Let me begin with the Easter joke. One story has it that upon his resurrection, the Jesus appeared to a certain fisherman. “I am Jesus – My death has saved all who do or will believe, and I returned to show the Father’s love and power. “No, you’re not Jesus, so bug off, you’re scaring all the fish,” answered the old fisherman. “I see you are full of doubt. What would you have me do to show who I am?”
“Walk across the river,” he tells Jesus. So Jesus starts walking across the river. Next thing, he sinks and disappears under the water. After he swims back to shore, the old man says to him, “There you are, see, you’re not Jesus, you can’t walk across water”. Jesus responds, “Well, I used to be able to do it until I got these darned holes in my feet!”
Dear friends! What a joy it is for us to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus’ tonight beginning with a service of light. The true light that enlightens the world is not the sun but Jesus. His resurrection has scattered the darkness and brought us the true light. Many times in the Gospel of John Jesus reminds us that he is the light of the world (John 1:9; 3:19; 8:12; 9:5; 12:46). The Old Testament readings tonight give us a quick summary of the history of our salvation until Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus is the light shining at the center of history illuminating it all and showing all of history in a new light. Everything needs to be reinterpreted in the light of the resurrection of Jesus. Nothing is ever again the same.
I wondering how great must have been the joy the apostles experienced on Easter Day. The following story should help us to catch a little of the flavor of their joy:
A Russian Cossack had two sons, Peter and Gregory, in the First World War. One day he got a letter from the front. Being unable to read, the handed it to his daughter. It was from Gregory’s commanding officer and began like this: ‘I regret to have to inform you that your son Gregory was killed in action on July 10th. Gregory was an excellent soldier and died the death of the brave. You have every reason to be proud of him…etc’
The effect of his news on the father was immediate and alarming. He seemed to wilt visibly. In a matter of days he aged, turning grey almost overnight. His memory began to fail and even his mind was affected. He began to drink to excess. After the local priest had offered a Requiem Mass for his son he felt a little better.
Twelve days went by like this. On the thirteenth day a second letter arrived from the front. It said that his son wasn’t dead after all! He had been wounded and left for dead on the battlefield. Next morning he had come to and crawled four miles back to his own lines, dragging a wounded officer with him. He was to be raised to the rank of corporal, and had been awarded the Cross of St. George in recognition of his bravery. Right now he was recovering from his wounds in hospital, and they could expect him home soon.
On hearing this the father was a sight to see. Scaled with joy, he grabbed the letter and went into the village with it. He stopped everyone he met, forcing everyone to read it. ‘My son is alive!’ he exclaimed. ‘He’s been awarded St. George’s Cross for bravery!”
This should give us some idea of the joy the disciples experienced that first Easter. But there are differences too. The Cossack’s son hadn’t actually died. Jesus had died. The disciples had witnessed his death with their own eyes. And now the tomb was empty and Jesus had been seen alive! We must remember, however, that the resurrection was not a return to earthly life – Jesus rose to a new life beyond death.
Their joy bubbled over. Jesus, their leader and friend, had broken the chains of death through the power of God. Death, the last and greatest enemy, had been overcome in him. The joy of the apostles is meant to be ours too. It does not immediately remove from us the fear of death, for we still have to go through it. But it was by going through it Jesus overcame it. So it is for us who believe in him.
As we go through life we all experience little deaths. We get a foretaste of death when we live in bitterness, loneliness, sadness and despair. in times like these the world closes in on us, and we seem to have one foot in the grave. But we also experience little resurrections. When we open our hearts to others and to life, the world opens up and we emerge from the tomb. Let us pray: Lord, may the splendor of your resurrection scatter the shadows of death, and enable us to walk in radiant hope towards the kingdom where there are no more shattered hopes or broken dreams. May the Risen Lord Bless you all! Wish a Happy Easter!