Alleluia! Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!
How wonderful it is to cry out Alleluia once again. Today, like that early morning that we heard about in the Gospel is the first day of the week. This is the day we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord.
Every Sunday of the year is a celebration of his resurrection, but this one is our annual feast recalling that first day at early dawn, when the women went to the tomb.
These women had come with Jesus from Galilee where he began his ministry. The Gospel according to St. Mark identifies these women as Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome. They had heard the parables, watched the blind receive their sight, watched the lame begin to walk, and most certainly had felt that despite their sinfulness, Jesus accepted them as disciples, and had forgiven their sins.
On this morning, the men were hiding because they didn’t want to be arrested as friends of Jesus. The women, however, were not afraid. They had a job to do, and they were going to do it. The custom required that a body must be prepared for burial. In the 23rd chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel, he notes that after the crucifixion, the women went home to prepare spices and perfumes to anoint the body of Jesus, but as it was the Sabbath, they stayed home and rested.
In John 19:39, we read that “Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.” The Jews did not practice embalming of the dead, but rather they anointed, and practically bathed the dead in the spices and oils to slow the decomposition, and to cover the smell. This is important, because they fully expected to find Jesus dead in the tomb. Had Jesus not really died on the cross, none of this would have occurred.
The death of Jesus on the cross is crucial to our understanding of our justification before God the Father. Jesus is the Paschal Lamb. Paschal means “of the Passover,” and it just so happens that Passover, which began on Holy Wednesday, coincides with our feast of the Resurrection this year. Before the council of Nicea, the Sunday of the Resurrection was always the day after the beginning of the Jewish Passover. This was changed to our current formula for finding the day of Easter, which means that some years, Easter and Passover might be a month apart. According to my calendar, Passover began at sun down on Wednesday, as we shared our Seder.
The Passover Lamb as we read about in the Exodus was slaughtered and its blood was painted on the door posts and lintels of the houses of the Hebrews. That sacrifice is what enabled the Hebrews to go free from their bondage in Egypt. This event is celebrated annually because it was the establishment of the Hebrews as the people of God.
During the time of the Temple in Jerusalem, the priests would sacrifice the animals brought in as offerings to God, and their blood was poured all over the altar. Jesus, as the Passover Lamb, is sacrificed for us, that we may be set free from our bondage to sin and death. His blood is poured out for us on the cross. He literally bled out to become the sacrifice for our sins.
The Resurrection is also meant to give us hope of our own resurrection. St. Paul wrote in the first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 15: “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”
This is our hope of our own resurrection. Without this hope our faith is in vain. We believe Jesus was raised from dead, and this is unique to our religion. No other religion has a god who was born to a virgin, lived among us, died, and was resurrected.
Our Father in heaven loves us so much that he gave his only begotten Son to be a sacrifice for our sins, so that we might be righteous in his sight, and that we would be resurrected, just as Jesus was. The resurrection of the body is a core belief as stated in the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed. What sort of body will it be?
The best evidence we have is from the appearances of the resurrected Lord to his disciples. He walked with them. He ate with them. He passed through doors. He appeared and disappeared. He is not bound by space or time. All this is our destiny, through faith in our Lord Jesus.
St. Paul wrote to the Colossians, “So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.”
St. Paul is saying that we have been raised with Christ, that is we have been raised to the kingdom of heaven. So let’s seek the things that are above, where Christ is. What are these things that are above? Most notably, love, pure, freely given, with nothing wanted in return.
This sort of love is so needed in our world right now. This is the love that our Father has for us, and the love he wants us to give one another. This is the New Commandment that Jesus gave his disciples and us, to love one another as he has loved us.
With love comes forgiveness. Not only do we receive forgiveness of our sins, but we are to forgive others who have wronged us. The Lord’s prayer reminds us of this each time we pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
With forgiveness comes the command to serve others. Christ washed the feet of his disciples to show them that he was the servant of all. He told them that whoever wanted to be the greatest must become a servant of all.
If you remember anything I have said today, let it be this:
We are raised with Christ to love, to forgive, to obey, and to serve.
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen