The Cross and Resurrection: A Revelation about God and Ourselves
Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, - John 11:25 (NABRE)
I. Introduction: Who is God?
The Solemnity of the Glorious Resurrection of the Lord is the Church’s celebration of Christ’s victory over sin and death. It is the revelation of our new birth in Christ, in which we discover the true nature of God, and of ourselves. Recalling the words of the seventeenth century French philosopher, mathematician, and inventor Blaise Pascal; God is “not of the philosophers and savants.” God is the “God of Jesus Christ.” (Blaise Pascal, “Memorial”, 1654 AD)
The God of Jesus Christ is the God who is love, who loves us, and made us to love him and our neighbor as ourselves (cf. Matthew 22:37-39). He is the only true God, as John proclaims: “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” - 1 John 4:16 (NABRE)
Reflecting on this truth, St. Ephrem the Syrian writes: “Since God is love, …let us not prefer anything, let us not hasten to obtain anything more than love. Do not let the sun go down on your anger, … Because what gain is there, my children, if someone has everything, but does not have love which saves?” - (St. Ephrem the Syrian, On Love)
We were created by Love to be beings of love, as the Fathers of the Church proclaimed (Saints Irenaeus, Athanasius, John of Damascus) God took on our nature, so we could take on His.
II. “According to the Scriptures”
There are two realities that we should remind ourselves of when we approach Sacred Scripture, which is always an encounter that deepens the understanding and practice of our Christian faith. First of all we should remember that to the Apostles and the New Testament/Apostolic Church, the Scriptures were the Jewish Scriptures or what Christians came to call the Old Testament. Second, that the Sacred Scriptures are just that, sacred; the Sacred Scriptures are not ultimately about history, laws, or even ethics; they are about Jesus Christ.
The words that St. Paul proclaimed to the Corinthians are also intended for every generation of believers:
For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: 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; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. After that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me. - 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 (NABRE)
This passage from First Corinthians is an instruction in the very foundations of our Apostolic Faith. The followers of Jesus in his earthly ministry were Jews who knew their Scriptures and in experiencing the Risen Lord, they came to realize that he was the fulfillment of their Scriptures. They realized that the Mosaic Law, the Davidic Kings, the Prophets, the Temple, the holy city of Jerusalem; that all the traditions and Scriptures of Judaism were about Jesus and fulfilled by him.
The Risen Christ “appeared” to the Twelve, and to St. Paul and other disciples, and by the power of the Holy Spirit they realized he was the long awaited Messiah. That he was the fulfillment of Israel, and more, he was the Savior of the world, the Lord of all.
III. The Cross and Resurrection
Why did Jesus die? Let us examine three passages from the New Testament:
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 6:23 (NABRE)
For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. - 2 Corinthians 5:21(NABRE)
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” - Luke 23:42-43 (NABRE)
St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans speaks of the great mystery of sin and death. In doing so he reveals the limitations of being creatures, of knowing that we are going to die. The wages of sin is death, and the knowledge of death leads to sin. In the Old Testament of the Sacred Scriptures, the oldest definition of sin was “missing the mark.” This being “missing the mark” of what God calls us to be, failing to love, failing to sacrifice self for others. Choosing rather, to feed our false self in the hopes that we can control life and death. Yet, as created beings we must suffer the fate of all created things, which is death; but as graced created beings, as beings created in the image and likeness of God, we discover that the gates of eternal life have been opened by Jesus Christ. He who knew no sin became sin for us as St. Paul says to the Corinthians, so that by his death and victory over it, the abode of the dead can no longer lay hold on us.
Our Lord died on the Cross so that we might have life, by placing our total trust in him (faith) in which we cry out remember me, the words of the Prophet Isaiah are fulfilled (I will never forget you) in Christ’s response to the good thief and to us all: “today you will be with me in Paradise.” - Luke 23:43 (NABRE)
IV. The Resurrection
Sin and death can only be fully understood from the perspective of our salvation; the Cross, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, and the Pentecost of the Holy Spirit. This is how we overcome our “flesh,” our nature of fear and rebellion due to our fear of death. Then we shall come to full stature as the children of God (Christ-like Love) this is our calling, what the early Church called metanoia (transformation) and theosis (becoming God-like). We were created not for eternal death, but for eternal life in the Kingdom of God. In Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Father has exchanged our flesh for the robe of immortality.
At times in the history of Christianity, there has often been a tendency to overly dwell on our sinfulness, without seeing it in the light of our salvation. This especially happens when the Scriptures are understood as a salvation-history presented from Genesis to Revelation, rather than seeing all of salvation-history in the light of the Cross and Resurrection of Christ, first and above all else. Christianity is a faith that celebrates redemption, newness of life (even in the midst of pain and suffering), as Jesus proclaimed, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” - John 15:11 (NABRE)
The Resurrection is the triumph of love over hate, peace over war, life over death. In our society, that is seemingly obsessed with its pursuit of self-identity, one need only to embrace in faith the Cross and Resurrection of the Lord, to discover who they are in Christ. Our false conceptions of self creates lives that look only inward, and seek only self-satisfaction. Yet, the message of truth given to us by the Resurrected Lord is this:
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another. - John 15:11-17
Christ is Risen!!!
- Rev. David A. Fisher