[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”lifted-both” width=”100%” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]Old Testament reading: Isiah 65: 17 – 25
Summary: I am about to create a new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. Before they call I shall answer and while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall eat together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox. They shall not hurt or destroy in all My hold mountain.
Epistle: 1 Corinthians 15: 19 – 26
Summary: Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection also has come through a human being; for as in Adam all die, so all will be made alive in Christ. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
Gospel: John 20: 1 – 18
Summary: Mary Magdalene: came to the tomb – stone rolled away, tomb empty – they have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we do not know where they have laid Him. Peter and John: Peter saw the empty tomb, went home. John saw and believed. Mary: met Jesus: “Go to My brothers and say : I am ascending ….”[/dropshadowbox]
Sermon delivered by the Rev’d Sydney Maitland
The grief at His loss is still raw and they are presented with the monstrous outrage of some kind of grave-robbery. It is an obscenity to beat them all, that the Lord who had been subjected to trial and crucifixion should now be stolen out of His own tomb.
And so they came to investigate. Peter is as non-plussed as before but Mary meets Jesus and eventually recognises Him and is immediately entrusted with a message for the disciples, especially Peter.
It is John however who sees and believes. The reality reaches into his heart and the light begins to dawn that Jesus is indeed risen.
For all of them there are implications, as all had, with the Pharisees believed in life after death and in the resurrection. But this was different for Jesus was to be seen in the land of the living, and not only seen but spoken to, touched, and indeed listened to.
If was one thing for death to issue forth in a resurrection of the spirit, but here was a physical and literal resurrection among His own disciples and kin. This was a resurrection that had deep implications for the here and now, and it proclaimed that death could not hold Jesus who was free to walk upon the earth.
Death was now no longer just a closed door or a filled-in grave. It was now a tomb opened and releasing life into the world, life in a new form and with a new purpose.
Death was a realm that itself was temporary, and not permanent. It would no longer swallow all and spell the end to all being and endeavour. It would rather be a portal into a new realm where new purposes would reign.
Whereas for Jesus death had spelt the climax of His passion and crucifixion, it was also the point where all the powers of perverted human morality and legalism must cease and eternal principles may reign.
But above all death was itself now subjected to constraint, for its terror would be constrained and life and being would not all cease to exist at its portal.
But there is another aspect, for in rising from the tomb, Jesus defeated not only the finality of death but the finality of human purpose. Men and women who held the power of death over others would themselves be defeated by its own temporariness. To rule on the life and death of another was no longer to have control over their eternal soul and purpose in life. Never again could a tin-hat dictator play at being God with the whole of eternity to do his bidding.
A further implication however is that if Jesus could come back from death, then he could also rise again over betrayal, denial, flogging, and indeed all the degradations of crucifixion.
This does have direct and immediate implications for us, for man is no longer the measure of all truth or reality. In the moral and spiritual sphere, God was always to be supreme yet even in the sphere of science then the total sum of reality is also tied up with God who may reveal or conceal it at will.
And more than that, it enables all of us who believe also to come back, even within this life, from all the reverses that we have had to endure. It means that every realm where we may have failed or been disappointed can also be stripped of its power over us.
And that includes tortured memories, repented sins, failed relationships, thwarted hopes and ambitions, the loss of all that was most treasured by and valuable to us. If Jesus could rise from the tomb and above the death, then we also are given the scope for rising above the sorrows and anguishes and setbacks that life had presented to us.
If Christ is risen, then we also within this life may also rise. We also may claim the victory over every kind of loss and betrayal. We also are to be given the scope, by virtue of being in Christ, for starting anew.
It means that forgiveness is real and has a tangible quality; it means that what the world may see as weakness is power. It means that we are empowered to find ourselves and to be ourselves, made right before God and in union with Jesus Christ.
The inexorable laws of cause and effect are now qualified by the principle that in Christ Jesus, things may start anew. Relationships may be renewed, attitudes reassessed, priorities reset.
It means that all the blandishments of power and position and prestige and possessions are themselves short-lived and term-limited. All the powers and principalities and structures themselves must be answerable before God. Might is no longer right, and to misquote Joseph Stalin, the Pope’s divisions are composed of ordinary people whose lives are turned around by the resurrection of Jesus.
These divisions are composed of all who will be part of them, young and old, brilliantly academic and mentally retarded, the fit and the infirm. They number billions of souls, and in the sight of God they are blessed indeed.
And in union with Jesus Christ, they are indeed invincible: for death had died and Christ is risen.