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Easter Day, Cycle C



The most important sentence of our Easter Day message each year is the statement of faith, “I believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and that God will also raise me and will raise you from the dead.” No Easter message is adequate without this statement of faith. It is the Easter message that the people have come to hear. They expect to hear it on Easter. Attendance at worship on other Sundays of the Church Year would be greater also if we would make this statement of faith in various ways in our message on the other, the “Little Easter” Sundays throughout the year.

The statement of faith alone is not, however, sufficient. Our statement of faith must be followed by the invitation, “And I invite you also to believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and that God will also raise you and me from the dead.” “We believe. Others have believed. And we invite everyone who hears this proclamation to believe also.” The invitation must be explicit. It calls for a commitment of faith.

Subjectivity is far more important than is objectivity in our proclamation, especially on Easter Day, but also on all of the other “Little Easters” of the year. The historians and the news reporters say, “From the data that we have been able to gather, we can say objectively that so-and-so has occurred.” We who proclaim the Gospel say, “We believe! We speak from the perspective of faith.” The Gospel is a subjective statement of faith, not an objective historical report. For this reason, we begin our consideration of the texts for Easter Day, Series C, with 1 Corinthians 15:19-26, a statement of faith.

1 Corinthians 15:19-26

In this text from the great resurrection chapter of 1 Corinthians Paul extends the effects of Jesus’ resurrection to all who will believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and will continue to raise Jesus and all of us from the dead. We should not conclude that when Paul wrote that in Christ all shall be made alive that he was proclaiming an expectation of universalism, that ultimately everyone will be “saved.” Paul desired, of course, that ultimately everyone would be saved. All would be saved if all would believe in God. All would be saved is all would believe that God was, is, and always will be active in Jesus as Christ. For this reason, we should translate 1 Corinthians 15:22b as “so also in Christ all who believe shall be made alive.”

The emphasis in 1 Corinthians 15:19-26 is on victory over every oppressive ruler and authority and power, even over death itself. Paul was saying that the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is an indication that God will nullify and destroy the Roman power that had crucified Jesus, and that, even prior to the nullification of the oppressive Roman power, that God will raise from the dead all who “belong to Christ.”

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

This exhortation to give thanks to the Lord, this proclamation of the mercy of God, this celebration of the action of God in restoring life to the psalmist is appropriate in a Christian Easter Day worship service. It can and should be sung with gladness, for it links us to other people of God in antiquity and to other people of God now in a Christian Easter Day celebration in which we confess our faith in God and rejoice in the redeeming power and love of God.

Isaiah 65:17-25

In this text the inspired writer joyfully proclaimed that soon the Lord God will recreate the sky and the earth for Jerusalem and for the Israelite people. For the people of God, there will be no more weeping and distress; no longer will anyone die short of a long and fruitful life. No one will take from them the products of their labor. God will hear and will respond to help them even while they are still speaking! Wild and rapacious beasts will be gentle and eat grass along with oxen and lambs. The sky and the earth will be resurrected. The people of God will be resurrected. Prophecy will be resurrected. Everything conceivable will be resurrected, except an individual person who has died. What a wondrous setting for the Easter message that God has taken this one giant additional step — to raise from the dead a person, the Jesus of history now perceived as the Christ of faith, and with the Risen Christ also each of us!

Acts 10:34-43

We marvel at the skill of the inspired Lukan playwright. Chapter 10 of Acts is not only an indication of the spread of the early followers of Jesus beyond the Jewish setting of Jesus to Greeks and other non-Jews; it also depicts a Roman military officer embracing the new Christian faith, a powerful representative of the oppressors being baptized in the name of the crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus Christ!

In addition, the Lukan writer may have even included a very subtle cryptogram against the Roman Emperor in Peter’s speech in Acts 10:38-39 in the home of Cornelius, the Roman military official. The Lukan playwright has Peter describe Jesus as having gone from place to place among his people, healing all who were being oppressed by the devil. The devil here may actually be a coded reference to the Roman Emperor, a code understandable to followers of Jesus during the latter decades of the first century, but so subtle that Roman officials would think that this was only theological jargon!

Luke 24:1-12

The message to the women who had come very early in the morning of the day after the Sabbath to perform the last possible action of love for the crucified Jesus, “Why are you looking here in this place among the dead for someone who is living?” is also our message. “He is not here. He has been raised from the dead! Remember how he explained to you while he was still in Galilee that the Son of Man would be delivered over into the hands of the oppressive Romans and be crucified, and that on the third day after that he would be raised from the dead.” Even the powerful Roman oppressors, those skilled specialists in torture and crucifixion, could not keep Jesus dead. They could kill Jesus, but they could not keep Jesus dead! They could not prevent God from raising Jesus back to life in a form in which even the skilled Romans could not kill him again. This text is a biblical condemnation of all who torture and kill other human beings, who torture and kill Jesus and anyone else.

John 20:1-18

It is often noted that Mary Magdalene is a witness to the empty tomb in all Four Gospel accounts. In the Fourth Gospel she also sees and clings to the resurrected Jesus. Our understanding of the nuances of Greek grammar help us to see that it was not the intention of the writer of the John 20:11-18 account to say that Mary Magdalene did not touch the Risen Christ. The negative with the Greek present tense imperative mood in the word of the Risen Christ to her in John 20:17 indicates that the action described should not continue indefinitely, not that it should not begin. Therefore, the words of the Risen Christ to Mary Magdalene should be translated into English as “Do not continue any longer to hold me,” not as “Do not touch me!” The latter would have been indicated by using the negative with the Greek aorist tense subjunctive mood. When she could no longer cling to the Risen Christ, she went to his disciples to make her glorious Easter confession of faith, “I have seen the Lord!”

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Authors of
Lectionary Scripture Notes
Norman A. Beck is the Poehlmann Professor of Theology and Classical Languages and the Chairman of the Department of Theology, Philosophy, and Classical Languages at Texas Lutheran University
Dr. Norman A. Beck
Mark Ellingsen is professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Dr. Mark Ellingsen