Today we run to the tomb of Christ, together with the faithful women. We last saw him when he was buried last Friday afternoon. As soon as the Sabbath rest is over, we rush to the tomb. We want to be with him, to mourn him, to honor his body. We have been to tombs before. When someone is laid in a tomb, he stays there. Tombs have always been the last stop on the journey, the dead end of life. Until today. At this tomb, on this Sunday morning, we are greeted with the new and ever-surprising declaration of the angels: “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised!”
He has been raised! This is the joyful declaration that makes Easter Sunday the beginning of a whole new era. Jesus is not in the tomb! Not only has he come out alive, he is even more fully alive than he was three days ago. Now he is alive forever in glory, no longer subject to death. The dead end has suddenly become an open door.
Whenever we recite the Apostles’ Creed, we profess our faith that “On the third day, he rose again from the dead.” We celebrate our faith with particular joy on Sundays, because each Sunday reminds us of the great victory over death that Jesus won on Easter Sunday. “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad!”
Joy was not the first reaction of Peter and John on Easter morning. They ran to the tomb because Mary Magdalene told them that someone had stolen Jesus’ body from the tomb. They were alarmed and puzzled. We are told that “as yet they did not understand the Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.” When they arrived at the tomb, John “bent down to peer in” – symbolizing his humility – while Peter rushed inside. There was nothing to see but the abandoned burial shroud. John’s humility opened the way for him to come to faith. Even without understanding exactly what happened, “he saw and believed.” That is, he saw with the eyes of faith.
Whatever their initial reactions to seeing the empty tomb, whether shock or amazement or nascent faith, the disciples will very soon meet the Lord himself. And as the stunning reality of his presence begins to sink in, they will come to the realization that if Jesus has risen, he is still alive now, whether they see him or not. This is what we believe. Jesus cannot be reduced to a historical figure of the distant past. Though he is not visible to our eyes, our faith affirms that he is with us today, present, alive, near, ready to hear and answer us, eager to fill us with his eternal life. Therefore Jesus’ resurrection has immeasurable importance for us, for he has opened the way for us to live forever in him.
St. Paul tells us that since we “have been raised up in company with Christ,” we must focus our attention, not only on passing, earthly things alone, but on the “things above.” “Your life is hidden now with Christ in God.” This is the natural consequence of our faith in the resurrection. We are no longer enslaved to earthly concerns and the fear of death because we belong to Christ who has broken through every barrier and passed over into new life. Already we have a life – though still “hidden with Christ in God” – that will never end. Even the threat of death cannot take it away. With eager longing we look forward to the day when our true life of glory will be fully revealed.
Meanwhile, we strive to rid ourselves of the “old yeast of corruption and wickedness.” The fight against sin is not over; it is not limited to Lent; it continues in Easter and throughout our lives. Yet we fight in hope. Because of Christ’s victory, we have joyful confidence that we can indeed live in freedom from sin. Sin has no legitimate place in the life of a Christian. Sin introduces corruption (“old yeast”) into a life that is meant to be a pure offering to God, an “unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” When we sin, it is like taking a step backward, back into the tomb from which we have just emerged. Today we will not go backward! We will go forward, upward, rising in faith with Christ. The celebration of Easter gives us renewed zeal for getting rid of the old yeast and joyfully living “in sincerity and truth.”
Is my heart open to the new life of the Risen Jesus? Do I focus solely on earthly things or on the “things above”? Am I confident that I can emerge from the tomb of sin and rise with Christ?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 12, no. 4. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.