HOW DOES CHRIST’S RESURRECTION CHANGE OUR LIVES?
HOW DOES CHRIST’S RESURRECTION CHANGE OUR LIVES?
Fr Luke A Veronis
Christ is Risen!
We greet one another with this statement during the 40 days of the Paschal season, and yet, what does it really mean? How do we understand the revolutionary historical event of Jesus rising from the dead?
Do we say “Christos Anesti” without even thinking about what we are saying? Is it simply some traditional greeting we Greeks, Russians, Albanians and Romanians say to one another or do we sincerely mean and believe what we say?
Jesus was dead and is now alive. Think about consequences of this reality! These last days of Holy Week we just relived how he was betrayed, arrested, beaten, tortured, killed and buried, and yet, somehow, He came back to life. Not as a mirage. Not simply in a dream. Not like some people say after they lose a loved one and then days later have an experience where they tell us, “John came back to me in a dream to let me know He is Ok.”
No! The resurrection of Jesus Christ is fundamentally different! Jesus the man was killed and buried. He died on Friday and was buried in a tomb. His friends mourned in despair thinking all their dreams came to an end. He was dead in the tomb all day Saturday. Then on the third day, which we call the Day of the Lord, Sunday, He came back to life, He rose from the dead and He presented Himself alive. And He revealed Himself to numerous people – first to Mary Magdalene, to Peter and the ten disciples, to Cleopas and Luke on the road to Emmaus, to Thomas and the eleven disciples a week later, to his followers on the beach where he ate with them (something a ghost wouldn’t do), to 500 followers all at once, and to others. The Risen Lord Jesus showed Himself alive for 40 days following His Resurrection.
It all sounds quite outrageous. And it is! Who has ever heard of anyone else coming back to life and appearing to many people over a six week period. This is the reason why skeptics today try to dismiss this story as a fairy tale, a pie-in-the-sky dream of wishful thinking about someone rising from the dead. It just seems impossible. Because it is!
Even two thousand years ago, such skepticism was just as adamant. As NT Wright, the famous New Testament scholar, notes, “Early Christianity was born into a world where everybody knew that the central claim of its faith was ridiculous, and the early Christians knew it themselves… This claim seemed absolutely crazy. Ordinary, sober people knew perfectly well that dead people don’t rise back to life.”
No other of the major world religions claim that their central figure came back to life after death and is still alive today! Muslims would never claim that Mohammed is still alive. Buddhists know that the Buddha died and didn’t physically come back to life. Jews never claim that Abraham or Moses or David is still alive. Hindus claim that souls can be reincarnated but they don’t believe that a person who is dead comes back to life as the same person. The Christian claim to Jesus Risen from the dead is unique and revolutionary!
The idea is so absurd, in fact, that even some liberal Christians and churches have tried to soften this scandalous idea by turning the reality of the Resurrection into some spiritual metaphor, some psychological rebirth of hope or a “spiritual but not religious” beginning of a new life. Of course, the New Testament offers a witness to the radical new life that Jesus Christ offers all His followers – we do become a new creation in Christ through our Baptism and life in Him - but that is something that comes as a result of the transforming power we receive from the Risen Lord Jesus Himself. The spiritual metaphor doesn’t replace what truly happened. The dead, crucified man, Jesus, rose from the tomb and came back to life! He conquered death! He opened the gates of eternal life, paradise, and humanity no longer needs to fear death if they live with the Risen Christ!
If we embrace this reality as true, if we believe that Jesus overcame and conquered death and all the injustice and suffering He endured by rising from the dead, then it changes our entire perspective on life. If we truly accept the fact that Jesus is alive and victorious, we can then commit our lives to follow this Risen Lord, and our life will never be the same. Death is not the end of our story! All the darkness and evil we see in our world – the violence and wickedness, any suffering and tragedy, the greed and egocentric desires, the lust and impurity, the utter confusion and deception we see all around us – is not the end of the story!
Always remember how God became a man who lived on this same earth and experienced the greatest evil and darkness of this world. He was betrayed by his own friend. He was abandoned by his closest followers. He was rejected by His own people. He was unjustly arrested, beaten, tortured and killed. We have a God who understands the evil and darkness of this world! He voluntarily experienced and endured it all for a purpose. To expose its temporary character. Evil and darkness, even suffering and death did not have the final say in the life of Christ, and will not have the final say in our story of life if we walk with the Risen Christ!
The Risen Lord Jesus is the Victor over evil, darkness, and death! And this is where WE come into the story. IF WE CHOOSE to not only believe in the Risen Christ in an intellectual manner, but IF WE CHOOSE to commune with Him every day, to walk with Him and to walk as He walked, to allow His Spirit to dwell richly in us, and IF WE CHOOSE to form our entire world view around “Jesus Risen From the Dead,” then our life will change!
When we walk with the Risen Jesus and live in the light of Christ’s Resurrection, we walk in the spirit of the Beatitudes. We imitate the life of Jesus as a servant of others. We sacrifice for others out of our love for them. And ultimately, we fear nothing! Death is but a doorway into an eternal embrace in God’s love. Suffering is but a temporary experience which is transformed when I accept the unconditional nature of God’s love. Tragic events and affairs may seem to be overwhelming from a limited perspective, yet from the view of our Risen Lord Jesus, we find courage and discover hope because we know He is victorious over all, and we will be victorious with Him.
When we walk with the Living Christ, our lives radiate with an eternal joy, hope, peace, gratitude and wonder!
Let me conclude with the words of Archbishop Anastasios of Albania, who noted, “With Christ’s Resurrection everything was made new again; everything was restored! From that point on, the question posed for every human being has been whether or not to participate in this restoration.”
Christ is Risen and good prevails over evil. Christ is Risen and hope prevails over despair! Christ is Risen and light prevails over darkness. Christ is Risen and joy prevails over sadness. Christ is Risen and life prevails over death!
This is why, if we choose to participate in this resurrection, we enter into a new beginning and a victorious life! Remember, never let anything in life ever allow you to forget the joy and new life we have in the Resurrection!”
Christ is Risen!
IN WHOM DO WE TRUST?
Our Orthodox Faith