“The Gospel of Life”
April 20, 2014: Easter Sunday High Mass
Acts 10: 34 – 43/Psalm 118: 14 – 29/Colossians 3: 1 – 4/ John 20: 1 - 18
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
Hallelujah! Christ is risen! This is one word that you are very much allowed to shout at Easter. Christ is risen! But why? What is the point? Why is Christ risen? What is the significance to us as Christians, as children of God? John 20:31 says that these things have been written so that you might believe that Jesus is Christ, the Son of God, the very Messiah who was prophesied to one day conquer death; and that believing, you may have life in His name.
Jesus gave up His life so that that we, believing in Him, may have life. You have eternal life because Christ is risen. All that Jesus did was to make known to us the path of life. As the Psalmist said, “Thou makest known to me the path of life; the gospel of life; the good news.” The good news is that we have new life! Everything Jesus did was to make known to us that we have new life.
The stones were rolled away for Jesus to come out of the tomb. One time, He went into a room whose doors were closed for fear of the Jews. Jesus did not need the stone to be rolled away and to be able to get out of the tomb. The stone was rolled away so that the disciples could get in and look in and believe because in believing, they may have life in His name.
John, the writer of the gospel, claimed to be the first believer in the Resurrection. In John 20:8, John did not see Jesus, but he saw a sign of the Resurrection. “The disciple whom Jesus loved saw and believed.” He was the first. Verse 9 says, “For as yet, the disciples did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.” Mary saw the empty tomb; she did not believe. She saw Jesus but she did not immediately believe until she heard His voice and recognized it. Thomas did not believe until he was able to put his finger in His hand and side. John only saw a sign, a hint. He really did not see Jesus resurrected, yet, he believed. He was the same gospel writer that mentioned Jesus saying, "Blessed are they who did not see and yet believed." He maybe was referring to himself because he believed.
When they were fishing, they did not catch any fish. They were one hundred yards away from the shore when Jesus called out to them and asked them, “You did not catch any fish, did you?" They said, “No.” He said, “Cast the net on the right hand side and you will get a catch.” On that, John noticed that it was Jesus. Peter did not. He said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” When Peter heard John, he jumped into the water to go to Jesus. John, from a hundred yards away, recognized Jesus. He knew Him better because he believed. He knew Him even more. John was the disciple who put his head to the chest of Jesus whenever they ate. He was very close to Jesus, but he knew Him in a whole different dimension after the Resurrection because he believed. Believing is how we can have life in His name.
Colossians 3:1 says, "If you believe, you have been raised up with Christ.” Colossians 2:12 says, "You have been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith.” In baptism, which is the grace of God, you have been raised with Christ. We have been raised with Christ if we have been baptized. In baptism, we died with Him and also we have been raised with Him.
St. Paul says, “Since you have been risen with Him, this is what you do. Keep seeking the things that are above where new life is; where all things have been made new. Not the old things; not the sinful nature; not your old ways, but that which is above.” 1John 5:13 says, “These things I have written to you who believe in the son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life and that you may know the purpose of that eternal life.” Romans 6:4-5 says, “We have been resurrected with Christ for this purpose so that we might walk in newness of life. If we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly, we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection.”
We have been raised with Him in His resurrection. We died with Him; we are raised with Him. Same manner, in the likeness we have died with Him, we shall be in the likeness of His resurrection. Roman 6:6 says, "Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, so that our body of sin might be done away with the old nature.” Permanently; completely. The King James Version says, “So that our old man was crucified with Him.” St. Paul says, “Our old man was crucified with Him so that the body of sin may be done away with.” The old self is no longer there permanently.
We recite the Pascha Nostrum or Christ our Passover in the Easter Season which is taken out of Romans 6:10-11 that says, “For in that He died, He died unto sin once (never to die again), but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” We share the likeness of His death and the likeness of Resurrection. We no longer live for ourselves, but unto God. Eternal life means there is no turning back to the old self, to the old man, to the old nature because it was dead. It has died with Christ. We now have a new creation. Jesus said, "Behold I make all things new." Being raised from the dead, we die no more just like Christ.
The whole point of the Resurrection is really not to escape the punishment of hell; but to live a new life. Everything died with Christ – not just man – but all of creation. All things; everything had to be recreated and resurrected. All things were made new so that we can live a new life free from that which broke our former fellowship with God in the Garden. He made us, particularly man, so that He could fellowship with us. The theologian boldly said, “The reason earth was created is so that God and man could have a venue for fellowship so that he could walk with God in the cool of the day on earth. “ Earth happened to be a venue and the most important thought in God’s mind is fellowship with man. God had to make a place for it to happen so that we can be free from that sin and death which broke the fellowship so that He could restore us and reconcile us to Himself. Therefore, we can be with Him forever. We are forever reconciled.
Personally, I am so against any kind of divorce, any kind of separation, any kind of giving up. The new life that God gave us, in Christ, we don’t turn back from it. We don’t go back to our old life and abandon the new life that Christ died to provide for us. It is not just an insult but it is such a waste of precious life restored back to us. This is why Jesus died. John 3:16 says that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to reconcile the world to Himself. The world was separated from Him, not just man, but the whole world, all of creation. The Paschal Mystery (meaning Passion, Death, Resurrection of Christ) is all about reconciliation with God, which Jesus accomplished.
My favorite Christmas Song says, “God and man reconciled. Peace on earth, mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.” This is what the Paschal Mystery is all about. The Pascha; the Passover; “Pasko.” In Tagalog, Easter is called “Pasko ng Pagkabuhay.” Pascha, Pasko means Passover. This is why we should not believe when somebody says to you, “Ano ka, sinisuwerte? Hindi araw-araw Pasko.”(Do you think you are fortunate? Christmas is not every day.”) I am here to tell you the every day is “Pasko.” Or you can choose for everyday to be “Pasko.” This is what the Resurrection is all about. This is what the sacrifice of the Passover is all about so that everyday would be “Pasko.”
We can live eternal life from this day forward and no more turning back because the body of sin has been done away with. Along with it is death. Death, where is your sting? Where is your victory? God was in Christ Jesus reconciling the world to Himself not counting men’s sin against them anymore. Sin is no more. What is there to count? What is there to be afraid of? Death is no more!
We have been fearful of that which does not exist. We pay insurance premium for it. We are not there yet, but death is no more; sin is no more. One day, we will get to that point where this will really become a reality to us. We will just worry no more and walk with God and have fellowship with Him because this is the whole point. It is us being reconciled to Him and walking in newness of life with Christ, in God. It is to be reconciled with Him as in creation. Walking together in the cool of the day, nothing in the way of our sweet fellowship with God, ruling and reigning in His name and in His power. This is why all things have been made new. If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Some translations says a new creature. You don't need stem cell treatment because you are already a new creature.
This Holy Saturday sermon of Bishop Melito of Sardis has Jesus going down to hell and calling out to Adam, "Awake, O sleeper.” Who sleeps? Those who have been dead. Why do people die? It is because of sin. Certain theologies said that Jesus went down to hell to save the righteous. Jesus went to hell to give life to the dead who were dead, in the first place, because of sin. They were sinners that is why they died. Jesus told them to awake from sleep and to rise from the dead. Jesus told Adam, “I have not made you to be held prisoner in the underworld.”
Jesus did not make man to be prisoner in the underworld or otherwise. Jesus have not made us prisoner of anything. We are not supposed to be in bondage to anything. We are supposed to be free! This is the truth of our creation. This is why Jesus died for us – to free us again and give us new life. “I would die for you and I did to restore creation.” This is a very powerful statement! Jesus, going down, emptying hell and telling everybody, “Time to wake up! You have been snoozing for several times. Time to get up. Let us go from here! Let us leave this place. You are not to be here. You are not dead. You have life. I made you for life to live forever.”
God wants us to have fellowship with Him. God does not want to punish us. He wants to have fellowship with us which is the very reason He created us. It was for freedom that Christ set us free.
We have the Fourteen Stations of the Cross on Maundy Thursday. The purpose is not to scientifically prove that Jesus really suffered. It is not to get sympathy for Christ. It is so that we would understand the love of God for us that He would go to any length and so that He could restore fellowship with us. It is not about sympathy but so that we understand the high price that was paid just so that we can walk in newness of life with God again - reconciliation. The whole purpose for our creation and our restoration is so that we can walk with God.
This is the way it is in His kingdom. Hallelujah! Christ is risen!