The BCP

Easter Day

Author: The Revd Dr Peter Toon

Collect

ALMIGHTY God, who through thine only-begotten Son Jesus Christ hast overcome death, and opened unto 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 may 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.

Collect Commentary

Here we recognize that he who died upon the Cross and was raised from the dead was really and truly the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. It was he who died, that is died in his human nature, and by this dying he opened the gate for us into eternal life, the very gate that had been closed by the Cherubim (Genesis 3:24). Thus, as it were, we walk through an open gate/door into a way of life wherein our vocation is to do the will of God gladly and joyfully. "Special grace preventing [going before] us" is what Christ gives to his people as they walk with him in the Spirit. Good desires are not enough for those who live in the power of the Resurrection; they are to be brought to good effect for the glory of God and he good of souls.

The EPISTLE from Colossians 3:1-7 is an exhortation to live as those who truly believe not only that Jesus Christ has been exalted to the Father's right hand in heaven but that also those who are united to him by faith have been exalted together with him. Holiness and righteousness of life flow from union with the Lord Jesus who has conquered sin and evil and is raised to the highest heaven as the Lord of lords.

The GOSPEL from John 20:1-10 tells how Mary Magdalene visited the tomb of Jesus only to find that the stone across its entrance had been moved. She hastened to tell Peter and John. They ran to see for themselves and entering the tomb found to their amazement that it was empty. So the empty tomb becomes the first sign that Jesus has been raised from the dead.

Naturally Christians who hear the story so far want to know what happened next and of they read on in John's Gospel. They find out that Jesus actually appeared to Mary, spoke to her and made her - a woman with a certain questionable reputation -- into the first witness of the Resurrection! Thus she can go and tell the disciples, "I have seen the Lord!"

So it is a woman not a man, a disciple and not an apostle, who is chosen by God to be first person to see the Lord Jesus Christ as the Resurrected Master and Saviour. (See Luke 24:1-12 for more details of the role of woman as witnesses of the Resurrection.)

LET US CELEBRATE WITH ALL JOY THE RESURRECTION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST FROM THE DEAD not only on Easter Day but for the whole of Eastertide.

But let us be wholly clear that it is Resurrection not Resuscitation that we celebrate!

What happened to Jesus on Easter morning was not resuscitation. The human soul did not reunite with a revived body to form a resuscitated, revived Jesus. In no way whatsoever, could Resuscitation have ever been the proclamation of GOSPEL by God the Father to those with ears to hear of the victory of the Incarnate Son over sin, evil, darkness, death and demonic power.

Resuscitation could never have been the statement that a new covenant between God and man was in place, that the old Mosaic covenant was obsolete, and that there was atonement, redemption, salvation, reconciliation & forgiveness of sins available through the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. And neither could modern views of resurrection as "the spirit of Jesus surviving death" (with his body lost) be the statement of God's victory over darkness, evil, sin, death and Satan.

What happened on Easter morning was a miracle that was more, much more, than the resuscitation of the dead body of Jesus and its reuniting with his soul. The Miracle of Easter is that Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God, was raised from the dead into a new order of being and as a new form of humanity. His resurrection from the dead, while a continuance in personal identity, was at the same time a transformation of his human nature and body so that he became a resurrected, glorified, supernaturalized and immortalised Man (yet more than Man). His humanity, wholly transformed by the Spirit of God, contained and displayed the new order of being that is the kingdom of God. The Person of the Son of God now had not only his eternal divine nature with a human soul (as from Good Friday through Holy Saturday) but also a totally perfected, glorified, supernaturalized and immortalised human nature, body and soul.

Thus the cry, "Jesus is risen from the dead", is also the announcement that the new covenant between God and man is in place and is centred on the Mediator, Jesus. The new order and covenant reveals perfect human nature glorified through a perfect response to the Spirit of the Lord. It shows us the goal for which human nature was created by God, and to which it will be raised when the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus sets men free from the law of sin and of death. It shows both the crown of the purpose of God set forth in holy Scriptures and the crown of his purpose in the created world, wherein a new, dynamic, everlasting level & order of life succeeds to old levels that pass away. Jesus rose as the new Adam, the head and representative of a new humanity, the firstfruits of those who would follow him (see 1 Corinthians 15).

This explanation of the raising of Jesus as the Resurrected Lord of life and not as the resuscitated Rabbi makes it possible for us to see why Jesus did not appear to those who had handed him over to death (the Jewish Sanhedrin & the Roman Procurator and their helpers). By the laws of the new covenant and of the kingdom of heaven, the miracle of the Resurrection could only be made known to those who responded in penitence and faith to the new level of spiritual existence which it disclosed. It was not a portent that could be shown to anyone & everyone to press them or to scare them into belief! It was a miracle belonging to the realm of the kingdom of God and only those with eyes to see could see it.

The new Order of Being manifested and revealed in the risen Lord Jesus, the Messiah, needed a corresponding spiritual discernment to see its nature and reality, Thus Jesus appeared only to the disciples and to them on several occasions. In them he had sown the seed of faith and insight and they, as quickened by the Spirit of God, were able to begin to see him in his new identity, in his transformed and glorified manhood. That is they were able to receive the Revelation of his true identity as the Risen Lord and then worship him (as did Thomas) as "My Lord and my God".

To state all this is to agree with the Gospel records which make it absolutely clear that Jesus made no attempt whatsoever to appear to any others than his disciples.

However, to make this essential point about the revelation of a new order of being is not to discount historical evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus. There is historical testimony that points to the Resurrection of Jesus with overwhelming probability - for example (a) the disciples did not really expect the Resurrection; (b) the existence of the Church despite the great setback of Good Friday; (c) the claims of the disciples that Jesus actually appeared to them; (d) the empty tomb and (e) the absolutely new appreciation and understanding of the Scriptures by the apostles and disciples.

Ultimately, we must say that what it took on Easter Day and during the next 40 days first to SEE and then to receive Jesus as the Resurrected Lord, with his new covenant and kingdom, is ultimately what it takes now - a penitent, believing heart. "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved."

 

Epistle Colossians 3:1-7

IF ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.

 

Gospel John 20:1-10

THE first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.