About How the Resurrection of Christ Represents the Triumph of Faith and Eternal Life
Christ is Risen!
Brothers and sisters, today we continue to celebrate our Holy Pascha, so I would like to say a few words about how the Resurrection of Christ represents the triumph of faith and eternal life.
From the very beginning, the Christian Pascha has been celebrated with the utmost jubilation. Even before the Christians had temples as such, and were still worshipping in rooms in private houses, and sometimes even in dens and caves of the earth, the feast of Pascha was the cause of such intense and prolonged celebration that one of the early Apologists of the faith, Tertullian, reproached the heathen, saying, “All your feasts, taken together, cannot compare in duration with the Christian Pascha.”
Truly, Pascha is, as we chant in its canon, “the feast of feasts and the triumph of triumphs.” We celebrate it for such a long period because it is both the most fundamental and the loftiest celebration of faith. It is chiefly Christ’s holy Resurrection that establishes our Orthodox faith and elevates it immeasurably above every other religion, philosophy, or world-view; that establishes it as the ultimate and perfect truth.
The holy Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians of Corinth: If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. This is a startling assertion, but one that is entirely true. On what is our faith built? It is built, says Saint Paul, upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone. The risen Christ is the cornerstone of our faith: He is the Messenger and High Priest of our profession. We have many reasons, many proofs to support our trust in Him. But they are all incomplete — perhaps even insufficient — without the Resurrection of Christ.
To make this clearer, let us imagine, brothers and sisters, that we are among the people who followed Christ from the beginning to the end of His public ministry. Let us imagine that we have heard His teaching and witnessed His deeds. As long as we were seeing Him opening the eyes of the blind and raising the dead, then of course we would have continued to follow Him, and would have confessed with the apostles, saying, Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. But then comes the dread hour of the Lord’s Passion. The disciple betrays Him, the blind synagogue turns upon Him as a deceiver, cowardly Pilate condemns Him as a rabble-rowser. Jesus, our Hope, is crucified with evildoers. The Father Himself forsakes Him, He dies in agony, and the tomb is sealed. Every one of us would have said, “We trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel, but now He is dead, and lies in the grave.”
We should not think that our faith would have been any stronger than that of the apostles. What was their reaction to the Lord’s death? Their faith was shaken. If Christ had not risen, would they have gone out, preaching fearlessly throughout the world? Would they have all been willing to undergo torture, to die for Christ? And without their witness, their preaching, would the world, lost in the darkness of idolatry, have converted to Christianity?
And just what would the apostles have preached, if Christ had not risen? How would they have been able to say, “He that believeth on the Son of God hath everlasting life,” when the One Who claimed to be the Son of God remained dead and lay in the tomb? How would they have proclaimed, Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever, when everyone knew that He had been alive, and then had died, and remained dead?
Therefore, if Jesus Christ had not risen from the dead, His tomb would have been the tomb of the Christian faith, because everyone who had believed in Him would have ceased to believe. No one would have gone out to preach Him in the face of the fierce, bloodthirsty antipathy of the Jews and heathen; and if they had, their testimony would have been quite insincere and worthless.
But as it is, the sepulcher of Jesus Christ is the tabernacle, the holy shrine, of the triumph of our Christian faith. It was not in vain that when the Jews demanded of Christ additional miracles to prove that He was the Only-begotten Son of God, He answered that no sign would be given them, except the sign of the prophet Jonah: meaning, His own Resurrection. Not in vain, before His Passion, did Christ say that the Son of man was about to be glorified. In His holy Resurrection, He was fully glorified. This is why Saint Paul writes that the risen Christ was glorified not just as a prophet, or even just as the Messiah, but as the Son of God, in Whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
Who could be so senseless as not to recognize the Son of God in the risen Jesus? How magnificent the Cross of Christ appears in the light of the holy Resurrection! Who could be so blind as to fail to understand that the cross, a symbol of the curse for others, became for Jesus a sacred altar on which He offered the universal sacrifice of His own person, of the Lamb of God worthy of all honor and glory, which God accepted as a sweet-smelling fragrance?
After this, what could possibly shake our faith in the Founder and Perfector of that faith, the risen Son of God? I know, the Apostle Paul once proclaimed, I know Whom I have believed: I know that my Saviour is God, Who is fully able to keep the promise of my salvation until the day of His Second, Glorious Coming.
This, dear brothers and sisters, brings us to our second point. Let us not forget that the unquestionable certainly of Christ’s Resurrection has another very important ramification for us. It is a mighty consolation for me to know that, when my worn-out body goes to its rest, all has not ended. It is a mighty consolation for me to know that after the dark, somber tomb, the bright morning of resurrection awaits me, when the words of the Risen One shall be fulfilled: Because I live, ye shall live also. The sacred presentiment of personal immortality and even resurrection locked in every human breast becomes for me fixed conviction when my Saviour has so evidently shown that the gates to death lead to life and resurrection. Therefore, in His name I can stand before those gates at my final hour and shout, O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!
Christ is Risen! Amen.