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He is risen!

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April 8, 2012

By Terrence Callan

Easter Sunday: Acts 10:34, 37-43; Colossians 3:1-4 or 1 Corinthians 5:6-8; John 20:1-9


Today we celebrate Easter Sunday, the feast of the resurrection of Jesus.


In a sense, our whole life as Christians is one long celebration of the resurrection. But once each year, we recall in a special way the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. On Holy Thursday, we recall Jesus’ Last Supper with His disciples and His arrest. On Good Friday we recall His trial, crucifixion and burial. And on Easter Sunday we recall His rising from the dead,


The reading from the Gospel of John is John’s account of the discovery of the empty tomb.  Early on Sunday morning Mary Magdalene came to the tomb of Jesus. Finding the tomb empty, she brought Peter and the beloved disciple to see it. They went into the tomb and found only the cloths in which the body of Jesus had been wrapped. When the beloved disciple saw this, he believed. He believed that Jesus had risen from the dead, that He was the Word of God made flesh who had now returned to the Father, that He was savior of the human race.


The reading ends with the note that the disciples “did not yet understand the Scripture that [Jesus] had to rise from the dead.” We take it so much for granted that Jesus’ death and resurrection fulfilled Scripture, that it is hard for us to realize this was not always obvious. Jesus’ death was a disappointment to His disciples, and His resurrection a surprise. But looking back afterward, they were able to see that this was indeed what Scripture had foretold all along.


The reading from the Acts of the Apostles is part of a speech made by Peter to Cornelius and his household, who would become the first Gentile followers of Jesus. Peter summarizes the career of Jesus as beginning with the baptism John preached, consisting of good works, and ending with His death and resurrection. After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to certain witnesses, including Peter himself, and commissioned them to preach about Jesus to others. They are to present Jesus as judge of the living and dead. At the end of the world, the dead will rise, and they will be judged along with the living, i.e., they will receive reward or punishment for their deeds.  But Jesus is not only judge, He is also the means of receiving a favorable judgment. Everyone who believes in Him has forgiveness of sins and thus freedom from punishment for misdeeds.


The reading from the Letter of Paul to the Colossians spells out the meaning of Jesus’ resurrection in a different way. The reading presumes that to be a Christian is to be united with Jesus in His death and resurrection. By believing in Jesus and being baptized, we become one with Jesus in such a way that we have died and risen with him. With Him we have already undergone death and risen to new life. It is true that this has happened in a hidden way. Our death and resurrection with Jesus is visible only through the eyes of faith. But when Jesus comes again, at the end of the world, our union with him will be fully apparent. We will share in His glory.  Meanwhile, we should “seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.”


Callan is a faculty member at the Athenaeum of Ohio.

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