Sermon on the Third Sunday of Pascha on the Gospel lesson from Mark 15:43-16:8
In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen.
Christ is risen!
“There you will see Him, just as He told you!”
Every year we read today’s Gospel lesson from Mark, I chuckle a little. The angel told the stunned and scared myrrh-bearing women that Jesus of Nazareth, Whom they were seeking in a tomb, is risen and is waiting for His disciples in Galilee, just as He told them.
Leading up to His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus predicted to His disciples His imminent death and resurrection multiple times. Each of the four Evangelists mentions Jesus foretelling this in specific details – the betrayal, the arrested, humiliation, and crucifixion. But they were not to worry, because He will be raised on the third day; and He will go before them to Galilee (Mark 14:28).
And the Evangelists note that the disciples did not understand His words at the time. We can sympathize with them, it was not a common thing for the Messiah, the Son of God Himself, to appear and predict His own death and resurrection. They had no precedent to fall back on.
It was only after the Resurrection, after they encountered the risen Lord that their eyes were opened, that they were able to see and connect all the dots, and admit that everything happened not only as He had predicted, but as the whole of Old Testament foretold.
Apostles and the early disciples made sure to pass down to the later generations, all the way to our times, exactly what happened, and moreover, what we are to do about it. Just as He told us. In other words, we can’t make the same claim that we don’t understand what the Lord wants from us and what we need to do.
The Lord’s death and Resurrection happened precisely the way He predicted it. A lot of the things still happen the way He told us they would happen.
Such as persecution. “Remember the word that I said to you,” Jesus is recorded saying in the Gospel according to Saint John, “‘Servants are not greater than their master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you” (John 15:20).
Christians have been persecuted from the beginning, just as He told us. And thank God that we live in a country where we, as Christians, are not persecuted. Unfortunately, some Christians confuse hurt feelings for persecution.
There are Christians who are persecuted and die today, such as in Africa and the Middle East. These Christians are publicly beheaded, their homes are raided, men, women, and children are raped and killed. This is not the case for us in America, and, again, thank God.
Since the Lord has foretold the persecution, however, some Christians in countries like America develop a persecution complex. They look for the opportunity to get offended. If that does not happen, they offend others and then feign persecution.
I once had a conversation with another priest online; and I dared to disagree with him. In response he said, “Why are you attacking me?” And I said, “Why are you pretending to be a victim?” You see, our life is so good that we take disagreements as personal attacks because we want to be “victims,” because we want to be “persecuted,” because that would give us “street cred” as Christians.
Persecutions will come, just as He told us, but we should not be seeking them out. Instead, we constantly seek to convert our hearts to the Lord, seek to convert our families to the Gospel, seek to bring all the nations to the Church.
Christ also left us the Law to follow, and He told us how to follow it. It is exactly the same Law Israel received on Mount Sinai after being delivered from Egyptian slavery. And Christ came not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17), just as He told us.
Since Israel got, kind of, carried away in following the Law, Jesus gave instructions, more like corrections, on how to properly understand and follow it. We find these instructions in the famous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).
There is a commandment against murder, but Jesus says that if we are angry with our brother or sister, we are liable to judgment (Matthew 5:21-22). Never mind actually taking someone’s life, if we have angry feelings towards someone, we are liable.
And if someone has something against us, we cannot dare to approach God, until we reconcile with that person. Notice, He did not say if we are offended, rather if someone else has something against us, if we have offended, then we are to go and reconcile.
Initiate reconciliation, just as He told us.
There is a commandment against adultery, but Jesus says that if we look at another person with lustful intent, we already have committed adultery in our hearts (Matthew 5:27-28). If that is not a description of pornography, I do not know what is.
It is here that He says, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:29). Whether we take it literally or symbolically, cut out the things that lead to hell, just as He told us.
Israelites took the commandment to love their neighbor (Leviticus 19:18) to mean that they can hate their enemy. But Jesus introduces the necessary correction, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father Who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45). Do not look for ways to be offended and claim victimhood, but pray for those who seem to be persecuting you, just as He told us.
Love is the main component to Christianity; it is part of the new commandment, in fact, “I give you a new commandment,” Jesus said to His disciples during the Last Supper, “That you love one another. Just as I loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34).
And how did He love us? He willingly laid down His life for us.
“By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). If we are willing to lay down our lives for each other, the whole world will know Whose disciples we are.
Not when we correct everyone who is wrong, not when we look for signs of persecution, not when we ridicule those who do not belong to our political party or do not self-identify as we self-identify, not when we seek to become victims by offending those who offend us, but when we love one another. Love the way Jesus first loved us.
Then we will see Him, just as He told us.
Christ is risen!
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