The Reading from the First Epistle of St. John 1:1-7
We speak of Jesus of Nazareth, of His life and miracles and the miraculous claims that followed His life very often. We think and meditate and ponder them to such a degree that at times it becomes difficult to regain the wonder and awe and amazement of some of the key events in the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We have just celebrated Pascha or Easter as it is otherwise known and the celebration that we partake of for 40 days is the celebration of Life over death, of Good over evil, of Light over darkness, of Holiness over sin. In the midst of our celebration it is easy to lose focus and to forget that this is not just a story that has been passed down to us for 2000 years. It is a living testimony that has been observed and reported to us from the beginning. That is quite clear from many of the writings of the Apostles within the New Testament.
Never in history has anyone seen such bold claims made about one individual. This becomes even more amazing as we remind you that this individual was put to death by the Roman empire as a common criminal. His story should have ended that day at Golgotha upon the cross and for a few hours it seemed that it did end. The disciples were huddled together in a hidden place for fear that they would be next to suffer punishment for being followers of this Jesus of Nazareth.
Now there are a few things that happened that we must examine. The first is that the chief priests and Pharisees went to Pontius Pilate on the day after the crucifixion and demanded that guards be placed at the site of the tomb. They feared that the disciples would steal the body of Jesus in order to claim that He had risen from the dead. It is beyond ludicrous to imagine that the disciples of Jesus would desire to steal a rotting corpse. There is nothing to gain from such an act. In fact, they knew that their days were numbered if they attracted any more attention to themselves in the name of Jesus. But it gets better. The Pharisees asked Pontius Pilate that the tomb be sealed. What does this mean? It means that the Pharisees wanted the seal of Pontius Pilate placed upon the stone of the tomb. This was done by stretching out a cord across the whole length of the entrance of the tomb and finally adding a wax seal in the middle. The seal would dry and would crack at the slightest hint of any disturbance to it. The disturbance of this seal was punishable by death at the hands of the Romans.
But isn’t it possible that the disciples made up a story about the resurrection of Jesus in order to gain fame and fortune? Well let’s look at the results of this. Shortly after the crucifixion we begin to see the disciples going out and boldly preaching that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. The disciples are excommunicated from the synagogues and pushed out of the temple. They are punished by being whipped and beaten. They are thrown in prison. They have lost their livelihoods and careers and at times they have been disowned by their own families. In the end, 11 of the 12 disciples will lose their live for teaching that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Are you willing to die for something you believe in? Absolutely. People die for their faith and their country and their families and their friends. But here we see something really interesting. We see these men dying for something that others claim was a fabrication. It is beyond all human reason and logic that 11 of the 12 disciples would suffer so greatly for a story that they had simply fabricated. That is not how humans work because they had nothing to gain and everything to lose.
However, there is another explanation to their behavior. There is a scientific principle called Occam’s razor. This principle basically states that the simplest explanations are generally better than complex ones. With this principle in mind we begin to see the devastatingly simple explanation that brings all of the facts together in the neatest and tidiest way……..The disciples saw something that impacted their lives in such a way, that they would forever be changed. What they saw had the power to completely disrupt their normal lives and existence and in the process began to disrupt life all over the Roman Empire starting from Jerusalem.
We say these words over and over again throughout this season of feasting but we must understand the power and force and the ability of these words to change the world in which we now live just as it changed the world throughout the last two thousand years. May these not be simply words. May they be our belief and our conviction. May they forever change our lives. May we say these words and mean it with every fiber of our being…. CHRIST IS RISEN! INDEED HE IS RISEN!