Sunday, April 05, 2015

This Easter, rise to the occasion

Not too long ago, I heard an interesting ad on the radio. It was for a lighting company that was having a sale. I think they specialize in novelty lighting for parties and concerts. They told the listeners, “This Easter, rise to the occasion and take advantage of our sale on lighting.”

And that line struck me—“This Easter, rise to the occasion.” Was this just a lame Easter joke? A way to “cash in”? What if we were to say that on Easter day, Jesus “rose to the occasion”? If we were to take that seriously, what would it mean?

Jesus’ body was put to death on the cross, and he was buried in a tomb. Jesus Christ is now alive. The question I’m asking today is, Why? Why did Jesus rise from the dead? What occasioned his resurrection? Why did God want to redeem us in this way?

Because frankly, in a lot of people’s thinking, the resurrection is an afterthought. It’s a way of saying that Good Friday wasn’t so bad after all, that this whole cross/atonement thing somehow “worked.” But for those 1st century disciples, the resurrection of Jesus meant something clear and unmistakable.

It is perhaps best summarized by something Jesus says in John’s Revelation (1:17-18): “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”

These are not the words of a religious guru whose corpse lies rotting in a tomb while spiritually he continues to live on in our hearts and memories. These are the words of a Man who is God become flesh, who willingly lays down that mortal life and then takes it up again—changed, transformed, renewed, and immortal. They are the words of a Man who reigns as the divine judge, bringing the last, great day into the present moment, inaugurating God’s heavenly kingdom on earth.

As St Paul wrote in his epistle to the Church of Rome (6:9), “We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death has no power over him.” He is the omnipotent Son of God! 1. Jesus’ resurrection is the ultimate manifestation of his divinity.

2. Jesus’ resurrection shows his authority as Lord over time and space when he gives us a foretaste of the Last Day (the “day of resurrection”) here and now in the middle of time by overcoming death and being seated as the Judge of all the living and dead. That’s why he said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega: the beginning and the end” (Rev 21:6).

The third day signifies the day of the general resurrection in the Old Testament. In Hosea 6:2, the prophet says, “After two days, [God] will revive us; On the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.” Before being taken as a Messianic prophecy, this was viewed as being applied to God’s people together.

In the Acts of the Apostles [10:42], we heard Peter proclaim this morning, that Jesus “commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that he is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead.” This is why St. Paul calls Jesus the “firstborn among the dead” or the “firstborn among many brethren” who are to follow in his steps through the resurrection at the last day.

3. In his resurrection, Jesus shows us that death is conquered. Death had been robbed of its sting, robbed of its power. It is no longer a dreaded foe, but a gateway to the great beyond. Life is changed by death, but not ended. Our bodies are not just returned at the Last Day, but restored and made new. Death is turned into a mere bump in the road.

The author of the letter to the Hebrews [2:14-15] tells us: “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, [Jesus] himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.”

On this Easter Day, let us “rise to the occasion” by praising God that (1) our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ manifested his divine power and authority in conquering the grave. Let us praise God that (2) Jesus as Lord and Judge commands time and space, that he has shown himself to be our Alpha and Omega. And let us praise God this Easter Day that (3) our Lord Jesus Christ has vanquished our old enemy called “death” and made him our friend.

Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining. Have mercy, Victor King, ever reigning!

Let us pray.
Father in heaven, by the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ, happiness entered the world: Grant that we, by the aide of the Virgin Mary, his Mother, we may share in those joys of eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is now alive, and who always reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.