Malankara World Journal
Malankara World Journal
Holy Week Special 4
Easter - Kyomtho

Volume 2 No. 70 April 7, 2012

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Easter-Empty Grave
He is RISEN!!
Table of Contents
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1. Editor's Note

2. Bible Readings for Easter Sunday

3. Sermons for Easter Sunday

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-for-Passion-week_Easter.htm

Malankara World Special Supplement for Passion week and Easter:

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Passion/Default.htm

4. Featured: Easter Message From Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas 2012

We are glad to share with you the Peace and Joy of a blessed Easter even though there is turbulence all over the world especially in the Middle East. We are really worried about the situation in Syria. However, we place our hope in the risen Lord who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. ...

5. The Meaning of the Resurrection

The Apostles believed in Christ's Resurrection and bore witness to it and preached it as a fundament of their faith in Jesus Christ. What are the theological dimensions and implications of this doctrine of faith? And today when we still teach that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, what do we mean in fact? Archbishop Cyril S. Bustros explains ...

6. Eight Reasons Why I Believe That Jesus Rose from the Dead

A saving knowledge of Christ crucified and risen is not the mere result of right reasoning about historical facts. It is the result of spiritual illumination to see those facts for what they really are: a revelation of the truth and glory of God in the face of Christ — who is the same yesterday today and forever.

7. What If There Is No Resurrection?

To help us appreciate Christ's victory over the grave, let's consider what the outcome of life and death would be without resurrection. First of all, Jesus would still be dead. That means our faith in Him would be worthless, and our message to the world would be a lie. Not only that, but Jesus Himself would be proved a liar since He claimed that He would rise from the dead. ...

8. Biblical Views: Making Sense of the Unlikely Easter Story

When you know the context of the New Testament texts—the world and cultures in and to which these stories were written—you quickly realize that sometimes the incongruities and unusual aspects in the story testify to their historical veracity and authenticity. ...

9. Why is the Resurrection so Important?

Young Christians who have just come into the faith often ask: Why is the resurrection so important? How can an event which took place 2,000 years ago have any relevance for us today? Three very simple statements (not original to me) will bring us to the heart of the matter. ...

10. Recipe: Berry Mango Salsa

11. Easter Brings Hope

Easter is not about brightly colored eggs, wearing pastels, or enjoying a big meal, although it could include these. Easter is about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

12. Easter Night

This very night, all that was foretold and promised through the prophets is fulfilled. In this night, all of salvation history takes place and Christ Jesus is raised from the dead! This night heralds the beginning of a new creation, for the women went to the tomb of Jesus "on the first day of the week," the moment of a new beginning. ...

13. Reflecting God's Never-Ending Love for You

Yes, God's love is everlasting! And when you have the love of God in your heart, you'll also begin to love others like God loves you. You'll learn to be patient, kind, slow to anger, and never failing. ...

14. About Malankara World

Editor's Note
As I write this, we have just concluded our Good Friday Services in Cleveland. Rev. Fr. Dr. Geevarghese Kunnath, MD from Louisville, KY was the celebrant. At the end of a long service, achen gave a short message. He pointed out the beauty of the Good Friday Service. Achen said, if you listen carefully, the service or namaskaram covers the entire salvation history and God's plan for redemption of the fallen man. Our thaksa was prepared when the communication systems were very primitive - no computers, no internet or facebook. But look at how beautifully the supplication services and the liturgy were codified. The gospels are interspersed with selected psalms; it blends beautifully to provide the whole picture.

Jesus used very simple words to communicate. Most of the teachings were with simple parables. The Sermon on the Mount can be broken into simple segments and it touched those listening. Except for a few passages in the Gospel of John, Jesus' so-called sermons were very simple ones. That simplicity can be seen in the passion week too. His mission was to come as a human being, die for the sins of the humanity as a sacrificial lamp, get buried and rise on the third day, thus conquering death. Jesus said the key to the whole gospel is 'Love." Love God, Love your friends, Love your neighbor, Love your family, Love and have fellowship with those who worship with you in the church. He has shown, by his life, how to do this. We learned of the concept of unconditional love - a concept called agape love.

So, as we attend the Easter Services, focus on Love. Every thing else will fall in place. We wish you all a blessed Easter.

Dr. Jacob Mathew

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for Easter Sunday
Sermons for Easter Sunday
This Week's Features

Featured: Easter Message From Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas - 2012
SYRIAN ORTHODOX PATRlARCHATE
OF ANTIOCH & ALL THE EAST
BAB TOUMA, P.O BOX 22260
DAMASCUS - SYRlA

BY THE GRACE OF GOD

Ignatius Zakka I Iwas
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East
Supreme Head of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church

No. E58/12

28-March-2012

Apostolic Benediction to our beloved Metropolitan His Eminence Mor Theethose Yeldho and to our beloved spiritual children: the Venerable Corepiscopos, the Esteemed Priests, the Reverend deacons and all the faithful of our Malankara Archdiocese in North America.

We are glad to share with you the Peace and Joy of a blessed Easter even though there is turbulence all over the world especially in the Middle East. We are really worried about the situation in Syria. However, we place our hope in the risen Lord who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. For our Lord exhorts us in the Gospel, "No one comes to the Father except through Me." (St. John 14:6). To find comfort in Jesus Christ, the word of God, the only begotten son of God, the Light of Light and the true God of true God, is the need of the hour. There is a crisis of faith among the people when they face troubled situations in the daily lives. We remind you the words of Saint Peter, the apostle of faith to be adhered on, " Let it be known to you ail, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone. Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4: 10-12). We exhort you to resist the devil and be steadfast in the true faith to overcome all kinds of sufferings in our daily lives. The genuineness of your faith is much more precious than gold that perishes and the end of your faith is the salvation of your souls. We urge you to pray for all the people who undergo tribulation, poverty, unemployment, sexual abuse, broken family relations, addictions and various kinds of diseases; to find hope and peace in the risen Lord. Pray for the World, especially pray for those in Syria. We wish you all a blessed and happy Easter and extend our Apostolic Blessings to you. May the grace of God be with you all forever, through the intercession of the Mother of God and all the saints, Amen.

Scanned Image of the Original Patriarch Bull

The Meaning of the Resurrection

by Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros, Eparch of Newton

The Apostles believed in Christ's Resurrection and bore witness to it and preached it as a fundament of their faith in Jesus Christ. What are the theological dimensions and implications of this doctrine of faith? And today when we still teach that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, what do we mean in fact?

1. Christ's Resurrection is the proclamation of God's power.

When we preach that Jesus is risen from the dead, we proclaim that the God in whom we believe is the God of life. God, by raising up Jesus, does not do something opposed to nature's laws, but reveals himself as God, and manifests his loving power. Faith in Christ's Resurrection is not something added to the Christian faith in God and in his Son Jesus Christ, but is the summary and the essence of this faith. God in Christ's Resurrection reveals in a definitive way that he is the God whose power encompasses death and life, this world and the world to come.

2. Christ's Resurrection is the ratification by God of his mission

Christ's death was, in people's understanding, the proof that God has forsaken and rejected him, according to what was written: "Cursed be every one who hangs on a tree" (Galatians 3:13). That is why after Jesus' death, the disciples ran away disappointed, and Jesus' prediction was fulfilled: "You will all become deserters; for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.' But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee" (Mark 14:27-28).

In Galilee Jesus called his disciples for the first time to follow him and to preach with him God's Kingdom; and in Galilee he appeared to them to tell them that God's Kingdom has come by his Resurrection. By raising up Jesus Christ, God has confirmed that he is the Son of Man, to whom has given "dominion and glory and kingship" (Daniel 7:14). That is why Jesus can order his Apostles to "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19).

By his Resurrection Jesus was revealed as really the Son of God. God, by raising up Jesus, has answered the questions of the people who, before the cross, were mocking him saying: "let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him" (Matthew 27:42).

By raising up Jesus from the dead, God has ratified all that Jesus has preached during his life on the Kingdom of God. For the Kingdom of God is the life of God itself which enters the world and raises in it a new life, and this new life has arisen from the tomb of Christ. The Kingdom is God's love that shines on the world and dissipates from it the obscurity of hatred and the darkness of sin, and this love has shined in Jesus' Resurrection as it shined in his life. By raising up Jesus, God has shown that all that was preached by Jesus during his life has been preached in his name, and all that was done by Jesus during his life has been done in his name, and that his death on the cross was the utmost manifestation of God's love. Therefore Jesus is himself God's Kingdom: in his life, in his death and in his Resurrection was revealed God's life and God's love and God's power.

3. Christ's Resurrection is the beginning of the new life and the guarantee of our resurrection

Christ's Resurrection unveils also the profound significance of human life. By his Resurrection Jesus entered in God's glory; and since Jesus is the new Adam and the head of the new humanity, we believe that all humanity entered by his head in God's glory. "God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:4-6).

Our faith in Christ's Resurrection and in our resurrection with Christ gives our present life a new meaning:

"Just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with the scripture —‘I believed, and so I spoke'— we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus… So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day" (2 Corinthians 4:14-16).

Our faith in Christ's Resurrection renews our vision of the world:

"From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creature: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new" (2 Corinthians 5:16-17)

Our faith in Christ's Resurrection and in our resurrection with Christ drives us to a new behavior:

"So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God… For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory" (Colossians 3:1-4).

He who believes in Christ's Resurrection cannot be driven to despair. He says with St. Paul: "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh" (2 Corinthians 4:8-11).

Our faith in Christ's Resurrection and in our resurrection with Christ gives us confidence that human life does not end with death, and that God who raised up Jesus from the dead will raise us also.

For that reason when the believer has exhausted all human possibilities and sees that all horizons of human hope are blocked in his face, and when he feels as if he is going towards death and the void, then God appears to him in the eternity of his love and the permanence of his presence. He can say with St. Paul: "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you" (Romans 8: 11). That is what we proclaim in our Byzantine Liturgy: "Christ is risen from the dead, and by his death he has trampled upon death, and has given life to those who were in the tombs."

"Christ is risen – He is truly risen".

Eight Reasons Why I Believe That Jesus Rose from the Dead

by John Piper

1. Jesus himself testified to his coming resurrection from the dead.

Jesus spoke openly about what would happen to him: crucifixion and then resurrection from the dead. "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again" (Mark 8:31; see also Matthew 17:22; Luke 9:22). Those who consider the resurrection of Christ unbelievable will probably say that Jesus was deluded or (more likely) that the early church put these statements in his mouth to make him teach the falsehood that they themselves conceived. But those who read the Gospels and come to the considered conviction that the one who speaks so compellingly through these witnesses is not the figment of foolish imagination will be unsatisfied with this effort to explain away Jesus' own testimony to his resurrection from the dead.

This is especially true in view of the fact that the words which predict the resurrection are not only the simple straightforward words quoted above, but also the very oblique and indirect words which are far less likely to be the simple invention of deluded disciples. For example, two separate witnesses testify in two very different ways to Jesus' statement during his lifetime that if his enemies destroyed the temple (of his body), he would build it again in three days (John 2:19; Mark 14:58; cf. Matthew 26:61). He also spoke illusively of the "sign of Jonah" — three days in the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:39; 16:4). And he hinted at it again in Matthew 21:42 — "The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner." On top of his own witness to the coming resurrection, his accusers said that this was part of Jesus' claim: "Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise'" (Matthew 27:63).

Our first evidence of the resurrection, therefore, is that Jesus himself spoke of it. The breadth and nature of the sayings make it unlikely that a deluded church made these up. And the character of Jesus himself, revealed in these witnesses, has not been judged by most people to be a lunatic or a deceiver.

2. The tomb was empty on Easter.

The earliest documents claim this: "When they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus" (Luke 24:3). And the enemies of Jesus confirmed it by claiming that the disciples had stolen the body (Matthew 28:13). The dead body of Jesus could not be found. There are four possible ways to account for this.

2.1 His foes stole the body. If they did (and they never claimed to have done so), they surely would have produced the body to stop the successful spread of the Christian faith in the very city where the crucifixion occurred. But they could not produce it.

2.2 His friends stole the body. This was an early rumor (Matthew 28:11-15). Is it probable? Could they have overcome the guards at the tomb? More important, would they have begun to preach with such authority that Jesus was raised, knowing that he was not? Would they have risked their lives and accepted beatings for something they knew was a fraud?

2.3 Jesus was not dead, but only unconscious when they laid him in the tomb. He awoke, removed the stone, overcame the soldiers, and vanished from history after a few meetings with his disciples in which he convinced them he was risen from the dead. Even the foes of Jesus did not try this line. He was obviously dead. The Romans saw to that. The stone could not be moved by one man from within who had just been stabbed in the side by a spear and spent six hours nailed to a cross.

2.4 God raised Jesus from the dead. This is what he said would happen. It is what the disciples said did happen. But as long as there is a remote possibility of explaining the resurrection naturalistically, modern people say we should not jump to a supernatural explanation. Is this reasonable? I don't think so. Of course, we don't want to be gullible. But neither do we want to reject the truth just because it's strange. We need to be aware that our commitments at this point are much affected by our preferences — either for the state of affairs that would arise from the truth of the resurrection, or for the state of affairs that would arise from the falsehood of the resurrection. If the message of Jesus has opened you to the reality of God and the need of forgiveness, for example, then anti-supernatural dogma might lose its power over your mind. Could it be that this openness is not prejudice for the resurrection, but freedom from prejudice against it?

3. The disciples were almost immediately transformed from men who were hopeless and fearful after the crucifixion (Luke 24:21, John 20:19) into men who were confident and bold witnesses of the resurrection (Acts 2:24, 3:15, 4:2).

Their explanation of this change was that they had seen the risen Christ and had been authorized to be his witnesses (Acts 2:32). The most popular competing explanation is that their confidence was owing to hallucinations. There are numerous problems with such a notion. The disciples were not gullible, but level-headed skeptics both before and after the resurrection (Mark 9:32, Luke 24:11, John 20:8-9, 25). Moreover, is the deep and noble teaching of those who witnessed the risen Christ the stuff of which hallucinations are made? What about Paul's great letter to the Romans? I personally find it hard to think of this giant intellect and deeply transparent soul as deluded or deceptive, and he claimed to have seen the risen Christ.

4. Paul claimed that, not only had he seen the risen Christ, but that 500 others had seen him also, and many were still alive when he made this public claim.

"Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:6). What makes this so relevant is that this was written to Greeks who were skeptical of such claims when many of these witnesses were still alive. So it was a risky claim if it could be disproved by a little firsthand research.

5. The sheer existence of a thriving, empire-conquering early Christian church supports the truth of the resurrection claim.

The church spread on the power of the testimony that Jesus was raised from the dead and that God had thus made him both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). The Lordship of Christ over all nations is based on his victory over death. This is the message that spread all over the world. Its power to cross cultures and create one new people of God was a strong testimony of its truth.

6. The Apostle Paul's conversion supports the truth of the resurrection.

He argues to a partially unsympathetic audience in Galatians 1:11-17 that his gospel comes from the risen Jesus Christ, not from men. His argument is that before his Damascus Road experience when he saw the risen Jesus, he was violently opposed to the Christian faith (Acts 9:1). But now, to everyone's astonishment, he is risking his life for the gospel (Acts 9:24-25). His explanation: The risen Jesus appeared to him and authorized him to spearhead the Gentile mission (Acts 26:15-18). Can we credit such a testimony? This leads to the next argument.

7. The New Testament witnesses do not bear the stamp of dupes or deceivers.

How do you credit a witness? How do you decide whether to believe a person's testimony? The decision to give credence to a person's testimony is not the same as completing a mathematical equation. The certainty is of a different kind, yet can be just as firm (I trust my wife's testimony that she is faithful). When a witness is dead, we can base our judgment of him only on the content of his writings and the testimonies of others about him. How do Peter and John and Matthew and Paul stack up?

In my judgment (and at this point we can live authentically only by our own judgment—Luke 12:57), these men's writings do not read like the works of gullible, easily deceived or deceiving men. Their insights into human nature are profound. Their personal commitment is sober and carefully stated. Their teachings are coherent and do not look like the invention of unstable men. The moral and spiritual standard is high. And the lives of these men are totally devoted to the truth and to the honor of God.

8. There is a self-authenticating glory in the gospel of Christ's death and resurrection as narrated by the biblical witnesses.

The New Testament teaches that God sent the Holy Spirit to glorify Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus said, "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.... He will glorify me" (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit does not do this by telling us that Jesus rose from the dead. He does it by opening our eyes to see the self-authenticating glory of Christ in the narrative of his life and death and resurrection. He enables us to see Jesus as he really was, so that he is irresistibly true and beautiful. The apostle stated the problem of our blindness and the solution like this: "The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.... For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:4, 6).

A saving knowledge of Christ crucified and risen is not the mere result of right reasoning about historical facts. It is the result of spiritual illumination to see those facts for what they really are: a revelation of the truth and glory of God in the face of Christ — who is the same yesterday today and forever.

Copyright © Desiring God. www.desiringGod.org.

What If There Is No Resurrection?

by Dr. Charles Stanley

1 Corinthians 15:12-19

On a very cold November afternoon, I sat under a green tent with my mother's coffin in front of me. How many times had I stood in cemeteries, offering comfort and the Word of God to those who had lost a loved one? But this was my first experience of being on the other side of the casket. As I sat there, a shocking thought suddenly popped into my head: Suppose there is no resurrection! This idea was quickly driven away by my faith and confidence in Christ. But it had lasted just long enough for me to feel the despair and hopelessness of such a belief.

To help us appreciate Christ's victory over the grave, let's consider what the outcome of life and death would be without resurrection. First of all, Jesus would still be dead. That means our faith in Him would be worthless, and our message to the world would be a lie. Not only that, but Jesus Himself would be proved a liar since He claimed that He would rise from the dead.

There would be no forgiveness of sins, no possibility of reconciliation with God, and no hope of heaven. Even the believers who have died throughout history would have perished, and we would have no hope of reunion with our loved ones. Without the resurrection, everyone's destiny after death would be hell.

Thank God, none of these scenarios are true. Our Savior lives, our sins are forgiven, death has been defeated, and believers in Christ have assurance of eternity in heaven. After considering how hopeless we would be without a resurrection, let's rejoice all the more in the greatness of our salvation.

Source: In Touch Ministries, Inc. © 2009 All Rights Reserved.

Biblical Views: Making Sense of the Unlikely Easter Story

by Ben Witherington III

Without a doubt, Christianity was an evangelistic religion from the outset. Matthew 28 tells us that the risen Jesus commissioned his followers to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19–20).

When you know the context of the New Testament texts—the world and cultures in and to which these stories were written—you quickly realize that sometimes the incongruities and unusual aspects in the story testify to their historical veracity and authenticity.

Evangelism in the Jewish and Greco-Roman worlds required apologetics of various sorts to explain what made a certain group's claims unique and superior to others. This was especially necessary if you were claiming that a Jewish manual laborer who had been crucified by a Roman governor named Pilate had nonetheless risen from the dead, appeared to various persons, and was starting a new community of followers because his previous ones had all but abandoned hope. The real sticking point for Jesus' followers is that the culture of the Middle East at that time (and still today) was an honor and shame culture, and crucifixion was the most shameful way to die in that world. It was not seen as a noble martyrdom of any sort. People in that world believed that the manner of your death most revealed your character. On that basis, Jesus was a scoundrel, a man who committed treason against the state, a man who deserved the punishment used for slave revolts. The Romans called it “the extreme punishment,” and no Roman citizen would be subjected to it.

It wouldn't make sense to create a story about a crucified and risen man being the savior of the world—unless you really believe it is historically true—because the instinctive reaction to such a message is exactly what Paul, the earliest New Testament writer, said it would be: It was a stumbling block or scandal to the Jews, and sheer nonsense to Gentiles (1 Corinthians 1:23). If you have seen the famous graffito from the pagan catacombs in Rome, the drawing of a donkey hanging on a cross, with a Roman kneeling below it with a sarcastic remark about “a man worshiping his god,” you realize how such a message must have come across, at least initially, to those being evangelized in the Roman world.

There are also some seemingly odd features of the stories about the death and Resurrection themselves. If you want to start a world religion in a highly patriarchal world, you don't make up stories about all the male disciples abandoning Jesus (save one, the Beloved Disciple) and the women being the chief witnesses. Women are last at the cross, first at the empty tomb, first to hear the angelic message “he is risen,” first to see the risen Jesus, and first to go and testify to the male disciples hunkered down behind locked doors in Jerusalem for fear of the Jewish authorities. The witness of women was considered suspect by most in that first-century world, and indeed, Luke 24:11 says that the male disciples thought it was an old wives' tale when the women came and breathlessly claimed the tomb was empty and Jesus was risen.

Consider the post-Resurrection appearance narratives. The lengthiest ones are to Mary Magdalene and to the heretofore-unheard-of disciples on the road to Emmaus. Not to any members of the Twelve. An individual appearance to Peter is mentioned in passing but never otherwise related in Matthew, Mark or Luke, our earliest Gospels (Luke 24:34). And there is no story in any canonical Gospel about an appearance to James, Jesus' brother, although Paul is emphatic that it happened, and Paul had talked with James in Jerusalem on several occasions (see 1 Corinthians 15:7).

If you are interested in myth making, or creating a saga that could be received and believed in those first-century cultures for the sake of evangelism, the early Christian approach is certainly not the way to go about it.

How is it that a band of defeated and depressed disciples, who had abandoned hope after the crucifixion of Jesus (see the telling remark in Luke 24:21 as they are leaving town: “We had hoped he would be the one to redeem Israel”), became galvanized and inspired enough to carry the good news of Jesus from Jerusalem to Rome and beyond? Martin Dibelius, the famous old German father of form criticism of the gospel, once admitted that you have to posit a historical “X” big enough to explain the rise of Christianity after the ignominious death of Jesus on a Roman cross. He was right. What happened that caused the deserters to become the martyrs, the deniers to become the confessors, and women to take a chance at being laughed out of court by telling the men that “he is risen and has appeared to us”? For Jesus' followers, the X that marked the spot between a crucified Jesus and a world-evangelizing group was the appearance of the risen Jesus they saw. They believed that God's yes to life in the case of Jesus was louder than death's no.

Source: BAR - Biblical Archaeology Review Magazine

Why is the Resurrection so Important?

by Selwyn Hughes

For reading & meditation: Ephesians 1:15-23

"... he raised [Christ] from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms ..." (v. 20)

Young Christians who have just come into the faith often ask: Why is the resurrection so important? How can an event which took place 2,000 years ago have any relevance for us today? Three very simple statements (not original to me) will bring us to the heart of the matter.

First, the resurrection of Christ assures us of God's forgiveness. Forgiveness is one of humanity's greatest needs. Jack Winslow, in his book Confession and Absolution, says that the head of a large English mental hospital remarked that he could dismiss half of his patients immediately if they could be assured of forgiveness. The resurrection is convincing proof that Christ's sacrifice on the cross was accepted, and thus gives us the assurance that all our sins can be forgiven.

Second, the resurrection of Christ assures us of God's power. It is one thing to be forgiven; it is another to live above the power of sin. "Men may change their ways," say some writers (as we saw) from non-Christian religions, "but they can't change their character."

Well, God can change people's character. He did so with the apostle Paul, with Peter, and with countless others. Paul's prayer in the passage before us today focuses on this - that we might comprehend something of the power released in the world through the resurrection.

Third, the resurrection assures us of God's ultimate triumph. Other religions and ideologies have very vague ideas about the future. Some believe in endless cycles of reincarnations; others nirvana. Christians, however, have a hope that is different. Death for a believer is nothing more than the anteroom to glory.

Prayer:

Father, this must be the moment when debate ends and dedication begins. As You have done so much for me, I want to commit myself in a deeper way than ever before to living life in the power of Your resurrection. Help me dear Father. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

For Further Study:

Ephesians 2:1-10; Romans 8:11; Colossians 3:1

Recipe: Berry Mango Salsa

by LeAnn Rice

This is just plain gorgeous! Seriously! Salsa is very versatile and this berry version is no exception. I spooned it over broiled Chilean Sea Bass but you can use this as an appetizer with pita chips, spoon it over grilled chicken or turn it into a salad by spooning it over lots of greens. Have fun!

Berry Mango Salsa

Ingredients:

■ 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
■ 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
■ 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
■ 1 mango, peeled and chopped
■ 1 1/2 cups mixed berries (whatever looks good)
■ 1 lime (juice and zest)
■ 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
■ 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Directions:

Combine all ingredients. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

(Only 20 calories per 1/4 cup!)

More Recipes/ Cooking Tips at Malankara World Cafe

Easter Brings Hope

by Greg Laurie

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live." - John 11:25

Easter is not about brightly colored eggs, wearing pastels, or enjoying a big meal, although it could include these. Easter is about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

For some, Easter will be a great day, spent surrounded by family and friends. But for others, it will be a sad day, because Easter is a reminder of a loved one who has died and is now desperately missed.

Death seems so cruel, so harsh, and so final. That is what the disciples were feeling when they saw their Lord, whom they had left everything to follow, hanging on the cross. They were devastated. Death had crushed them. But if they would have gone back in their memories, they would have recalled an important event and statement Jesus had made.

They would have remembered Jesus standing at the tomb of his close friend Lazarus. They would have remembered that Jesus did something completely unexpected: He wept (see John 11:35). Jesus wept, because He knew that death was not part of God's original plan. Humanity was not meant to grow old, to suffer with disease, or to die. But because of the sin of Adam and Eve, sin entered the human race, and death followed with it. And death spread to all of us. Jesus wept, because it broke His heart.

But standing there at Lazarus' tomb, Jesus also delivered these hope-filled words: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live" (John 11:25). Death is not the end. And the resurrection of Jesus Christ proves it.

If you have put your faith in Christ, then Easter means that you will live forever in the presence of God. Easter brings hope to the person who has been devastated by death.

Summary sentence: The resurrection of Jesus gives us the greatest hope!

Copyright © 2012 by Harvest Ministries. All rights reserved.

Easter Night

by Fr. Daren J. Zehnle

This very night, dear brothers and sisters, all that was foretold and promised through the prophets is fulfilled. In this night, all of salvation history takes place and Christ Jesus is raised from the dead!

This night heralds the beginning of a new creation, for the women went to the tomb of Jesus "on the first day of the week," the moment of a new beginning (Mark 16:2).

It was on the first day of creation that God created light. "Let there be light," he said, "and there was light" (Genesis 1:3). Creation had begun.

When the women arrived at the tomb, "the sun had risen," but it must have only begun to rise for it was still "very early" (Mark 16:2). The women saw the word of the Lord spoken through his prophet Malachi fulfilled: "But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays" (Malachi 3:20).

Saint Francis of Assisi praises Brother Sun because "he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor; and bears a likeness to You, O Most High."[1] The rising sun was a symbol of the Risen Christ, just as the light of the paschal fire, which we blessed a short time ago and from which the paschal candle was lit, also symbolize the Risen Lord. The paschal candle was three times lifted high, that the "light of Christ, rising in glory, [might] dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds" as its healing rays fell upon us.[2]

But the women did not make this connection, so concerned were they with their final act of love for Jesus – the proper anointing of his body; their thoughts revolved around that stone. Yet their concern over the stone proved unwarranted, for "when they looked up," that is, when they looked to God, "they saw the stone had been rolled back" (Mark 16:4).

Do not misjudge this, my friends. The stone was rolled back "not to throw open a way for our Lord to come forth, but to provide evidence to people that he had already come forth."[3] The stone was not moved for the Lord, but for us, that we, too, might enter into the tomb.

The stone at the tomb can also be said to be the stone that covers our hearts; it, too, must be rolled back if we are to see the evidence of the Risen Lord, if we are to encounter him. The three women could not roll the stone away themselves; neither can we. With them, we ask, "Who will roll back the stone for us" (Mark 16:3)?

Is your heart shut this night? Are your eyes closed? Then hear the Lord say to you this night, as on the day of your Baptism, "Ephatha! Be opened" (Mark 7:34)!

Yet still you ask, "Who will roll back the stone for us?" That blessed Doctor of the Gospels, Saint Anthony of Padua, says to us, "O feeble minds! Draw near and look! Do not hesitate, and you will see the stone already rolled away."[4] For who is that angel who rolled back the stone if not "the grace of the Holy Spirit, who removes the stone from the door of the sepulcher, strengthens our faith, smoothes out all the roughness, and sweetens all bitterness with the balm of his love?"[5] Yes, cast your eyes to the Lord, and you will find the stone before your heart rolled away!

As they stood at the entrance to the tomb, the women knew God entered into human history, fulfilling the ancient prophesy given through Ezekiel: "And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live" (Ezekiel 37:13-14).

The Lord Jesus is able to raise us from our graves – to give us new life - because he himself has tasted death.

He died, but he vanquished death; in himself he put an end to what we feared… Where is death? Seek it in Christ, for it exists no longer; but it did exist and now it is dead… Be of good heart; it will die in us, also… But when? At the end of the world, at the resurrection of the dead in which we believe and concerning which we do not doubt.[6]

This is the promise he gives us in the Sacraments, the promise of everlasting life in God, the promise that will soon be given to one among us this night.

This new life, the very life of the Blessed Trinity, can be ours because that stone has been rolled back, suggesting the "unlocking of the sacraments of Christ."[7] Before we give this everlasting life to Sandy, let us consider, just for a moment, that young man "sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe," the sight of whom filled the women with utter amazement (Mark 16:5).

Saint Matthew described that heavenly messenger as having an appearance "like lightning, and his clothing white as snow" (Matthew 28:3). "In lightning, indeed, are dread and fear, but in snow there is the soothing quality of whiteness."[8] The angel looked like lightning because God is fearful to sinners, but because he is soothing to the righteous the angel’s robe was like snow. "By its very sight the angel might then frighten the condemned, and reassure the devout."[9]

Upon those who fear the Lord, the healing rays of the sun of justice, Christ the Lord, the Morning Star, have fallen and will fall, leading their hearts and minds to conversion, to love. For this reason, the angel says to the women, and to us, "Behold the place where they laid him" (Mark 16:6).

Let us, too, approach the empty tomb of our Lord in "utter amazement" (Mark 16:5). You, Sandy, are soon to die with Christ and to rise with him in the waters of Baptism. Approach these waters as though you approached the tomb of our Lord. Death is soon to be destroyed in you and you are soon to become one with Christ. Fully aware of what you are about to ask of the Church – and what she will ask of you – approach these waters with a holy fear and a loving confidence in the Lord’s tender mercy, for "he has been raised" (Mark 16:6). Amen! Alleluia!

References:

[1] Saint Francis of Assisi, "The Canticle of Brother Sun", 4. In Francis and Clare: The Complete Works, Regis J. Armstrong and Ignatius C. Brady, eds. (Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1982), 38.
[2] Roman Missal, .
[3] Saint Bede the Venerable, Exposition on the Gospel of Mark, 2.7. In Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament Vol. II, Mark, Thomas C. Oden, et al. eds. (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 1998), 230.
[4] Saint Anthony of Padua, Homily for Easter, 9. In Sermons for Sundays and Festivals, Vol I: General Prologue, Sundays from Septuagesima to Pentecost, Paul Spilsbury, ed. (Padua, Italy: Edizioni Messaggero Padova, 2007), 238.
[5] Ibid., 238-329.
[6] Saint Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 233, 3-4. In Oden, 232.
[7] Saint Anthony of Padua, Ibid., 238.
[8] Saint Gregory the Great, Homily 21, in Forty Gospel Homilies. David Hurst, trans. (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercisan Publications, 1990), 159.
[9] Ibid.

Reflecting God's Never-Ending Love for You

by Dr. Jack Graham

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. - 1 Corinthians 13:7

Robert G. Ingersoll, a noted atheist from the 19th century, used to enjoy standing on platforms debating the reality of God with ministers and the like. And at times, Ingersoll would pull out a stop watch, click it, hold it up, and say, "I defy God, if there is a God, to strike me dead in the next 5 minutes!"

One day, Ingersoll tried his typical trick. But this time, the debating minister quipped back and said, "Sir, do you really think that you could exhaust the patience and the love of God in 5 measly minutes?"

Yes, God's love is everlasting! And when you have the love of God in your heart, you'll also begin to love others like God loves you. You'll learn to be patient, kind, slow to anger, and never failing. You'll love with a 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love.

Business fails, health fails, wealth fails, and even friends may fail. But the love of Jesus never fails! And even on the cross when the mockers cried out, "If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross" (Matthew 27:40), love kept Him fastened to the cross. Real love never fails. That's the love God has for you… and it's the love you can show to others, too!

GOD'S LOVE NEVER FAILS. SO REFLECT THAT SAME LOVE TO OTHERS BY LOVING PATIENTLY AND UNSELFISHLY.

Source: Powerpoint Devotional

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