His Victory is Ours

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Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection


Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Christos Anesti! Alithos Anesti!

As we mark tonight/today the awesome and glorious victory of Our Lord Jesus Christ over the forces of death and selfishness and sin, we find the world around us still seemingly oblivious and confused at best, and stubbornly resistant and defiant at worst, to this tremendous truth. We are still dismayed at the continuing violence in the Middle East and the spreading menace of Islamic fundamentalism, the horrendous atrocities inflicted upon innocent civilians by heavily armed militias fighting in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and the Arabian peninsula, and the recent mass killing of college students in Kenya. Where, we might ask, is this awesome and glorious victory over the forces of death and selfishness and sin?

We continue to mourn the tragedy of that plane crash in the French Alps as more disturbing information comes to light on the mental state of the young co-pilot. And it wasn’t too long ago since the violent attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, political violence in Ukraine, and various racially motivated attacks throughout Europe. And all these troubles in far-off places seem to have distracted us from the still unaddressed incidence in our country of avoidable but deadly confrontations between law enforcement and young African-American men, as well as the pervasiveness of random gun violence in several communities. I think we could use an awesome and glorious victory over the forces of death and selfishness and sin right about now.

World-crisis

So when we hear of the slow progress of diplomacy and peace-making, like the recent deal between the West and Iran regarding their potential nuclear capability, or the news of slow but steady economic improvement, we are quick to dismiss these reports as naïve, premature and unrealistic. Have we grown too cynical and weary of good news? Should we set our expectations lower perhaps? Or should we just be satisfied with going through the motions every Easter without really intending the substance of our Easter greetings, since we only open ourselves to disappointment and hurt for trusting that God actually cares about what happens to us? So if this awesome and glorious victory over the forces of death and selfishness and sin was true, why isn’t there more wild rejoicing and gladness in our streets like at the World Cup or the NCAA championship?

From as far back as I can remember, I have often thought the truths of our Christian faith to be too good to be true, that if we just kept repeating these stories we can convince ourselves they’re true. And every now and again, we might catch a glimmer of hope as when disaster survivors narrowly escape certain devastation, or people with extreme disability begin to function and thrive amid the extraordinary kindness of strangers and some innovative technology, or medical breakthroughs afford relief to the most vulnerable and those who suffer. But by comparison, it seems the forces of death and selfishness and sin make more measurable gains. And the forces of life and goodness and truth get by with such measly success.

I suppose the triumph of Jesus over the forces of death and selfishness and sin hardly seemed obvious to the people in his time, not to his apostles and most ardent followers who hurriedly made off in all directions when Jesus was arrested, beaten, and nailed to a cross, not to his opponents who probably celebrated their achievement with a hearty toast of their most expensive vintage in the dimly-lit and smoke-filled halls of secular and religious power, and it seems not to the visitors and pilgrims gathered for the Passover those three days in Jerusalem. It sounds like what we imagine to be this awesome and glorious triumph was essentially non-existent to everyone else at the time. Could we have fooled ourselves into thinking there is something truly more amazing and redemptive about this story than the decisive and shameful defeat of a good man at the hands of his more devious and unforgiving opponents?

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Jesus’ triumph over the forces of death and selfishness and sin is not a mere invention of his apostles and followers, or it would not have lasted as long as it has. But what exactly does his rising to new life mean? And how does it ultimately affect our lives? At first, no one could understand what was happening. The tomb was empty where Jesus had been buried, his body was nowhere to be found. Then some of his friends started reporting that he had appeared to them. They had seen him. They spoke with him. They even ate with him. He could not be dead. He may have been once, but not anymore.

And the company of his followers began to experience a transformation. From being the timid band that they were, they began to speak fearlessly about Jesus, his life, his teachings, his promises. They spoke of God’s compassion and healing mercy, that we need no longer be slaves to our passions, that we can know the fullness of justice and peace in this life by acknowledging the gift of our human dignity, that we could lay down our burden of shame and guilt, and come to know God’s peace and fellowship with our sisters and brothers. It was a most simple message, bearing with it the promise of eternal life. But it came at a cost—the total emptying of self, the renunciation of sin, and the conviction to live in love. No one could silence their voices, not threats from religious or civil authorities, not physical punishment, not exile, not death. They were not interested in wealth or power or fame. All they asked anyone who would listen was that they put faith in this Jesus who had died and had been raised to life. And they, too, would come to know forgiveness of their sins, and newness of life.

What Jesus showed us through his own passion, death, and resurrection was that we, too, can come to know new life, but only if we experience a passion and death like his. Our faith in Jesus does not prevent our physical death. But he spoke of a yet more glorious life that we can come to possess even while we live this physical life. It is a life of peace and freedom knowing God’s forgiveness and love. This is the awesome and glorious victory that Jesus achieved over the forces of death and selfishness and sin. And if we truly come to know it in our own bodies, we would have reason to celebrate with wild rejoicing and gladness.

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Our Lord Jesus Christ has won an awesome and glorious victory over the forces of death and selfishness and sin. He invites us to share his victory, if only we are willing to share his cross. The world would share his victory, but does not care to pay the price. A good life doesn’t come cheap. How much more everlasting life?

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Christos Anesti! Alithos Anesti!

Rolo B Castillo © 2015