Easter: Do Not Go Home Unchanged

Easter – John 20:1-10

One year when I was the rector of St. Chrysostom’s Reformed Episcopal Church in Hot Spring, Arkansas, I sent in an ad that read: “He is not here: He has risen!”  Underneath this headline was written “St. Chrysostom’s Church.”

However, due to an error at the local paper, the way they ran the ad was: “He is not here. . . . St. Chrysostom’s Church.”  Not exactly the kind of publicity the church wanted!

Contrary to this ad, however . . .

Jesus Christ is Risen Today!!

What a joyful occasion – the high point of the Church year – the high point of our lives!

And yet because we are mere humans, weak and sinful, there is a temptation to let Easter pass by one more year without it changing us in any way.

But Jesus Christ’s challenge to you this morning is this:  – that today, this Easter, this celebration of the Resurrection of your Lord, Jesus Christ, that you do not leave this holy temple unchanged.

On Easter Sunday, we come first to a Jesus Christ who has been crucified, who had died, and who was buried.  Then, by the greatest miracle of all, Jesus Christ is raised from dead by Father.  This is the central point of Christianity and the most important event in history.  Here, Jesus Christ triumphs over Satan, sin, and death.

You might expect, therefore, that there would be ear-splitting thunder, blinding lighting, and earthquakes off the Richter scale – or at least some skywriting that said in the sky: “He is Risen!”  Instead, the Resurrection and Jesus’ triumph over Satan, sin, and death . . .  all happens off stage, when no one is around, for no one was there in the tomb with Jesus when He rose from the dead.

We witness the Resurrection through the response of Jesus’ disciples to it.  This is an important point for us to grasp.  The women come first.  In Luke 24:11 we hear that when the women told the disciples, “It seemed like idle tales, and they did not believe them.”

Peter and John were the next witnesses, and we read in verse 8 that John believed.  It’s unclear if Peter did or not, for they did not yet know the Scripture.

We might imagine that what happens next is that the disciples who have seen evidence for the Resurrection go and turn the world upside down.  What happens instead is shockingly anticlimactic. We read in John 20:9-10, “For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.  Then the disciples went away again into their own homes.”

We’re not sure what they are thinking or doing: it seems as if life will go on as normal.  It seems as if the Resurrection makes no practical difference in their lives.  Even after he believed, even after Jesus had appeared to them, John 21:3, Peter goes back to fishing – not realizing what else he should do.

Now what if that were the end of the story?  What if the Resurrection happened, and the disciples didn’t notice or really understand?  We are back in Brueghel’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus.

What if the disciples saw the empty tomb, and heard the testimony of the women – and they acted as if JC had not risen from the dead?  How sad for them, what blessings they would have missed out on.  What tragic lives, to be disciples who could not truly believe, or the disciples who claimed to believe but for whose life the Resurrection made no difference.

But Jesus does appear to them, more than once, and now they believe in earnest and their lives are transformed.  After the Ascension and the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost they turn the whole world upside down as they proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ – and live it out.  They preach fearlessly and give up their lives for their Master, most of them dying the death of a martyr.

So what is your response – you who call Jesus Lord?  You who know the Scriptures and call yourselves His disciples?

Is it to thank God that your daily duty of time with God is almost over and now you can get on with the rest of the day?  Will it be to leave this meditation on God and to forget what just happened here?

It’s sad to say that a very large number of Christians who go to church to worship walk out of the church with lives unchanged by the presence of the Resurrected Lord.  They are like the disciples who have heard about the Resurrection – and then go back to their homes as if nothing happened!  Many will go home on Easter Sunday to live as they have lived all year.  They will come back on Christmas – and maybe a few other Sundays – but more often they will stay home.  Easter is just a custom.

Or perhaps your response will be to go back to the sins for which Jesus Christ hung on the Cross?  Many will turn away from Easter Day, after the holy fast of Lent, and they will celebrate because the world is celebrating.  But they will not turn from the sins for which Jesus suffered and died, before He rose again.

But my hope and prayer is that your response will it be to meditate on the Death and Resurrection the rest of this day . . . the rest of this week . . . and the rest of your life.

On Good Friday, just 2 days ago if today is Easter, we remembered how Jesus Christ died on the Cross for our sins.  If you go back to them after the Resurrection today and if you continue to live as if the Cross and Resurrection didn’t happen then you are in a worse position than if you’d never heard.

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ must be a life-changing event in your life, or it means nothing at all.  For, as St. Paul says, your life is with Christ in heaven.  “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.  For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

If you are a Christian, then you died to your old self with Jesus Christ, and if you are to live with Jesus Christ, then you must continue to die to your sins.  If you are a Christian, then you are to lead a new life with Jesus Christ, forsaking your own lusts and desires, and praying and laboring to enter into His righteousness.

Paul says that your life is hidden with Jesus Christ, the Jesus Christ who died for you, and the Jesus Christ who was resurrected for you.  Therefore, seek heavenly things, and not the things of this world, for Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, and is now in heaven.  And if you live in His righteousness, your life is already in heaven with Him

What do you suppose was the response to Jesus when the disciples did see their resurrected Lord?  Their eyes were opened (Luke 24:31), the found peace (Luke 24:36), they worshiped Him with joy (Luke 24:52), they praised and blessed God (Luke 24:53), they loved (John 21:15ff), and they had the courage to go and make disciples of their Resurrected Lord (Matthew 28:18-20.)  They could not, in fact, help but speak of the things they had seen and heard (Acts 4:20.)

Find one – or more – of these faithful ways of responding and make your response the same today.

Do not go home unchanged.

When the disciples left the empty tomb, they may not have known what to think.  But you have heard the gospel of Jesus Christ: you are witnesses of His Resurrection.  Therefore, do not go home unchanged.

Do not leave the Word of God and the Resurrected Lord and go back to your old ways,  but go, remembering that your life is hidden with Jesus Christ.  For just as surely as your old man, your sinful nature dies with JC – your new man is resurrected with JC

Prayer: 
Refrain
Hail thee, festival day!
Blest day that art hallowed forever;
day wherein Christ arose,
breaking the kingdom of death.

2. Lo, the fair beauty of earth,
from the death of the winter arising,
every good gift of the year
now with its Master returns.

3. He who was nailed to the Cross
is God and the Ruler of all things;
all things created on earth
worship the Maker of all.

4. God of all pity and power,
let thy word be assured to the doubted;
light on the third day returns:
rise, Son of God, from the tomb!

5. Ill doth it seem that thy limbs
should linger in lowly dishonor;
ransom and price of the world,
veiled from the vision of men.

6. Loosen, O Lord, the enchained,
the spirits imprisoned in darkness;
rescue, recall into life those
who are rushing to death.

7. Ill it beseemeth that thou,
by whose hand all things are encompassed,
captive and bound shouldst remain,
deep in the gloom of the rock.

8. Rise now, O Lord, from the grave
and cast off the shroud that enwrapped thee;
thou art sufficient for us;
nothing without thee exists.

9. Mourning they laid thee to rest,
who art Author of life and creation;
treading the pathway of death,
life thou bestowedst on man.

10. Show us thy face once more,
that the ages may joy in thy brightness;
give us the light of day,
darkened on earth at thy death.

11.  Out of the prison of death
thou art rescuing numberless captives;
freely they tread in the way
whither their Maker has gone.

12.  Thou hast harrowed hell;
and have led captivity captive;
darkness and chaos and death
flee from the face of thy light.  Amen.

(Easter processional, Western rite, Venantuis Fortunatus.  Also a hymn.)

Points for Meditation:

  1. Consider the variety of ways the disciples responded to the Resurrection of their Lord. What response is the Lord calling you to today? 
  2. What might you do today to make sure today is not an ordinary day in which you go back to your normal life, unchanged?
  3. Spend some time today singing Easter hymns – even if it’s not Easter!

Resolution:  I resolve to make one faithful response to my resurrected Lord today, one of those listed above or one of my own choosing. 

 

The Resurrection by Mantegna – Public Domain

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