Easter Morning

Sermon for Easter Morning, March 31, 2024

Christ is risen! Alleluia! Alleluia!

He is risen indeed! This is the Christmas present we have waited for! That gift that cannot be contained in a box or wrapped with ribbons or bows or words. It is that gift that our hearts have longed for: The gift of our living Savior!

Early on the first Easter morning the Christmas story was being fulfilled. Jesus, the babe born in the manger, is the risen Christ – the Savior that God promised. Everything Jesus said He would do; He has done and is still doing in and through us and for us. 

He has risen to walk alongside us until we are all together again in His kingdom to feast on that heavenly banquet of well-aged wines and rich food; where death has been swallowed up forever and every tear will be wiped from our faces for all time. The gift that cannot be contained: to be known by God, to be seen, to be saved, to have a future in which to hope: This is the gift of the risen Christ on this Easter mourning!

In today’s Gospel reading, we notice a shift in the action. Before Jesus died, the disciples mostly followed Jesus around, listening and receiving His words. Now, after His death and resurrection, they have become the seekers of Jesus. The primary action in today’s Gospel reading is the energy and anticipation coming from the disciples seeking-out Jesus. 

For the disciples, when Jesus died, it was more than the death of a loved-one, it was the death of a way of life and a hope that He was the savior they had been waiting for; the One who would restore God’s people. They had given-up everything to follow Jesus, their jobs, families, and homes. Everything they had believed seemed to be lost when Jesus died. 

Or, so it seemed.

On this first Easter morning, the impossible became possible!

What Jesus promised them…He promises to us today: He will be with us always. He never promised that the Christian life would be easy but He did promise He would be with us in and through the dark times of our lives. 

To better understand what how Christ works in our lives, we can look to the three disciples in the Gospel reading:

We will start with the most obscure of the three, the disciple who is referred to as “the one whom Jesus loved”. We are not sure the exact identity of this disciple. Scholars have debated that is more than likely John the apostle and the author of this Gospel; but there is no absolute evidence to that effect. This disciple arrives at the tomb, peers inside but does not go in at first. It is only after Peter goes inside the tomb that this disciple ventures-in. Perhaps apprehensive and unsure, needs someone else to take the risk. The disciple whom Jesus loved sees the linens that were wrapped around Jesus’ body and believes – then goes home. 

The purpose, it seems, of the obscure reference to this disciple with no name is that our identity is anchored our relationship with Jesus. And, it is that relationship that provides the space for Christ to be revealed to us; to help us to believe the impossible is possible in Him.

Next, we have Peter, that one disciple who suffers too often from misplaced enthusiasm. The one who when he saw Jesus walking on the water; he steps out of the boat without hesitation or reservation, only to panic and sink. The one who insisted to Jesus, “I will never deny You” only later in a few short hours to swear, “I do not know the Man.” 

Peter arrives at the tomb and goes right inside without hesitation or reservation, sees the linens and the cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. Then, he goes home. Scripture does not tell us if he came to believe at that moment or not; but we do know that Peter goes on to become the leader of the disciples in building Christ’s church on earth. 

We learn from the story of Peter, that, our frailties and failings, our sins and shortcomings cannot disqualify us from being Christ’s disciple and spreading God’s word in a world so desperately in need.  

Finally, there is Mary Magdalene. It helps to know a bit about her to better understand who she was and who she represents at the empty tomb. First, Magdalene is not her last name. Mary was from a small fishing village called Magdala on the west coast of the Sea of Galilee. 

During Biblical times, women were normally named based on their family relations; for example, Mary the mother of Jesus. It was typically men who could be named based on their birthplace, for example Joseph of Arimathea or Jesus the Nazarene. For Mary the Magdalene to be named after the village of her birth indicated that she had no family; and for women during that time, this meant that she had fallen to the far margins of society. 

And, if that were not enough for her, we read earlier in Scripture, that Jesus cures her of seven demons. Hers was a life that understood what it really meant to be saved by Jesus. Her love and loyalty to Him ran deep.

She is the first to arrive and the last to leave on the first Easter morning. She is the one who “looks the gardener in the eye, listens to him speak, and still does not recognize him. Then, maybe when her back is turned, he says, “Mary,” and the sound of His voice saying her name helps her to see Him. He uses a word that applies to her and her alone, a word that captures the utter particularity of her individual life – her name.”[1] And she knows! My Lord and Savior is here!

Is this not our deepest desire as well? To stand in His gaze, to hear Him speak our name in all of our own peculiarities?

Beyond her social standing in this world is her love of Jesus which placed her at the empty tomb that day before sunrise. She became the first disciple to hear the voice of the risen Christ. And with that great gift, Jesus commissions her to go and profess the Good News to the others. Like Mary Magdalene, we too are given a great gift in the risen Christ and living God. 

With that gift comes great responsibility. We too are called to continue in the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and prayers. We too are called, as Baptized Christians, to proclaim the Good News of God in Christ to a world so desperately in need. 

God breathed new life into the body of Jesus. And, if God is Love, how are we to understand the power of God’s love in us? When we love others as God has loved us, when we forgive as we have been forgiven…we have the power to breathe hope and courage and strength into those around us.

The Jesus story continues! Just as Christ promised He would rise again in three days, He also promised He will come again. And, between now and then, we have much work to do! We have a responsibility; to be His faithful servants always believing beyond our faults and sins and frailties and status in life that we are His beloved and we are worthy of saying, “Jesus Christ is Lord and He is Risen!” 

We have been given…we have received…we must go forth until He comes again!

Amen.


[1] Feasting on the Word, Year B Vol. 2, p. 378 – article by Serene Jones

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    St. Philip's Episcopal Church

    6457 Quantico Road
    Quantico, MD 21856

    Mailing Address
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    Quantico, MD 21856

    St. Philip's is a proud member of the Episcopal Diocese of Easton