2023-04-09 The Resurrection Of Our Lord
Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
Empty! In most every case in the world, this is a bad thing! You’re driving down the highway at -40C, your car starts to sputter, you pullover and look at the fuel gage and dagnabbit, it’s empty! You go to COOP to buy some groceries, you run your card through the machine and dang it, your bank account – it’s empty! Your kid starts coughing and wheezing in the middle of the night, you run to the medicine cabinet for a Tylenol and concarnit, it’s empty! Your friends show up unexpectedly and you run to your beer fridge, you open up the door and alas, the shelves are empty! Such a travesty! Almost all the time in life ‘empty’ is bad! But of course there is one instance where ’empty is not bad but just so happens to be the best thing in the universe! And of course the ‘good empty’ of which we speak is the tomb of Jesus Christ our Lord that the women find … empty!
In the midst of all the crazy Easter events going on: the darkened sky, the earthquake, the crying crowds, the hardened Roman centurion confessing this Jesus to be the Son of God, the hiding disciples, the Roman sealed tombstone and detachment of soldiers – in the midst of all this stuff going on, the women set out. On the first day of the week, very early at sunrise they head to our Lord’s tomb. They go simply to anoint the body of Christ with some sweet smelling spices. As they go, they wonder just how they will roll away the huge stone in front of the tomb. But as they reach the cemetery they look up and see that the tombstone won’t be a problem after all. The giant rock had been rolled away!
Bravely – and ushered on by their curiosity no doubt – the women enter the tomb. But nothing could prepare them for what they witness. They came looking for Jesus. But instead they have an angelic encounter! “an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.” (MT 28:2-6). Do not be afraid, the Angel says! And looking over to that place where the Lord was laid by Joseph and Nicodemus they look and they find … nothing! The tomb is empty! I’m sure they saw the grave clothes our Lord wore folded up neatly and ready to be taken to the Diabetes Canada Collection Bin! But as for the crucified, dead body of Christ? Well they would look in vain! The angel says “go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. … So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.” (28:7-8).
And from the testimony and witness of these 3 frightened and joyful women has come the greatest truth in all of human history! St. Paul could not speak any stronger words on the topic when He says “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain!” (1 Cor 15:14). Everything depends on Christ Jesus our Lord being risen from the dead. Our salvation. Our forgiveness. Our eternal life. Everything hinges on the testimony that the tomb was empty indeed! And it really says something that almost all of our Lord’s disciples readily gave up their earthly lives rather than deny it. When they were given the choice to deny the resurrection and live or continue to proclaim it and die, they chose death! Why would anyone do that?! There’s no money in it. There’s no great fame and glory to enjoy if you’re dead! It makes zero sense! … Unless it’s true. And the tomb of Christ our Lord really and truly was empty.
This becomes the message that changed the world. Darkness, evil, sin, death and the devil have all been overcome by the greatest miracle this world has ever seen: the resurrection of Christ Jesus the crucified. Truly He was dead but now He is Risen! Truly the Lamb of God has taken away the sin of the world. This is how light conquers the darkness. This is how God’s persecuted people will overcome their persecutors! This is how the dead will live by faith in the resurrected Messiah. The Good Shepherd shows us goodness. Evil is met with love. Transgression is met with forgiveness. Death is met with resurrection. The world will never understand the profound and ultra-miraculous message of Christ risen from the dead. But it is absolutely everything! The grave has indeed lost its sting because the tomb was empty. Life eternal is the free gift to all who believe the women’s testimony! Today is the day of salvation! Let the eyes of faith see more clearly than ever before! The testimony of the women is true! The testimony of the empty tomb is true! The unwavering message of Christianity for 2000 years is true! The Lord Jesus Christ is risen from the dead trampling down death by death and to those in tombs bestowing life!
Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
~ 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.