What a joyful occasion is Easter: 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. I therefore challenge you this morning – that today, this Easter, this celebration of the Resurrection of your Lord, Jesus Christ, that you do not leave His presence an unchanged person.
On Easter, we come to Jesus Christ crucified, dead, buried – for the sins of the world. And then, the greatest miracle, Jesus Christ is raised from the dead by Father. The central point of Christianity – the most important event in history – happens. Jesus Christ triumphs over Satan, sin, and death. And it all happens when no one is around, for no one was there in the tomb with Jesus when He rose from the dead.
And yet there were many witnesses: many eventually saw proof of the fact that Jesus rose again from the dead. The women came first, and then Peter and John. The disciples see the evidence for the Resurrection, but they did not see the Resurrection itself.
The disciples have different responses to the evidence for the Resurrection. In Luke 24:11, when the women told them the great news, “It seemed like idle tales, and they did not believe them.” Here in John 20:9-10, we read that, “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.”
It’s clear from verse 8 that John believed, although it’s less clear that Peter did immediately. But neither John nor Peter fully understood the Scriptures that spoke of the Resurrection. Of course, we’re all familiar with Doubting-but-soon-believing Thomas’ reaction.
But it’s the response found in John 20:10 that most intrigues and teaches me today. After the central event of Christianity has happened, after the glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ, what do we find the disciples doing? They go back to own homes. I’m not sure what they were thinking or doing, but it seems as if they think life will go on as normal, as if the Resurrection makes no practical difference in their lives.
Even after he believed, even after Jesus had appeared to them, in John 21:3, Peter goes back to fishing, apparently not realizing what else he should do (and he doesn’t, fully, until the Day of Pentecost).
Now what if that were the end of the story? What if the Resurrection happened, and the disciples didn’t notice or really understand? What if the disciples saw the empty tomb, and heard the testimony of the women – and then acted as if Jesus Christ 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.
But Jesus does appear to them, more than once, and now they believe in earnest. Their lives are transformed, and 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 both with their lips and with their lives. They preach fearlessly and give up their lives for their Master that most of them end up dying the death of a martyr.
And what about you? Why did you go to church on Easter Sunday, and why do you read the Bible and pray? Because like those early disciples you call yourself a Christian. Because like those early disciples you are a witness to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ – or else what in the world would you doing in a church on Easter morning – or reading your Bible?
Because you do know the Scriptures that teach that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, and therefore, each of you will be without excuse on the Day when Christ returns in glory. 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 the business of Easter is almost over and now you can get on with the rest of the day? Will it be to leave God’s House and His Table and forget what just happened there? It’s sad to say that for a very large number of Christians who come to church on Easter, that this is exactly what will happen. They will be like the disciples who have heard about the Resurrection and then go back to their homes as if nothing happened.
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 this Easter, 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 a few days ago, we remembered how Jesus Christ died on the Cross for our sins. If you go back to them after Easter – if you continue to live as if the Cross and Resurrection didn’t happen – then we are in a worse position than if you’d never heard.
Easter – the Resurrection of Jesus Christ – must be a life-changing event in your life, or it means nothing at all. For, as Paul says, your life is with Christ in heaven (Colossians 3:1-3). 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.
St. 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, 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
And therefore: do not go home today, from Easter, 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, the very oracles of God, and you are witnesses of His Resurrection. Therefore, do not go home unchanged.
Do not go back home 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 Jesus Christ, your new man is resurrected with Him.
This, then, is the meaning of Easter: not only that Jesus Christ died and rose again, but that He died for you and rose for you and now you are to live with Him in heaven.
Therefore, leave the presence of God today as someone who has been transformed by God’s love. Do not go home unchanged.
Point for Meditation: What practical difference does the Resurrection of Jesus Christ have in your life today? This may require much meditation on your part. How should it help focus your life and see things in perspective?
Prayer: O God, whose blessed Son did manifest himself to his disciples in the breaking of bread; Open, we pray thee, the eyes of our faith, that we may behold thee in all thy works; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Resolution: I resolve to spend enough time today reflecting on the Resurrection that I will not leave God’s presence today unchanged.
© 2016 Fr. Charles Erlandson