EASTER VIGIL & EASTER SUNDAY OF THE LORD – B 2021
THE LORD HAS RISEN, ALLELUIA!
(The Significance of the Resurrection of Jesus)
Gen 1:1, 26-31; Gen 22:1-18; Ex 14:15-15:1; Ex 15; Is 54:5-14; Is 55:1-11; Is 12:5-14; Bar 3:9-15, 32-4:4; Ez 36:16-28; Rom 6:3-11; Mk 16:1-8
Acts 10: 34, 37-43; Col3: 1-4/1Cor 5:6-8; Jn 20:1-9
Today we can, once again, sing the “Halleluiah”, a word that we have not sung throughout Lent. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad (Psalm 118:24). Halleluiah! We can make this proclamation because something marvelous has happened among us. Jesus is risen from the dead. The Lord has truly risen. Halleluiah!
Therefore, we rejoice and sing ‘Alleluia’ because our faith in Christ has been vindicated; our sins have been forgiven; truth has triumphed over falsity; justice over injustice; death has been conquered and tragedy has turned into comedy. The Resurrection has a far-reaching implication on our faith and life as Christians! The resurrection matters for the following reasons:
1. THE RESURRECTION IS THE CORNERSTONE OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
The resurrection of Jesus, (combined with his crucifixion) is the central historical event in the Christian faith. Without the resurrection there would be no Christianity”. St. Paul writes: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1Cor 15:14). The Resurrection is one of the pillars of the CREED which we profess every Sunday and feast days.
Our Lord had clearly claimed to be the son of God, which was the reason why the religious leaders conspired to kill him. “The Jews answered him (Pilate), ‘we have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God” (John 19:7). If Jesus is not the SON OF GOD, then our faith is baseless. The resurrection was God’s proof that the Lord Jesus was who he claimed to be: THE SON OF GOD. According to St. Paul, it is he “Who was declared with power to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:4). It is for this reason that we can shout Alleluia!
2. THE RESURRECTION GIVES US OUR ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS
St. Paul emphasizes (in 1Cor 15) that Jesus’ resurrection means that his sacrificial death on the cross was sufficient, and therefore our sins can be forgiven. He reminding us that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1Cor 15:3-4). Then, in verse 17, he argues that “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”
In other words, Paul saw a direct connection between the resurrection of Jesus and the sufficiency of his death to atone for our sins. When Jesus rose again on the third day, it was the public announcement that God was fully satisfied with the sacrificial death of his Son. In his resurrection, Jesus was vindicated. “He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the spirit, seen by angels, and proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory” (1Timothy 3:16). In Jesus’ vindication, we are vindicated too. That’s why Paul says in his letter to the Romans that Jesus “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25).
Therefore, the resurrection declares that the GOOD NEWS is true: we can be made right with God! No matter what we have done in the past, it can be forgiven if we will put our trust in Christ and ask for mercy in a good confession. You may be in a physical prison or in a prison of guilt in your own mind. The resurrection declares that the payment for sin on the cross was sufficient! You can be forgiven!
3. THE RESURRECTION ALSO PROVIDES US A REASON TO LIVE A LIFE OF OBEDIENCE
What we do now, matters for eternity. The Resurrection was not simply an event we celebrate and remember. It is an event that, properly understood, changes the way we live our lives. No longer do we try to “fit God” into our schedule. Instead, he becomes the starting point for everything we do. Our life truly revolves around him. As we live our lives we understand that we are currently, if you will, making deposits into our eternal retirement account. The sacrifices of this life will yield a blessing in life of eternity.
4. THE RESURRECTION IS THE TRUIMPH OF THE TRUTH
William Barclay, a biblical scholar, writes that there are four great truths that are proclaimed by the resurrection. They are good and pertinent here. The Resurrection shows us that,
Truth will Triumph over Falsehood
Good is stronger than evil
Love is Stronger than Hatred
Life is Stronger than death
We are celebrating the GOOD NEWS that truth is immortal. One can suppress Truth, accuse it of being a lie, condemn it, torture it, kill it, burry it in the grave but on the third day, Truth will rise again. Remember this and do not give up on Truth even when everybody seems to give up on it. Do not give up on Truth; do not give up on Justice. Do not give up on doing what is right. ‘True’ will always be true. ‘Just’ will always be just! Right will always be right even when the world around us would have it otherwise. We must learn to believe in the sun even when it is not shining knowing that by and by it will shine again. It is the end of the story that counts. That is why the church asks us today to rejoice and be glad. Even when we are going through very difficult times: through betrayal, unjust discrimination, lies, misrepresentations; even when the enemy seems to be winning the battle in our lives.
5. JESUS’ RESURRECTION MEANS THAT DEATH IS DEFEATED ONCE AND FOR ALL
As Peter proclaimed on the Day of Pentecost, “God raised [Jesus] from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:24). Death lost its grip on Jesus! The resurrection means that Jesus not only defeated death for himself, but that he defeated it for us. He died and rose as a new representative for humanity, as the Second Adam. St. Paul teaches: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, “the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by one man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1Cor 15:20-22). His resurrection guarantees ours. The empty tomb assures us that sickness and suffering, death and disease will not have the final word.
6. BECAUSE JESUS LIVES, “WE CAN FACE TOMORROW”. (That is why the first message addressed, by the angel and by Jesus, to the first witnesses of the resurrection was “Do not be afraid” – Mk 16:6a; Mtt 28:5) Because he is alive, we know that even the most tragic circumstance is only temporary. St. Paul speaks of the future glory in these words: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18). The risen Lord is the reason for such a great confidence, for “If God is for us, who can be against us? He did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ is the one who died—more that that who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of God? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (Rom 831-36).
7. JESUS’ RESURRECTION MEANS THAT THE MATERIAL WORLD MATTERS
Lest there be any misunderstanding, when the apostles said that Jesus rose again, they meant that his physical body came back to life. The risen Jesus was not a phantom or ghost, but a being who ate breakfast, a being with flesh and bone (c.f. Lk 24:36-43 and Jn 21:10-14). When Jesus came out of the tomb in a physical body, it was God’s definitive stamp of approval on the creation project with all of its materiality. The resurrection shows us that matter matters. And this is why the early Christians looked to the future with confidence that the created order itself would be redeemed (c.f. Romans 8:18-25).
Though we wait for the full consummation of new creation, the Scriptures also teach that the power that raised Jesus from the dead is already working within us (Eph 1:19-20). The resurrection not only assures us of God’s forgiveness and comforts us in suffering as we anticipate the final reversal of death, disease, and decay; it also motivates and empowers us to push back the tide of suffering and evil in the present world, through word and deed, in mercy and in justice, all in the name of Jesus.
Today, Jesus Christ has won. And we know that in Christ we shall overcome. Come, let us praise the Lord! Because of this victory of Christ, the expression ‘Halleluiah!’ shall resound on our lips for the next seven weeks in a very special way, and for the rest of the year until Ash Wednesday next year. The Lord has truly conquered. Let us, therefore, rejoice and be glad. The Lord is risen as He said! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
With faith and trust in the risen Lord, today, we are invited to publicly renew our Baptismal Vows! We are called to renounce Satan, the father of lies (defeated forever), by placing ourselves and our entire lives, unconditionally, under the Lordship of the risen Jesus!
The Lord has risen, Alleluia, Alleluia!