Easter Sermon from Bp. Mouneer Anis
Resurrection of Christ frees us from hatred
Today as we remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I would like to meditate on the words of Apostle Paul to the church in Rome;
‘For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his’ Romans 6:5
These words are very difficult to understand. How can we unite with Christ in a death like his and how we can we unite with Him in his resurrection?
We learn from the history of ancient Egypt that when a Noble of the first Dynasty died, all of his slaves would be killed and buried with him so that they can serve him in his second life. Later on, this harsh custom stopped and the Ancient Egyptians were content to put small clay figures that represent the slaves in the grave where the Noble was buried. In addition they put the tools he used to use in his first life in the grave so that when he rose from the dead, he would use them in his second life.
That is difficult to accept and to practice as it is hard to believe that life after death will be exactly the same as life before. The Scripture teaches us that the concept of resurrection is different from that believed by the Ancient Egyptians. When we rise from the dead we rise in spiritual bodies that is different from our earthly ones. ‘It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body’ 1 Corinthians 15:44. ‘Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.’ 1 Corinthians 15:49. This is what Paul meant when he wrote the earlier verses that I mentioned above.
Paul then added ‘We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. Romans 6:6-8
Here we understand that when we believe that Christ died for our sins on the cross and accept him Saviour and Redeemer for our lives, then our whole self with its sinful nature, would not control us. He gives us then, a new life and a new nature when the Holy Spirit indwells in us by faith.
One of the stories I heard, when the ship sank in the Red Sea last year, was of a father who carried his son on his back and swam until he was able to save him by throwing him into a life boat. After that the father himself sank to the bottom of the sea as he lost all his energy to hold on to the boat. The father drowned to save his son from death. The motive here was the love of the father for his son. If humans can love to that extent, how much more the love of God would be for his children?
The love of God in Jesus Christ moves us from death to life as John in his gospel wrote’ ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16. We may ask how Christ can give us eternal life and a new nature? How can he transfer us from death to life? I think the secret here is in the power of his resurrection. The power by which he overcomes death and has ascended to his heavenly glory once again.
Paul was longing to experience this power of resurrection when he said ‘that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death’ Philippians 3:10. Does this longing of Paul “that he may know him and the power of his resurrection’ is ours today. As we celebrate Easter, I hope that it is mine and yours.
To experience this power of resurrection we need to die with him. This means that we repent of our sins and take the most important decision of our lives which is to believe that he died for our sins on the cross. In this way we become crucified with him and we open our hearts to him. By faith we accept the gift of the Holy Spirit so we rise with him and take him as our Master. Then and only then, we experience the power of his resurrection and start by this power our journey towards eternity.
The experience of the power of his resurrection gives us the victory over ourselves. It frees us from the slavery of sin and leads us to the freedom of the children of God. It frees us from selfishness and hatred and leads us to the love of God and others. It is this power that freed the disciples from fear and sent them to witness for the love of God that was incarnated in the person of Jesus Christ.
At Easter we usually sing ‘Jesus Christ is risen today’. Are we going to sing this with our lips or from our hearts. ‘Jesus Christ is risen today’. Is it a song we sing or a song we lives
My beloved, Easter becomes real when we experience the power of the resurrection in our lives so let us put the goal for our lives the same as Paul’s, ‘that I may know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his suffering’