By REV. LUNA DINGAYAN
FIRST OF THREE PARTS
The angel spoke to the women. “You must not be afraid,” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has been raised, just as he said. Come here and see the place where he was lying. Go quickly now, and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from death, and now he is going to Galilee ahead of you; there you will see him!’ Remember what I have told you.” — Matthew 28:5-7
Christ is risen
Jesus Christ our Lord is alive! Jesus was raised from death! This is what the Bible says. This is what the Apostle’s Creed says. This is what we usually sing on Easter Sunday: “Hallelujah! The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth… The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.” This is what we Christians believe.
But then, that is not what the newspapers say. What we read in the newspapers are reports of kidnapping, rape and murder, of graft and corruption, of sufferings and miseries of innocent people across our land. Death and sin and evil seem not to be conquered yet. They continue to make the headlines each day.
Now, we may ask, is the truth of the Risen Christ meant only for people who close their eyes to the hard realities of life? Is there really a connection between the news and the Good News, between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world?
The resurrection is one of the most important aspects of our Christian faith. Without faith that Jesus was raised from the dead, perhaps there would be no Christianity. It was not the ethical teachings of Jesus or his noble death that gave birth to the Christian church that spread throughout the Roman Empire. Rather, it was the news of his resurrection.
It was when the first Christians believed in the Risen Christ that they looked back to ask about the meaning of his birth, of his life, and of his death. Apostle Paul was right when he wrote to the Christians in Corinth, saying: “If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is a delusion and you are still lost in your sins. It would also mean that the believers in Christ who have died are lost. If our hope in Christ is good for this life only and no more, then we deserve more pity than anyone else in all the world” (I Cor.15:17-19). Indeed, how would the so-many victims of injustice in this world obtain justice if there would be no hope for the resurrection?
The earliest confession summarizing the whole faith of the first Christians was the confession that “Jesus is Lord” – a title conferred on him because of his resurrection. Sometimes the church would make the cross the center of its faith. Of course, this is not totally wrong. The Risen Lord is no other than the Suffering Servant who gave himself for us. But the cross is an appropriate symbol for the Christian faith only if it is an empty cross. The foundation and center of the Christian faith is not death but life; not tragedy, but victory beyond tragedy; not a gloomy fascination with a dead sacrifice, but a triumphant faith in the Living Lord.
Jesus had been raised to life! This is where the Christian faith begins. And for us Christians, it is the one event in history, which gives meaning to all history, including our own.
Turning now to our Biblical text in Matthew 28:1-10, we are told about that early Sunday morning when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb of Jesus. Then, suddenly there was a violent earthquake. And an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled the stone away, and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid that they trembled and became like dead men.
An angel is believed to be a messenger of God. That is precisely what the word angel means – a messenger. The dramatic descriptions of what happened – like the violent earthquake, the lightning appearance, the white clothes, the stone rolled away, and the trembling guards – all these speak of the importance and urgency of the message that the angel had come to proclaim. It is a powerful message that no one, not even the guards nor the huge stone could hinder its proclamation. It is a message that everyone should listen to.
This is the same message that I would like to share with you. It is a threefold message that comes from the Risen Christ through the angel. It is a message for the women who visited the tomb of Jesus. It is also a message for all of us who remember and celebrate the Risen Christ. # nordis.net
Continued next week