The Resurrection of Our Lord, Year C
Acts 10:34-43; I Cor. 15:19-26; Lk. 24:1-12
The resurrection; the Day God acted as never before to raise Jesus from the dead. So important, holy and special is this day for all devout Christians, that some refer to it as the Day of days and the First Day. It is the Day of days because it forever changes the course of all history; it has accomplished in Christ’s resurrection what no other event could ever accomplish—namely, our redemption, along with the redemption of the whole creation. All the powers of death, sin and evil have ultimately been defeated by Christ’s death and resurrection.
It is also called the First Day because, as Paul says, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.” The words first fruits here mean: first installment—that is, in Christ, God showed us all what God will later do for everyone else too; everyone who has faith in this God of the resurrection will also be raised by God one day. In other words, Christ’s resurrection is a sign, as promise, a guarantee that one day God shall raise us from the dead too.
So important is this First Day of the week that, every Sunday, us followers of Jesus gather for worship to celebrate the resurrection. So we’re here today and every Sunday to remind ourselves of, to celebrate the resurrection.
Yet, a lot of people down through the ages, and even today, either don’t believe in Christ’s resurrection or they mix it up with other events and beliefs, which have the capacity to create a lot of confusion for people. Some have invented all kinds of theories—stating that Christ never really died on the cross; he was quickly removed from it, they say, and then resuscitated; either by using special secret magic powers or by special herbs and medicines.
Others spread the story that his body was stolen or secretly hidden and anther person who looked like him began to impersonate Jesus. Others believe that the resurrection stories in the canonical Gospels are merely the product of writers, poets, and artists who let their imaginations work overtime; driven by their wishful thinking. Others believe that the grief, disappointments and despair of the disciples led them into hallucinations of Jesus.
Then, there are those who dismiss the Gospel accounts as merely good ghost stories. Even in today’s gospel, the apostles dismissed the resurrection message of the women, by reducing it to “an idle tale.” According to William Barclay: “The word used is one employed by Greek medical writers to describe the babbling of a fevered and insane mind.”
In response to all of these theories and beliefs that reject the resurrection; Christians ask questions like: Why would the disciples one day run, hide, deny and betray Jesus and then, only a few days later, be willing to publicly believe in and spread the Good News of Christ’s resurrection? Why would they want to deceive people by spreading a story that wasn’t true? Why would they believe in and follow Christ with such conviction that they were willing to face: torture, persecution, hardships, beatings, rejection sometimes even from their family members, imprisonment, and even death for the sake of Christ and his Gospel?
Would people be willing to do all of this for their own selfish interests or for the sake of some nice, romantic fairy tale? Hardly! One consistent point that all three of our passages make is that: something very special happened, God acted in a way which they had never witnessed before. Peter’s sermon in Acts puts it this way: “God raised him on the third day.” Paul states it like this: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead.” Luke’s Gospel communicates the message with these words: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”
The truth of these claims of scripture are also borne out in countless lives of faithful people down through the ages. One such witness to Christ’s resurrection in recent time is Hungarian Lutheran bishop, Lajos Ordass. Andrew Wyermann tells us about him in the following story.
I remember the witness of Bishop Lajos Ordass…to a small group gathered at the Lutheran World Federation assembly in Minneapolis in 1957. As bishop, he protested the Communist regime’s confiscation of church schools and was imprisoned for twenty months. Later he was under arrest for six years. He was a tall stately man, and I can still see his ashen face as he quietly told his story.
“The placed me in solitary confinement. It was a tiny cell, perhaps six feet by eight feet, with no windows, and soundproofed. They hoped to break down my resistance by isolating me from all sensory perceptions. They thought I was alone. They were wrong. The risen Christ was present in that room, and in communion with him I was able to prevail.” 1
This and other stories of faithful followers of Jesus down through the ages bear witness to the enduring reality and truth of the resurrection. Nothing in this whole universe is able to contain, dismiss, destroy the power of God acting through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. One moment the apostles dismiss the first preachers of the resurrection—the women—by feeding them an “idle tale;” the next moment these same apostles are telling the same resurrection story as the women, and willing to lay their lives on the line for it too. Oh yes, and interestingly enough, there’s a stained glass window in the Cathedral of Semur in Burgundy, dating back to the 13th century, honouring Mary Magdalene as one of the first preachers of the risen Christ.
Christ’s resurrection power and presence is with us here, today, as He promises to be with us in the word and sacrament of Holy Communion. As we go from here, His resurrection power and presence goes with us too, as we: live in faith, hope, love and joy to spread His Gospel message in our words and actions every day.
This is the Greatest News that world could ever hear: Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Will you go out from here keeping silent about this Message and hoarding it to yourself? or will you go out from here to share this Message with everyone?
Who knows what will happen when we tell the story to even the most skeptical and hostile of people? Maybe God, working through the power of the Holy Spirit will be able to transform their lives too, just as God did with Peter, Paul, Mary Magdalene, the woman of Samaria, millions of others down through the centuries, including you and me.