult times for we see that in the Cross, God transfigured suffering itself into amazing blessing! Do you still after all this time doubt the amazing power of God to do the unthinkable? Then doubt no more for Christ is risen. His words are true, the testimony of the witnesses is true. How do we know? Because the Bible told us so. He is the way the truth and the life. Our Lord has brought us from sadness to joy, from death to life. Rejoice in the Holy Baptism that washed away your sins and joined you to Christ. Come and eat and drink the true body and blood of Christ, for tomorrow we live!
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!