Happy Easter! This is what it is all about. Over the past 40 days of Lent, we have been preparing for this solemnity. Then, this week, on Maundy Thursday, Jesus ate his Last Supper with his Apostles and told them they would soon be missing him. Through that supper, he taught them the Sacrament of the Eucharist, which we say to this day in commemoration of him. He told us, “Take, eat, this is my body, do this in remembrance of me” because by consuming his Holy body and blood, he sustains and nourishes us. Just as food provides sustenance for our bodies, the body and blood of Christ provides sustenance for our souls.
Likewise, at that Last Supper, he instituted the holy orders of the priesthood, through his apostles; by washing their feet, he taught them to be servant leaders.
Then, on Good Friday, the betrayal which he prophesied took place, and he was led to his death by the very people who were celebrating his arrival as King the Sunday before, which we now call Palm Sunday. It just goes to show how capricious we can be as people and how we must avoid that herd mentality – to follow Christ, not the mob.
Yesterday, Holy Saturday is a day of waiting when we anticipate his return. Whilst his apostles mourned, he descended into hell to free all the lost souls and to lead them to heaven. This is what we mean when we say he conquered death. And the great thing about that is, he offers us an invitation, too. We have conditions – we must be born again in the Holy Spirit – baptised – and we must repent of our sins and have faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. Not much to ask for in order to gain eternal life in God’s glorious heavenly kingdom!
And so last night was Easter Even, when we celebrated the Easter Vigil, which is the most significant service on the Christian Calendar. We started outside with a fire, which we used to bless the Paschal candle, which serves as a reminder of Christ’s light in our presence, and we see in the return of the Lord on Easter day.
We are an Easter people. Today we celebrate his resurrection. Christ is a living God, so we celebrate his resurrection today, just as his followers would have done nearly 2,000 years ago. He is by the right hand of his Father in the heavenly kingdom, but he is also here with us, truly present. He told us that when two or three are gathered in his name, he will join us.
Now begins the Eastertide period, where we celebrate Christ’s triumph not only over death but over our sins. He died to pay that ultimate price, to account for our sins. As the new Adam, he undid the errors of the original man, who rebelled against God; and by God becoming man incarnate, through the man Jesus (truly God and truly man) lived and died and lives again for us. Through his death and resurrection, he shows us a sign of his unconditional, everlasting love for us. God loves us so much; he sacrificed his only son for us.
Over the next couple of months, we focus on the time Christ spent with his apostles as he appeared to them before his ascension. But for today, let us reflect on what has just taken place.
Jesus arose from his tomb on the first day of the week, thus moving our day of rest and worship from Sabbath – Saturday – to Sunday. This is why we come to church every Sunday – at least – to celebrate his triumph, his victory, on our behalf.
What is interesting from the resurrection passages in the Gospels is that the women demonstrated more faith than the men. Mary discovers Christ has risen, but the disciples are slow to believe without seeing; Luke believes, John believes when he looks into the tomb, but Thomas refuses to believe with touching. We are called to have stronger faith than that. Christ said to Thomas, “You believe because you have seen, but blessed are those who believe that have not seen”, and that is us. Christ chose the time and place for his ministry, and whilst we cannot go back in the past to witness it first-hand, we are called as Christians to study that history, to believe in Him, and to have faith in Him, even if we cannot see for ourselves.
Peter and John rushed to the tomb during broad daylight for a purpose. So that they could not be accused of moving the body. John knew by the folded linens that Christ had resurrected. He believed in the prophesies. What is interesting to note is that 2,000 years later, that shroud still exists. The shroud of Turin, which was laid over Christ’s body, bears his imprint from the miracle of his resurrection. Millions of pounds have been offered for anyone who can prove it to be a counterfeit, and of course, no one has ever done so. The shroud has been scientifically tested more than any other artefact in history, and not a single test can disprove its authenticity. We do not need tests to know the truth, but it is nice when science backs up our argument. Not only is Jesus the most attested figure in history, therefore, we know he existed, but we have tangible proof of his resurrection. Yet people still choose not to believe. Blessed are those who do not see but still believe.
He is Risen! Allelujah!