ALMIGHTY God, who through thine only-begotten Son Jesus Christ hast overcome death, and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: We humbly beseech thee, that as by thy special grace preventing us thou dost put into our minds good desires, so by thy continual help we bring the same to good effect; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Epistle Colossians 3.1-7
Gospel S. John 20:1-10
The subject of the Epistle for Easter Day is the new life that the Christian believer receives through faith in, and union with, the risen Jesus Christ. “If ye be risen with Christ…”, or, as it might be put, “Since ye are risen with Christ”, stating that the Christian believer has already risen through faith in, and union with Christ, to a new life—a life lived on a different plane from that lived formerly in unbelief. Before he was raised up with Christ he was “dead in trespasses and sins”. A dead person feels nothing, responds to no stimuli, and so those who are spiritually dead do not feel the witness of the Spirit with their spirits, the cleansing power of the blood of Christ, nor the love of God in their hearts. They do not see Christ crucified for them; they do not see the truth revealed in the pages of Scripture. They do not hear the voice of the Good Shepherd calling them. They do not taste the sweetness of God’s promises in Scripture; nor can they run in the way of God’s commandments.
The opposite is true of the Christian believer. The Epistle tells us that he has been raised up to a new life, here and now with Christ. He is spiritually alive to God and the realities of God’s Kingdom. He has the vital power of the Holy Spirit within; the breath of prayer is upon his lips; his feet run in the paths of God’s commandments; he has an appetite for spiritual food, for the word of God; he looks upward, and seeks the things which are above. He has experienced a spiritual resurrection now through the grace of God and the power of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. This is the message of the Epistle for Easter Day, and we are meant to look at our hearts and lives, and see if that is indeed true in our experience. Have we real, heart-felt, vital, Christianity?
The Gospel for Easter Day gives us the narrative of the empty tomb, how Mary Magdalene was the first at the tomb where Jesus had been laid. How she ran immediately to tell Peter and John that the body of Jesus had been taken away from the sepulchre. Peter and John go as fast as they can to the tomb and find that what Mary had said was true, the body of Jesus was not there. John was faster than Peter, and getting to the tomb first did not venture in, but observed that the grave clothes which had been about the body of Jesus were lying there. When Peter arrived he went into the tomb and saw the linen clothes lying and the napkin, which had been about Jesus’ head, folded up in a place by itself. Then, John tells us, he himself went into the sepulchre, “and he saw, and believed”. Why? Because he saw the evidence of the resurrection. If the body of Jesus had been stolen away, as Mary had supposed, the robbers would not have taken off the elaborate bandages about the body, nor have removed the head cloth and neatly folded it up. What the disciples saw that morning was the evidence of the bodily resurrection of Christ. Calvin says, “The linen grave clothes were the slough which should produce faith in the resurrection”.
It is these facts, testified to by the apostles, which generate faith, and faith enables us to be born again and to live the resurrection life here and now of which Paul speaks in the Epistle for today. “Since you are risen with Christ seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.”