April 4, 2021, Easter Sunday (Cycle B)
The tie in between today’s readings: Your Resurrection Reaction.
Psalm 118:1-2; 16-23, Acts 10:34-43, 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, John 20:1-9
Today’s gospel in John 20:1-9 gives us good examples of the types of reactions that people have to the claims of Christ’s resurrection. First one up in our reading is that early riser, Mary Magdalene. She discovers that the stone covering the grave was rolled away and runs back to the disciples with the conclusion that someone had stolen the body. Fortunately, Mary’s anguish is relieved when she receives a special one on one with the Lord in the garden later on (John 20:14-16). But as a type, she represents the many who quickly conclude that Jesus never really came back from the dead. One way or another, someone stole the body. In fact, this becomes the lie that the Pharisees themselves construct and spread to squash the resurrection rumors (Matthew 28:13). Unwilling to investigate, people like this are satisfied with their myopic theories. For them, Christ’s return from the dead is explainable, and they dismiss this ridiculous story with a wave of their hand. Meanwhile, Peter, the next person in our gospel account, goes into the tomb and examines the evidence. His reaction…TBD. He’s not unlike the many church goers today who give a head nod to the Easter events. But, as true as the facts are, for them, the thrust of the resurrection is blunted because they never realize its life changing reality. Acknowledging the facts is not the same as belief. John, the last person to enter the tomb in today’s account, saw everything that Peter saw, knew everything that Peter knew (or didn’t know) and yet, miraculously believed. It’s not that John was either more gullible or perceptive than Peter. The crossing over from facts to faith is a God thing. Just as when Peter earlier, in Matthew 16:16-17 declared that Jesus was “the Christ…” by the Father’s unseen and unspoken revealing, we can deduce that John was led to his believing in the resurrection by the invisible workings of the Almighty behind the scenes. By his own account, it’s plain to see that the John who entered the empty tomb was not the same John that emerged…and that’s the thing. True faith comes from God, but there is a process to it.
In our reading in Acts 10:34-43, Peter gives us a thumbnail introduction to Jesus and shows us the doors we need to open in our steps of faith. First, because facts ARE essential to faith, he opens the door of history. The prophets testified of Christ’s coming. At His baptism, John proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah. God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went throughout Judea doing good and healing those oppressed by the devil. He was put to death on a cross. Now, Peter opens the door of mystery. The Apostle tells us that three days later, this same dead guy came back to life, but He’s not just anybody. Chosen witnesses ate and drank with Him. They were also given the task to proclaim His gospel throughout the world that whoever believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins. He is Lord of all and will return to judge the living and the dead. Jesus is behind the last door, the door of salvation, and He is knocking. If you want, the Almighty can introduce you.
Our reading in Psalm 118:1-2;16-23 gives us a key to understanding salvation’s blueprint. Looking, you will see the shift from the first person in the beginning of the passage to the Messianic prophecy in verse 22-23 at the end. In fact, you could read the whole Psalm from the point of view of Jesus speaking about His own experiences and easily overlay it onto the writer’s personal testimony between God and himself. This interplay gives us a clue into saving faith: it plays on two dimensions. In the physical world, Jesus lived back then in history and I’m here today; two different lives with two different stories. Even though I understand and agree with the gospel facts, where is my connection to the Savior? It’s in the spirit. The spiritual world is a radically different plane not constrained by space or time. That’s where all the action is. There, Jesus’ story and mine can combine. Here, spiritually, I can unite with Christ in His passion. I don’t observe Jesus on Good Friday. I am there. I am crucified and die in Him. I am placed in the grave with Him and on Easter Sunday…We rise. By the same principle, He can live in me today and take part in my joys and sorrows. Faith then, is not the agreement with the facts that Jesus died and rose again. It’s the realization that in Christ it happened to me. When I walk through the door of salvation, I not only meet the risen Lord; we are fused together. It’s intimate! It’s life altering! It’s eternal!
Are you ready for it? Every encounter with Jesus provokes a response. In fact, by His divine claims, Christ demands one. How you react is up to you. You may hate Him like the Pharisees. You may leave His presence in grief as the rich young ruler. For His part, our Lord wants you to come unto Him and find eternal life. Our reading in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 encourages us to join with Christ, the Lamb of God, in His ultimate Passover (Good Friday) sacrifice. We can jettison our old lives of malice and abide in sincerity and truth because in the power of His resurrection we can celebrate a new existence. It’s a miraculous thing! But, on our own, we cannot place ourselves into Christ any more than we can jump to the moon. The Lord must take us there:
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Fortunately, He is more than willing to give us the grace and faith we need. The Almighty bids that we ask prayerfully, and we will receive, seek diligently and we will find, knock earnestly and it will be opened to us (Matthew 7:7). God will not turn away any who come to Him. The Holy Spirit will give you that knowing dimension of faith that you are in Christ, your sins are forgiven, and you are a new child in the kingdom of God.
So, whether you are celebrating your Easter dinner with lamb, ham, or spam do not neglect Jesus, the Bread of Life. Come to the Lord in faith and unite with Him as your Savior. He will grant you the confidence to know that because He lives, you will live also; born again to a new life. You in Him, He in you, here and now and forever in heaven.