”˜One morning you will see in the newspapers “Moody is dead”. Don’t believe it! I shall never be so alive as I will be that morning.’
–D.L .Moody (1837-99)
”˜One morning you will see in the newspapers “Moody is dead”. Don’t believe it! I shall never be so alive as I will be that morning.’
–D.L .Moody (1837-99)
We are interested in your theological as well as personal reflections–what is touching you most today where you live and move and have your being in terms of the significance of Easter.
The more specific you can be the better.
“The compelling evidence for me is the unanimous testimony of all the apostles and even a former persecutor like St. Paul,” said Brant Pitre, assistant professor of theology at Our Lady of Holy Cross College in New Orleans. “There was no debate in the first century over whether Jesus was resurrected or not.”
Scholars say that the witnesses to Christ’s resurrection are compelling for a variety of reasons.
“People will seldom die even for what they know to be true. Twelve men don’t give up their lives for a lie,” said Ray, who recently returned from France, where he was filming his “Footprints of God” series at the amphitheater in Lyon, the site of a persecution in A.D. 177. “The martyrs of Lyon underwent two days of torture and all they would say is, ”˜I am a Christian.’ They knew the resurrection was true and didn’t question it.”
Barber also highlighted the diversity of sources and how they include different details as well as passages that do not paint the disciples in the best light.
“In the Road to Emmaus story, they write that they didn’t recognize him,” said Barber. “Our Biblical accounts are our best evidence.”
Several of the scholars pointed to 1 Corinthians, where Paul states that Christ appeared to 500 people.
“Some want to shy away from the Gospels because they say they were written later,” explained Barber. “If you want to believe that they were written later, then why wouldn’t the Gospels have made use of this piece of evidence from 1 Corinthians?” asked Barber.
Above all the gospel accounts of Easter compel our attention. “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” One version of this wonderful day begins with a voice of negation, a crucial question which many people never answer. Are we looking for love in all the wrong places? Are we clinging to earthly things and forgetting those things which do not pass away?
Then we hear “come and see.” To see with the full eyes of one’s heart is a rare thing indeed. So many times in life we look but do not see, do not perceive as God perceives. The power of the post-resurrection narratives is that each person is met on his or her terms. What wondrous love is that, as the Holy Spirit by his power opens our eyes.
The dynamic does not stop with the question and the call to see, however. If we really see who God is and his power to change lives and transform them into the likeness of his glory, we cannot keep it to ourselves.
Where I served my curacy in South Carolina, we had many Clemson football fans; they root for the Tigers whose color is orange. One day I visited a family devoted to Clemson and, I kid you not, even their toilet seat cover was orange. Bless them, they loved to tell the story of a particular University. One wonders whether an Easter people have a similar passion to share Jesus’ love for the world.
He is risen. Why? Come. See. Go. Tell. Alleluia.
–The Rev. Canon Dr. Kendall S. Harmon is the host of this blog
Jesus of Nazareth was certainly dead by the Friday evening; Roman soldiers were professional killers and wouldn’t have allowed a not-quite-dead rebel leader to stay that way for long. When the first Christians told the story of what happened next, they were not saying: “I think he’s still with us in a spiritual sense” or “I think he’s gone to heaven”. All these have been suggested by people who have lost their historical and theological nerve.
The historian must explain why Christianity got going in the first place, why it hailed Jesus as Messiah despite His execution (He hadn’t defeated the pagans, or rebuilt the Temple, or brought justice and peace to the world, all of which a Messiah should have done), and why the early Christian movement took the shape that it did. The only explanation that will fit the evidence is the one the early Christians insisted upon – He really had been raised from the dead. His body was not just reanimated. It was transformed, so that it was no longer subject to sickness and death.
Let’s be clear: the stories are not about someone coming back into the present mode of life. They are about someone going on into a new sort of existence, still emphatically bodily, if anything, more so. When St Paul speaks of a “spiritual” resurrection body, he doesn’t mean “non-material”, like a ghost. “Spiritual” is the sort of Greek word that tells you,not what something is made of, but what is animating it. The risen Jesus had a physical body animated by God’s life-giving Spirit. Yes, says St Paul, that same Spirit is at work in us, and will have the same effect – and in the whole world.
Question 45: What does the “resurrection” of Christ profit us?
Answer: First, by his resurrection he has overcome death, that he might make us partakers of that righteousness which he had purchased for us by his death; secondly, we are also by his power raised up to a new life; and lastly, the resurrection of Christ is a sure pledge of our blessed resurrection.
Footnotes: [For “first”] 1 Cor.15:16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: Rom.4:25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. 1 Pet.1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, [for “secondly’] Rom.6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Col.3:1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Col.3:3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. Eph.2:5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) Eph.2:6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: [for “lastly”] 1 Cor.15:12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 1 Cor.15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 1 Cor.15:21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. Rom.8:11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
I believe the story. With my head, looking at the evidence and thinking logically as a person who was a research physicist for twenty-five years, I believe it. And after listening to the testimony of people ”“ from beggars to kings — through all the ages who had concluded that the story is true, I believe it. And at the innermost levels of my heart, where the deepest truths reside but are not easily put into words, I believe it is true.
And that is why I know that I will see my mother again someday. It’s not just wishful thinking, some little tale I’ve fooled myself with because I can’t face the cold hard facts of life. Yes, I will see Della Mae, and I am convinced that it will be a day of great victory and joy. St. Paul says that it will be like putting on a crown, and St. John says that it will be a time when every tear will be wiped away from my eyes. That’s what will happen someday to me. But what Jesus did affects me right here today also — I know that this Jesus who overcame death and the grave has promised not to leave me here twisting in the wind. He is with me every day, through his Spirit, to guide me, comfort me, embolden me, and use me for his glory and to serve his people, right here, right now.
The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation ”” This story begins and ends in joy.
— J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973)
This is the real meaning of Easter…
No tabloid will ever print the startling news that the mummified body of Jesus of Nazareth has been discovered in old Jerusalem. Christians have no carefully embalmed body enclosed in a glass case to worship. Thank God, we have an empty tomb.
The glorious fact that the empty tomb proclaims to us is that life for us does not stop when death comes. Death is not a wall, but a door. And eternal life which may be ours now, by faith in Christ, is not interrupted when the soul leaves the body, for we live on…and on.
There is no death to those who have entered into fellowship with him who emerged from the tomb. Because the resurrection is true it is the most significant thing in our world today. Bringing the resurrected Christ into our lives, individual and national, is the only hope we have for making a better world.
“Because I live ye shall live also.”
That is the real meaning of Easter.
–Peter Marshall (1902-1949), The First Easter
The resurrection was as inconceivable for the first disciples, as impossible for them to believe, as it is for many of us today. Granted, their reasons would have been different from ours. The Greeks did not believe in resurrection; in the Greek worldview, the afterlife was liberation of the soul from the body. For them, resurrection would never be part of life after death. As for the Jews, some of them believed in a future general resurrection when the entire world would be renewed, but they had no concept of an individual rising from the dead. The people of Jesus’ day were not predisposed to believe in resurrection any more than we are.
Celsus, a Greek philosopher who lived in the second century A.D., was highly antagonistic to Christianity and wrote a number of works listing arguments against it. One of the arguments he believed most telling went like this: Christianity can’t be true, because the written accounts of the resurrection are based on the testimony of women””and we all know women are hysterical. And many of Celsus’ readers agreed: For them, that was a major problem. In ancient societies, as you know, women were marginalized, and the testimony of women was never given much credence.
Do you see what that means? If Mark and the Christians were making up these stories to get their movement off the ground, they would never have written women into the story as the first eyewitnesses to Jesus’ empty tomb. The only possible reason for the presence of women in these accounts is that they really were present and reported what they saw. The stone has been rolled away, the tomb is empty and an angel declares that Jesus is risen.
Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.
It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His Flesh: ours.
The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that ”” pierced ”” died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.
The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.
And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.
Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.
–John Updike (1932-2009)
I can’t imagine the indignity of my own death. It may come over a long period of time; it may be terribly painful; it may be as a result of accident and be instantaneous. Who can tell?
But this I do know – and you can know it too – my Saviour Jesus has walked this way ahead of me. He has walked it in the worst of all ways. And this I know ”“ that he has been raised from the dead and walks not only ahead of me, but with me, every step of that road. And this I know ”“ that out of my indignity will come the glory of being with him for ever.
…ultimately, joy is about discovering that the world is more than you ever suspected, and so that you yourself are more than you suspected. The joy of the resurrection has a unique place in Christian faith and imagination because this event breaks open the shell of the world we thought we knew and projects us into the new and mysterious realm in which victorious mercy and inexhaustible love make the rules. And because it is the revelation of something utterly basic about reality itself, it is a joy that cannot just be at the mercy of passing feelings. It roots itself in the heart and remains as a foundation for everything else. The Christian is not therefore the person who has accepted a particular set of theories about the universe but the person who lives by the power of the joy that is laid bare in the event of the resurrection of Jesus. To be baptized ”˜into’ Christ is to be given a lasting connection with joy, a channel through which the basic sense of being where we ought to be can always come through, however much we choke it up with selfishness and worry. Sometimes, clearing out this debris needs a bit of explosive ”“ encounter with an extraordinary person or story, experience of passionate love, witnessing profound suffering, whatever shakes us out of our so-called ”˜normal’ habits. But we can at least contribute to this by giving time to clearing the channel as best we may, in silence, in the space of reflection. And we can also ask persistently what it is in our social environment that will most help create this for others, especially those who live with constant anxiety because of poverty, disability or other sorts of disadvantage.
Christian joy, the joy of Easter, is offered to the world not to guarantee a permanently happy society in the sense of a society free from tension, pain or disappointment, but to affirm that whatever happens in the unpredictable world ”“ sometimes wonderfully, sometimes horribly unpredictable ”“ there is a deeper level of reality, a world within the world, where love and reconciliation are ceaselessly at work, a world with which contact can be made so that we are able to live honestly and courageously with the challenges constantly thrown at us. And on the first Easter morning, it is as if ”˜the fountains of the great deep’ are broken open, and we are allowed to see, like Peter and John at the empty tomb, into the darkness for a moment ”“ and find our world turned upside down, joy made possible.
Dear Friends in Christ,
When Marjorie Goff closed the door of her apartment in 1949 she was 39 years old. For her the door stayed shut for the next 30 years. To be accurate there were a few exceptions. She went out in 1960 to visit her family, two years later for an operation, and once in 1976 because a friend came to her apartment to take her out for some ice cream.
Marjorie suffered from that metaphor of the human condition known as a phobia. The list of recognized human phobias is legion. There’s agoraphobia, aerophobia, acrophobia, claustrophobia, pyrophobia, thanatophobia-just to name a few. Robert L. DuPont a past director of the Washington Center of Behavioral Medicine called phobias, “The malignant diseases of the ‘what ifs.'”
“What ifs” add up to fears, and fears are right smack dab in the middle of the Easter story. Matthew’s gospel tells of the chief priests’ and the Pharisees’ fear of a hoax by the disciples. So they pressured Pilate to send a guard of soldiers to secure the world against a scheme (Matthew 27:62-66). I’m reminded of Houdini, that renowned magician of another era, who told his wife as he was dying that he would find a way back. His widow waited, but he never came. You can secure the world against a scheme or even a magician, but you can’t secure it against a miracle. Mary Magdalene however didn’t know this, so she was fearful for quite other reasons than the priests and Pharisees. When she returned a second time on Easter morning to the empty tomb and to face a fearful future without even the dead body of Jesus to console her, the “what ifs” got the better of her. The Gospel of John recounts how she mistook the risen Jesus for the gardener. “Sir,” she queried, “if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him…” Our fears and “what ifs” as did hers may well hide from us the presence of the risen Christ. No wonder in the Easter narratives the attending angels and the risen Jesus tell the disciples “Do not be afraid.” It is Christ’s victory on the cross and in the tomb over every mortal enemy of humankind that makes these words have substance and therein makes them liberating.
“Christ is risen-Jesus lives” that is the telling message of Easter: even in the face of Death, Sin, Hell, Judgment, the Devil, and all the “what ifs” of fear- Jesus lives! After all these enemies of mankind have done their worst, He still Lives-and He still delivers. This is what gives truth to those wonderful words of Julian of Norwich, “All is well, and all manner of things shall be well.” She too lived like Marjorie Goff in a room with a closed door. She was an anchoress. Her room was attached to a cathedral. She had only two windows in this room. One looked in towards the altar of the Norwich Cathedral. The other looked out to the world. Unlike Marjorie, however, it was not fear that kept Julian behind a closed door. It was love-love for Christ and love for a needy world. It was for this world that Jesus died, and for which He now lives to make intercession, and within His love and intercession she presented her intercessions and so can we.
C. S. Lewis once wrote of Christ’s resurrection: “He has forced open a door that has been locked since the death of the first man.” It is this opened door that made Julian of Norwich free, free enough to be joyous in a single room, two windows and a closed door so she could live devotedly with an open door of abiding prayer (Revelation 3:20). It is the Gospel, the Good News of Christ’s death and resurrection that when rightly heard and understood will open the doors and lives of those like Marjorie Goff who have lived in the fear of “what ifs.” I encourage you to invite a friend or acquaintance to join you at church for the Easter Day Eucharist so they might hear this Good News and of the door that Christ has opened for you and keeps open for them as well.
Blessings in Christ our Savior and Lord,
–(The Rt. Rev.) Mark Lawrence is Bishop of South Carolina
Sam believes that Gandalph has fallen a catastrophic distance and has died. But in the end of the story, with Sam having been asleep for a long while and then beginning to regain consciousness, Gandalf stands before Sam, robed in white, his face glistening in the sunlight, and says:
“Well, Master Samwise, how do you feel?”
But Sam lay back, and stared with open mouth, and for a moment, between bewilderment and great joy, he could not answer. At last he gasped: “Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?”
“A great shadow has departed,” said Gandalf, and then he laughed, and the sound was like music, or like water in a parched land; and as he listened the thought came to Sam that he had not heard laughter, the pure sound of merriment, for days without count. It fell upon his ears like the echo of all the joys he had ever known. But he himself burst into tears. Then as a sweet rain will pass down a wind of spring and the sun will shine out the clearer, his tears ceased, and his laughter welled up, and laughing he sprang from bed… “How do I feel?” he cried.” Well, I don’t know how to say it. I feel, I feel” –he waved his arms in the air– “I feel like spring after winter, and sun on the leaves; and like trumpets and harps and all the songs I have ever heard!”
— J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973), The Return of the King
The feast of Easter, much more than Christmas, forces us to confront the reality of suffering and indeed innocent suffering.
A succession of natural disasters close to home and further afield pressed upon us. Huge floods up and down the Eastern coast of Australia (while the south west corner of West Australia is still in drought), repeated earthquakes in Christchurch and the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear threats in Japan have resulted in the deaths of many innocent people, continuing suffering for many survivors and the widespread destruction of property.
Our humanity is defined by how we grapple intellectually with the challenge of suffering and evil or refuse to do so; but even more by what we do in response to these catastrophes when they touch us or come close….
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.
Thanks be unto thee, O Christ, because thou hast broken for us the bonds of sin and brought us into fellowship with the Father.
Thanks be unto thee, O Christ, because thou hast overcome death and opened to us the gates of eternal life.
Thanks be unto thee, O Christ, because where two or three are gathered together in thy Name there art thou in the midst of them.
Thanks be unto thee, O Christ, because thou ever livest to make intercession for us.
For these and all other benefits of thy mighty resurrection, thanks be unto thee O Christ.
–New Every Morning
Without a doubt, at the center of the New Testament there stands the Cross, which receives its interpretation from the Resurrection.
The Passion narratives are the first pieces of the Gospels that were composed as a unity. In his preaching at Corinth, Paul initially wants to know nothing but the Cross, which “destroys the wisdom of the wise and wrecks the understanding of those who understand”, which “is a scandal to the Jews and foolishness to the gentiles”. But “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (I Cor 1:19, 23, 25).
Whoever removes the Cross and its interpretation by the New Testament from the center, in order to replace it, for example, with the social commitment of Jesus to the oppressed as a new center, no longer stands in continuity with the apostolic faith.
”“Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988), A Short Primer For Unsettled Laymen
ABC’s “This Week” celebrates Easter with a trio of religious leaders. The Rev. Franklin Graham, Pastor Tim Keller and the Rev. Al Sharpton are the scheduled guests.
Perhaps some of us may consider recording this–KSH.
The first day of the week was the third day after Jesus’ death. It was the day when he showed himself to his disciples as the Risen Lord. In truth, this encounter had something unsettling about it. The world had changed. This man who had died was now living with a life that was no longer threatened by any death. A new form of life had been inaugurated, a new dimension of creation. The first day, according to the Genesis account, is the day on which creation begins. Now it was the day of creation in a new way, it had become the day of the new creation. We celebrate the first day. And in so doing we celebrate God the Creator and his creation. Yes, we believe in God, the Creator of heaven and earth. And we celebrate the God who was made man, who suffered, died, was buried and rose again. We celebrate the definitive victory of the Creator and of his creation. We celebrate this day as the origin and the goal of our existence. We celebrate it because now, thanks to the risen Lord, it is definitively established that reason is stronger than unreason, truth stronger than lies, love stronger than death. We celebrate the first day because we know that the black line drawn across creation does not last for ever. We celebrate it because we know that those words from the end of the creation account have now been definitively fulfilled: “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen 1:31). Amen.
All night had shout of men, and cry
Of woeful women filled His way;
Until that noon of sombre sky
On Friday, clamour and display
Smote Him; no solitude had He,
No silence, since Gethsemane.
Public was Death; but Power, but Might,
But Life again, but Victory,
Were hushed within the dead of night,
The shutter’d dark, the secrecy.
And all alone, alone, alone,
He rose again behind the stone.
–Alice Meynell (1847-1922)
The Virgin-Mother stood at distance (there)
From her son’s cross, not shedding once a tear:
Because the Law forbad to sit and cry
For those, who did as malefactors die.
So she, to keep her mighty woes in awe,
Tortured her love, not to transgress the Law.
Observe we may, how Mary Joses then,
And th’other Mary (Mary Magdalen)
Sat by the grave; and sadly sitting there,
Shed for their master man a bitter tear:
But ”˜twas not till their dearest Lord was dead;
And then to weep they both were licensed.
–Robert Herrick (1591-1674)
Lord God our Father,
maker of heaven and earth:
As the crucified body of your dear Son
was laid in the tomb
to await the glory that would be revealed,
so may we endure
the darkness of this present time
in the sure confidence
that we will rise with him.
We ask this through your Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.