Easter Day, 2019
The Epistle – Colossians 3:1-4
The Gospel – St. John 20:1-10
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
We hear this morning in the Gospel lesson taken from John’s account, the rising from the dead of Jesus Christ.
John lets us know that he and Peter were together early that morning when Mary Magdalene came to them with astonishing news.
She says, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” (ESV)
Resurrection doesn’t seem to be in her mind at this point. The body has been stolen or at least moved is her thought.
A flood of thoughts must have gone through Peter and John’s heads as she told them what she had seen.
He did talk about rising…but we didn’t really know what that meant when He said it.
He did say something about raising up the temple in three days. This sounded quite out of the ordinary.
(Only later would they know that He was referring to His body being raised up on the third day.)
He got upset at some… because they were pressing Him to show them some sort of miraculous sign and He told them to go and recall the story of Jonah.
Recall he was three days in the belly of the great fish.
Not all that long-ago Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man will be handed over and rejected by the Chief Priests and Elders…He will be killed and after three days, rise again.
This one seems to be pretty clear…but we are of course hearing it long after we know the end of the story.
All of this was probably slowly dawning on them as they ran to the tomb to see for themselves what Mary had reported to them.
They arrive there and see that it’s open and empty. They go in. They see all of the linens used to wrap Jesus lying nicely folded.
John says, “…for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.  Then the disciples went back to their homes.” (ESV)
Mary Magdalene, being more persistent. Encounters Jesus not long after. She is back at the tomb. She sees someone but does not recognize him.
Jesus speaks to her and suddenly, she recognizes the voice and she says to Him “Rabbi.”
“Mary Magdalene then ran back and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’—and that He had said these things to her.” (ESV)
From this point on, beginning that very evening things begin to pick up speed. Jesus begins to appear to the Disciples. More of them see Him alive and are amazed and overjoyed.
The transformative power of the news of the resurrection, and many people even seeing Him for themselves…from that day forward… from the very first sighting by Mary Magdalene to the other Disciples and then larger and larger groups has been what has advanced the Christian faith from that day to the size and scope and reach and impact it still has today.
Despite many efforts in the last few centuries and even greater efforts today to discount the veracity and factual nature of the resurrection, the Church, on this day…. continues to gather around this central truth….handed down to us by eyewitnesses….this central truth of Christianity.
Jesus Christ did in fact rise from the dead on the third day, as reported.
Belief in that brings everlasting life. Rejection of that brings everlasting damnation.
But we are 2000 years or so removed from this event. Though it is still a central fact of the Christian faith, it is still far removed from us.
So, we have to be all that more attentive to the resurrection so that it will continue to have meaning for us today.
Thankfully, we have not only the account of the resurrection today in our lessons, but we have St. Paul, who never lets us down.
Paul is always ready to give us the implications of the things Jesus said and did.
St. Paul and Jesus are completely complementary. Paul fleshes out what we get from the accounts of Jesus in the Gospels. Paul helps us understand just what the resurrection is. What it means for us…how we can think about it.
One of the things we should remember, which can make the resurrection more real to us in our day is to always tie it to baptism.
Baptism has so much in it that points us to the resurrection.
Baptism has lots of symbolic acts that call to mind resurrection.
Baptism has real actual grace in the act of doing it.
J.B. Lightfoot (Bp. of Durham late 1800’s) – “The sacrament of baptism, as administered in the apostolic age, (and even up to today) involved a twofold symbolism: a death or burial and a resurrection. In the rite itself these were represented by two distinct acts, the disappearance beneath the water and the emergence from the water.”
This is a very good analogy of the resurrection.
First Jesus died and was buried. When we come to the waters of baptism, we are dead already.
Next…we recall the tomb stone was rolled in front of the opening and sealed by Roman Guards. Jesus disappears from sight. He is entombed.
Those who undergo a full immersion can perhaps see this more than we who sprinkle or pour water on the head of the one being baptized.
If you were fully immersed, you would in essence disappear from sight under the surface of the water.
And then on the third day, Jesus rose from the dead. The tomb was opened, and He rose to life again.
In baptism, as we come out of the water, we are born to a new life as well.
Even in our rite where water is poured, we still get the impression that this is a new life beginning.
The clam shell is dipped under the water and brought to the recipient’s head. There is still an immersion of sorts.
Jesus, at the resurrection, is raised in an imperishable body.
In baptism …and this is different from Jesus, we are washed to newness of life and original sin is washed away. But we are still said to be now born anew…washed clean and we are a new creation…and the potential for being raised up on the last day is set in motion.
We can say then, after baptism, that we are raised to a new life.
The Holy Spirit is at work in us. We are born to newness of life. We are washed and clean.
In a word, as Christ was raised, so we too are raised to newness of life in baptism.
So, if we keep these important connections in mind, we can come to Paul’s section today as a resurrection reading with some clarity.
He says, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”
Lightfoot - The change involved in baptism, if truly realized, must pervade a man’s whole nature.
It affects not only his practical conduct (the way we act) but his intellectual conceptions also. It is nothing less than a removal into a new sphere of being. He is translated from earth to heaven; and with this translation his point of view is altered, his standard of judgment is wholly changed. Matter is to him no longer the great enemy; … The material, the transitory, the mundane, has given place to the moral, the eternal, the heavenly.”
In other words, baptism changes how we think. But it also brings new a reality as well.
So again, Paul says, “If then you have been raised with Christ, (because we have in baptism) seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
The resurrection is to be remembered through our baptism. In baptism we are now united to Christ. We are in Christ because we have been raised with Christ.
And now our minds are to be set on things above, not on things of the earth. Our gaze it turned upward to God.
To set our minds on things above is to cease to concentrate our energy, our thoughts, our desires on the things of this world…and to realize our new, heavenly status…our new heavenly life given to us in the resurrection of Christ….that is to be lived out today, now.
Turning our minds to the things above, is where Paul says Christ sits right now.
He says elsewhere, and listen to how real this is to be for us….hear this as Paul speaking to each of you….
“…you were dead in the trespasses and sins  in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—
 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.  But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (ESV)
That last part is so interesting. He says Christ has raised us up. …past tense.. and He has seated us with Him in the heavenly places…very much an already present reality for us. This is right now.
And yet John writes in Revelation, “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.” (ESV)
Here we also have the future promise given as well.
So, our minds are taught two things here. To consider these things present realities, and as we think that way, we begin to strive to live out the life we are supposed to as Christians.
And yet we are also told that they are goals, ends and finalities that we have not fully attained yet…in that we don’t see it, but it is a future promise.
And this pushes us to press on to make it our own.
Paul goes on, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
There is the reference again to baptism. We have died. Our old self is dead when we are baptized. Baptism is a resurrection from death to life in Christ.
We once were alive, but Adam cut that life short in his disobedience.
We are now alive again because what Adam did has been washed from us.
And the resurrection of Christ is now made more real for us because we get a reminder of it …more often than we might even realize.
And then the final thing we look toward. Paul’s last words today that we heard.
“When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (ESV)
In other words, when Christ (who is our life) ….meaning who is the one who gives us life…and sustains our life…
Whoever has the Son, has life, as John says… when He comes back a second time, we will also appear with Him in Glory.
We will be changed.
We will be glorified.
The veil…the dark glass we look through now, that dulls our senses to all of this….that keeps us from seeing this fully and clearly, will eventually be taken away.
We shall see Him truly as He is.
We shall be transformed to be able to see all things as they are.
We will be raised up with Him, and we will gaze upon Him for eternity, all because He has risen from the dead.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.