Boys and Girls, this is Easter, the day when Jesus comes out of the tomb. He was dead and is now alive! What is the church word that we buried and have not said at all these past 40 days? Yes, the word is “alleluia.” This is a happy word and means “we praise God.”
Today you will hear us say something several times that Christians have said for the past 2,000 years. It is a greeting from one Christian to another. The first says, “He is risen.” The other responds, “He is risen indeed. Alleluia!” Let’s practice doing this…
One of the best parts of Easter is getting the chance to tell someone about Jesus and how special he is. I have a booklet with the title Would You Like to Know Jesus? It’s not very long and so I can share it with you today…I hope that before the day is over, you will read this to someone else just like I have read this to you.
Dear Fellow Believers in the Resurrected Christ,
I am indebted to Norm Sahley for sharing a most interesting article on “The Miracle of the Holy Fire in Jerusalem.” Have you ever heard of this miracle? It has occurred every year since the 4th century at the place in Jerusalem that we believe is the site of Jesus’ burial and resurrection. That you haven’t heard of this miracle probably has to do with church politics through the ages. This miracle happens as a part of the Orthodox Church Easter and not the Western Church Easter. This means that neither Roman Catholic nor Protestant Leaders have been invited to participate.
In order to understand what is taking place, we must read today’s gospel account of what happened at the tomb on the first Easter morning. Matthew tells us that 2 women came to the tomb early in the morning to anoint the dead body of Jesus. These women are Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. What they found was amazing. The large stone was rolled away from the entrance, and an angel was in the tomb, sent by God with a message for them. Here is an important detail: the angel’s “appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.” The importance is that this light appears in scripture whenever God has an important message to proclaim. Remember the great light that blinded Saul on the road to Damascus, and the great light that led the people of Israel through the wilderness, and the light of the burning bush that God spoke from to Moses?
Here’s the message that the angel delivered from God to those 2 women: “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.”
Matthew further tells us that these two women raced out of the tomb to do as they were told and ran into the risen Jesus! What did they do then? They knelt down and worshipped him.
What happens at the Miracle of the Holy Fire in Jerusalem that ties to Jesus’ Resurrection? In the ancient Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which the Orthodox call the Church of the Resurrection, people gather on Holy Saturday in this ancient church. Everything is in darkness and the Patriarch of Jerusalem enters into the Resurrection Chapel with 2 candles. He kneels before the stone on which Christ was laid after his death and prays. And every year since the 4th century without fail, something happens. Light proceeds from the core of the stone – a blue, indefinable light that does some amazing things. Sometimes it kindles oil lamps, sometimes people who are standing in the church have their candles suddenly light. The 2 candles of the Patriarch are always instantaneously lighted. He then shares the light with others whose candles have not lighted instantaneously. I read in the Washington Post this morning that indeed this took place yesterday in Jerusalem and the flame that lit the candles of the Patriarch not only lit the candles of worshippers in Jerusalem but was carried to a waiting airplane to be flown to Greece to light the candles of Orthodox believers.
The late Diodorus I, the Orthodox Archbishop and Patriarch of Jerusalem, said this about the Miracle of the Holy Fire: “I believe it is not coincidence that the Holy Fire comes on exactly this spot. It is from here that he rose again in glory, and it from there that he spread his light to the world. In Matthew 28:3, it says that when Christ rose from the dead, an angel came, dressed all in a frightful light. I believe that the striking light that enveloped the angel at the Lord’s resurrection is the same light that appears miraculously.”
What does the appearance and message of the angel on the first Easter and the Miracle of the Fire in Jerusalem have to do with us today here at Resurrection Lutheran Church? The angel told the women to share with others what they had seen and heard, to proclaim the good news that Jesus is alive. In seeking to obey this they ran right into Jesus. I think that is a message in itself. When you and I proclaim the good news of resurrection, we too will run right into Jesus.
The good news is wonderfully pictured as the light of Jesus that spreads from the hearts and minds and tongues of believers to others. This day each of us is given the command by God to spread the light of Christ, to share the good news, and to live in the light of the knowledge that we are resurrection people.
He is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!