An Easter Faith:
What is an Easter faith? "He Lives!" How do I know? Well, as one person said, "I know He lives because I spoke with Him this morning." Read what some Christians over time have said about the empty tomb and the full heart. Jesus' resurrection addresses us with two of life's great questions: the meaning of our existence and the meaning of death. Faith in the risen Lord redefines the meaning of both. Jesus' suffering, death and resurrection demonstrates that God has brought to us new life. Jesus' death underscores the facts of sin and evil in our world and our hearts, but his resurrection can cause us to breathe with a new sense of life.
The Easter Sermon of John Chrysostom
Are there any who are devout lovers of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
Are there any who are grateful servants?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!
Are there any weary from fasting?
Let them now receive their due!
If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their reward.
If any have come after the third hour,
let them with gratitude join in the feast!
Those who arrived after the sixth hour,
let them not doubt; for they shall not be short-changed.
Those who have tarried until the ninth hour,
let them not hesitate; but let them come too.
And those who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let them not be afraid by reason of their delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as
The Lord gives rest to those who come at the eleventh
hour, even as to those who toiled from the beginning.
To one and all the Lord gives generously.
The Lord accepts the offering of every work.
The Lord honours every deed and commends their
Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!
First and last alike, receive your reward.
Rich and poor, rejoice together!
Conscientious and lazy, celebrate the day!
You who have kept the fast, and you who have not,
rejoice, this day, for the table is bountifully spread!
Feast royally, for the calf is fatted.
Let no one go away hungry.
Partake, all, of the banquet of faith.
Enjoy the bounty of the Lord's goodness!
Let no one grieve being poor,
for the universal reign has been revealed.
Let no one lament persistent failings,
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death,
for the death of our Saviour has set us free.
The Lord has destroyed death by enduring it.
The Lord vanquished hell when he descended into it.
The Lord put hell in turmoil even as it tasted of his flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he said,
"You, O Hell, were placed in turmoil when he
encountering you below."
Hell was in turmoil having been eclipsed.
Hell was in turmoil having been mocked.
Hell was in turmoil having been destroyed.
Hell was in turmoil having been abolished.
Hell was in turmoil having been made captive.
Hell grasped a corpse, and met God.
Hell seized earth, and encountered heaven.
Hell took what it saw, and was overcome by what it
could not see.
O death, where is your sting?
O hell, where is your victory?
Christ is risen, and you are cast down.
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life is set free!
Christ is risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead.
For Christ, having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Christ be glory and power forever and ever. Amen!
Mary Magdalene at the Sepulchre,
a sermon of Meister Eckhardt.
"Mary stood at the sepulchre weeping ...." (John. 20, 11)
A wonder that in such sore distress she was even able to weep. She stood there because she loves, she wept because she mourned. She approached and looked into the sepulchre. She was looking for a dead man: she found two living angels.
Origen says: 'She stood - why did she stand when the Apostles had run away?' Because she had nothing to lose. Everything she had was lost with Him. When He died, she died as well. When they buried Him, they buried her with Him. So she had nothing to lose.
She moved on. Then he met her. She thought it was the gardener, and said 'Where have you put Him?' Anxious for
Him, she does not answer His question; just, 'Where have you put Him?' Those were her words. Then He showed her plainly Who He was. Had he announced Himself straight away while she was in the throes of longing, she would have died of joy.
If the soul knew when God would come to her, she would die of joy! - and if she knew when He would leave her, she would die of grief. She knows neither when He comes nor when He goes: she knows well when He is with her. It is said, 'His comings and goings are hidden; His presence is no secret, for He is Light, and by its very nature Light is Manifestation.'
Mary sought God and only God. That is why she found Him, because she desired God and nothing else. The soul searching for God - to her all created things mean pain. She was in pain at the sight of the angels. And to the soul seeking God, all things must count as nothing. If the soul is to find God, six things are necessary: first, what she once found sweet she now finds bitter; next, her soul becomes too cramped for her, she cannot contain herself, third, she desires nothing save God, fourth, no-one save God can console her, fifth, she puts no trust in mortal things, sixth, she has no peace of mind until her returns to her once more ...
Concise Matthew Henry
We are likely to seek and find, when we seek with affection, and seek in tears. But many believers complain of the clouds and darkness they are under, which are methods of grace for humbling their souls, mortifying their sins, and endearing Christ to them. A sight of angels and their smiles, will not suffice, without a sight of Jesus, and God's smiles in him. None know, but those who have tasted it, the sorrows of a deserted soul, which has had comfortable evidences of the love of God in Christ, and hopes of heaven, but has now lost them, and walks in darkness; such a wounded spirit who can bear? Christ, in manifesting himself to those that seek him, often outdoes their expectations. See how Mary's heart was in earnest to find Jesus. Christ's way of making himself known to his people is by his word; his word applied to their souls, speaking to them in particular. It might be read, Is it my Master? See with what pleasure those who love Jesus speak of his authority over them. He forbids her to expect that his bodily presence look further, than the present state of things. Observe the relation to God, from union with Christ. We, partaking of a divine nature, Christ's Father is our Father; and he, partaking of the human nature, our God is his God. Christ's ascension into heaven, there to plead for us, is likewise an unspeakable comfort.
Let them not think this earth is to be their home and rest; their eye and aim, and earnest desires, must be upon another world, and this ever upon their hearts, I ascend, therefore I must seek the things which are above. And let those who know the word of Christ, endeavor that others should get good from their knowledge. ~~~
It so happened that in this man Jesus God himself came into the world, which he had created and against all odds still loved. He took human nature upon himself and became man, like the rest of us, in order to put an end to the world's fight against him and also against itself, and to replace man's disorder by God's design. In Jesus God hallowed his name, made his kingdom come, his will done on earth as it is in heaven, as we say in the Lord's Prayer. In him he made manifest his glory and, amazingly enough, he made it manifest for our salvation. To accomplish this, he not only bandaged, but healed the wounds of the world.
He helped mankind not only in part and temporarily but radically and for good in the person of his beloved Son; he delivered us from evil and took us to his heart as his children, thereby we are all permitted to live, and to live eternally.
It happened through this man on the cross that God cancelled out and swept away all our human wickedness, our pride, our anxiety, our greed and our false pretenses, whereby we had continually offended him and made life difficult, if not impossible, for ourselves and for others. He crossed out what had made our life fundamentally terrifying, dark and distressing - the life of health and of sickness, of happiness and of unhappiness, of the highborn and of the lowborn, of the rich and of the poor, of the free and of the captive. He did away with it. It is no longer part of us, it is behind us. In Jesus God made the day break after the long night and spring come after the long winter.
What gives us life seems at first to take our breath away. The women and those who were standing guard over the tomb reacted with fear, trembling and paralysis to the news that Jesus was alive. We would probably react in a similar way. God's presence and gift of life can be experienced in silence, as a "still small voice" or as an "earthquake." Whatever the circumstance and nature of our own theophany, we need God's help to discern God's will and voice. The angel explained to the women the meaning of what they were experiencing: "He is risen as he said . . . go . . . tell his disciples."
The meaning of the resurrection story can break into our lives in so many unexpected ways. We can expect by faith that its truth can shake our foundation and change our perception of life. It tells us that we are meant to live our lives as a people seized by a hope that is in Christ. I wish I could say that this hope means that we will not suffer the death of other people or experience our own death. Those who believe in Christ crucified and resurrected, live, die and live again with God all for the same reason--they are a part of God's plan and mysterious ways. This may not sound like hope to some people. However, it is not only a statement of belief and hope for eternal life, but a way of expressing trust in God. Many people hold on to things that do not give them life. Life is found where God's hope and love are manifested. God is where life is more abundant.
The resurrection story is not only about hope. It is a testament to the presence of God among us. It is good to know that God will not separate God's love from us. We may distance ourselves from God, but God is as close to us as a prayer in our hearts.
Our hope in an experience of God's love is the source of our strength. It enables us to live faithful lives. The power of God demonstrated by Jesus' resurrection is the core of our identity as a people of faith. We celebrate the story's message of God's power over evil and our capacity to confront evil in ourselves and our world through daily acts of private and public piety and service to the common good. We sustain our faith through our relationship with other people and as members of the body of Christ--the church.
The resurrection story encourages us to change our expectations and assumptions about life. Life can be lived with joy. Matthew tells us that the women left the tomb "with fear and great joy." The mood of the text implies that their joy was greater than their fear. When life is found where we had expected only death, we feel great joy. We also gain a deeper respect for life as a gift of God.
The resurrection story speaks to the fragmented nature of our lives. It gives us hope when we face the broken and unreconciled pieces of our lives or even death itself. It also challenges our penchant for wanting to live a narrow life and think in a reductionistic way. It invites us to believe and be open to the undetermined ways God will reveal Godself and God's power.
Jesus' resurrection means nothing to some people. There are those for whom this story is of interest, but not a part of their own faith claim or journey. Nevertheless, it is a story that continues to be told by those who have had their expectations and lives changed by believing in Christ's resurrection. The core of who the women were and what they believed was changed by their experience on what became the first Christian Sunday morning.
The promise of the resurrection is found in the last four words of verse 10: "they will see me." We seek to see the resurrected Lord in our daily lives and through our experiences. There is joy in believing what the resurrection promises--to one day see God and God only. We live in the meantime, expecting to see God's glory revealed in life and in the lives of people who place their trust in God, who was revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The women did not expect anything out of the ordinary to happen once they reached Jesus' tomb. But their faithfulness to the task of honoring their dead placed them at the center of a life-changing event. It is wonderful that God sometimes meets us in our faithfulness. Sin prevents or limits our ability to consider what God has made possible for us to experience--the power to live with hope in God through Jesus Christ in the face of sin and death. We are empowered by the resurrection to have our lives shaped by this hope. It becomes increasingly real for us the more we cultivate for ourselves God's spirit in Jesus Christ. Jesus' resurrection is the story of how we can come to life in Christ.
"We had hoped?
"But you've got to face facts!"
The world is in the tight death-grip of the "facts." All that lives, dies. The good get it in the end. Face facts. It may be a rather somber world, but it is our world where things stay tied down and what dies stays that way. And there are few surprises. This is us.
But Easter is about God. It is not about the resuscitation of a dead body. That's resuscitation, not resurrection. It's not about the "immortality of the soul," some divine spark that endures after the end. That's Plato, not Jesus. It's about God, not God as an empathetic but ineffective good friend, or some inner experience, but God who creates a way when there was no way, a God who makes war on evil until evil is undone, a God who
raises dead Jesus just to show us who's in charge here.
On the cross, the world did all it could to Jesus. At Easter, God did all God could to the world. And the earth shook.
On Easter God inserted a new fact. God took the cruel cross and made it the means of triumph. God (the same Creator who made light from darkness, a world from void) God took the worst we could do -- all our death-dealing doings -- and led them out toward life. And the earth shook.
A new world was thereby offered to us. Jesus came back to forgive the very disciples who had forsaken him. The world is about forgiveness, as it turns out, not vengeance.