The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. John. (20:19-31)
One of the aspects of the Christian faith that convinces me most is the story of the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We know that amazing stories exist everywhere in the world, in history and in religious traditions. What I find to be unique about the story of the resurrection is that it continued and expanded in its reach and power across the whole Roman empire and the whole world despite the fact that it seemed completely unbelievable. But as you look at the story more closely, you see that it may in fact be the most plausible and reasonable way to explain what happened after the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth.
The crucifixion is itself, one of the most historically verifiable events in ancient times. It was recorded by not only the Christians but by Jewish historians as well as pagan writers. So we know that the crucifixion happened just as well as we know of any event in ancient history. Now we come to the resurrection. What we find truly amazing is that the disciples are willing to die, to be killed for their belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Why is this amazing?
It is amazing because it points us to the truth. The Jews and pagans (even to this day) claim that the disciples of Jesus invented the whole story. They claim that the resurrection did not happen, that it was all a fraud. Of course there is a huge problem, in fact, 11 huge problems. The examplesof the disciples themselves. It is a well known fact that people will often die for things they believe in. People die for country and family and any number of others things they believe in, yet here in the early days of the Church, we have men being put to death for claiming that Jesus was risen from the dead.
The problem that the Jews and the pagans and unbelievers have not properly wrestled with is this: Why would these 11 disciples choose to die for the belief in the resurrection if it was false? If they had made up the story themselves? So we are left with only one of two options: Either they lied about the resurrection and decided to suffer and die for their lie. Or they really truly saw Jesus raised from the dead and this completely changed the course of their lives. One of these two options is reasonable, the other is unreasonable. One of these two options is sane, the other would be truly insane. People often die for things they believe in. People generally do not die for things that they know to be a lie. So the first time that one of the disciples would have been tortured or killed or seen one of their brothers or close friends, tortured or killed, they would have said “You are right, we lied about the whole thing, it never happened.” You now understand the power of the word Martyr, which means witness. They witnessed Christ’s resurrection and this powerful witness was never shaken. You can’t scare or intimidate the power of the truth. It is like a flower that finds a way to come through the cracks in the pavement. Nothing stops it.
This is the Christian faith and it has a reasonable basis. Can we test these things under a microscope? Can we answer every question or doubt about the faith definitively, not at all. But we can take the words and the works of Jesus as a character witness and we can take the courageous examples of the lives of the disciples as a sort of proof that what we are celebrating this day, and every single Sunday, is true and good.
St. Justin Popovich once said “The entire history of Christianity is nothing other than the history of a unique miracle, namely, the Resurrection of Christ, which is unbrokenly threaded through the hearts of Christians form one day to the next, from year to year, across the centuries, until the Dread Judgment.”
The whole history of Christianity is actually the process of individuals believing in the story of the resurrection because without the resurrection, there is no faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.
Christianity would be nothing if it ended with a man crucified and buried. But it does not end there. It could have ended there, had the Jews produced a body, but they could not, although they had asked for guards from Pontius Pilate. There was a grave but no body. There was emptiness, but this empty tomb fills each of us with greathope.This is the upside down way of the Christian. When the world sees death, that is all there is, the end of the story. But we are anupside down people. When we hear about death or see it, we have a certain hiddenjoy. We certainly miss those who have passed but we are filled with joy because death has lost it’s power and it’s sting.
Nothing can dampen our lives or cause us anxietybecause the most important victory has already been accomplished for us, by the Son of God.As children of God it is time to wake up to this reality. There is nothing else to struggle or fight for, because the fight was already won for us. Jesus Christ has defeated sin and death. But what does that mean for us? It means we are invited to run to grab hold of this victory, to make it your own byyourobedience to Christ. Yourstruggleto grow in purity and to fight the sinful habitswill then allow yourlife towitness to others that“He is risen, as He said!”
If He has risen from the dead, then all that is necessary for us, is to be with Him, to honor Him, to struggle to know Him and live with Him.And through our honest struggle, He will take what is old and make it new. He will take what is broken within us and heal it. He will take those who were dead in sin, and bring them back to radiant life. Don’t think that this is impossible, because with God, all things are possible. Christ is Risen! Indeed He is risen! AMEN.