Next service: May 30, 19:00

The Resurrection of Christ

Probably, there is not a single person in the whole world who has not heard of the death and the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. But simultaneously with the historical events of His death and resurrection being so widely known, their spiritual essence and their inner meaning are a deep mystery of God's wisdom, righteousness, and infinite love. The greatest human minds have hopelessly yielded to this inconceivable mystery of salvation. Despite this, the spiritual fruits of the Savior's death and resurrection are accessible to our faith and are heartfelt. And through this ability of our soul to accept spiritual light, we are convinced that the incarnate Son of God has voluntarily died on the Cross to free us from our sins and has resurrected to give us eternal life. Our entire religious belief and perception of life are based on this conviction.

Now let us briefly convey the main events related to the resurrection of our Savior. As the evangelists narrate, the Lord Jesus Christ died on the Cross on a Friday, about three hours past noon, on the eve of Passover. On that particular night Joseph of Arimathea, a very rich and honorable person, with Nicodemus, took Christ's body from the Cross, anointed Him with sweet-smelling ointments, wrapped Him in a shroud, according to Jewish traditions, and buried Christ in a cave carved in rock. That cave was cut by Joseph for his own interment, but he transferred it for Jesus' burial out of his love for Him. The cave was located in Joseph's garden, near Golgotha, where Christ had been crucified. Joseph and Nicodemus were members of the Sanhedrin (the supreme Judaic court) and simultaneously were secret disciples of Christ. They placed a great stone at the entrance of the cave in which Christ was buried. The burial was accomplished hurriedly and not according to all the rules because the Passover celebration was going to begin that evening.

Despite the celebration, on Saturday morning the high priests and scribes came to Pilate and asked his permission to place Roman warriors as a guard at the tomb. They also put a seal on the stone covering the tomb's entrance. All this was done as a precaution, since they remembered a prediction of Christ that He would arise on the third day after His death. In this way the Judaic authorities, without knowing it, prepared strong proofs of Christ's resurrection, which followed the next day.

Where did the soul of our Lord go after He died? According to Church belief, He descended into Hell with His sermon on deliverance and led from there the souls of those who believed in Him (I Peter 3:19).

On the third day after His death, early Sunday morning, while it was still dark and the guards were at their post by the sealed tomb, the Lord Jesus Christ arose from the dead. The mystery of His resurrection, as the mystery of His incarnation, is inconceivable to us. Through our weak human minds we understand the event in this way: during resurrection the soul of the Son of God re-entered His Body, which transfigured and became imperishable, enlivened and spiritualized. Our resurrected Christ left the tomb without removing the stone or touching the seal. The guards, having seen nothing, kept watch over the empty tomb. Later an earthquake occurred when an angel of the Lord, coming from Heaven, removed the stone from the tomb's entrance and sat upon it. His appearance resembled lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards, frightened by the angel, ran away.

Neither the myrrh-bearing women nor the disciples of Christ knew what had happened. Since the burial of Jesus Christ was accomplished in a hurry, the myrrh-bearers agreed that on the next day after the Passover, that is on Sunday, they would go to the tomb and finish anointing the Savior's body with sweet-smelling ointments. They did not know, however, about the Roman guards watching the tomb or about the seal. At daybreak, Mary Magdalene, "the other" Mary, Salome, and other honorable women, came to the tomb with sweet-smelling myrrh. On their way they deliberated: "Who will roll away the stone from the tomb for us?" — because this stone was very heavy. Mary Magdalene was the first one to come to the tomb. When she saw that it was empty, she ran back to the disciples Peter and John and told them about the disappearance of the Teacher's body. Later other myrrh-bearers came to the tomb. They saw a youth dressed in white clothing sitting on the right side of the tomb who told them: "Do not be afraid, for I know you are looking for the crucified Christ. He is resurrected. Go and tell the disciples that they will see Him in Galilee." Being elated by the unexpected news, they hurried to the disciples.

Peter and John, having heard from Mary what had happened, ran up to the cave and, having found only a shroud and a cloth that had been placed on the head of Jesus, became distraught and returned home. Later Mary Magdalene went back to the place at which Christ was buried and began to cry. Then she saw in the tomb two angels in white clothing sitting where the body of Christ had lain, one at the head and the other at the feet. The angels asked her: "Why are you crying?" Having answered them, Mary turned around and saw Jesus Christ but did not recognize Him. Taking Him as a gardener, she asked: "Mister, if you have taken Him (Jesus Christ) away, then tell me where you have put Him, and I shall take Him." Then the Lord said to her: "Mary!" Having heard a familiar voice, she turned toward Him and recognized Jesus. Crying out, "Teacher!" she fell at His feet. But the Lord did not allow her to touch Him and ordered her to go to the disciples and tell them about the miracle of His resurrection.

That same morning the guards came to the high priests and told them about the appearance of the angel and about the empty tomb. This news greatly troubled the Judaic authorities, for their fearful expectations had come true. Now they had to make sure that the people would not believe in the resurrection of Christ. Having gathered a council, they gave the guards a great deal of money and ordered them to spread rumors that the disciples of Christ, at night while the guards were sleeping, had stolen His body. The guards did so, and for a long time the people believed that the body of our Savior was stolen.

On the first day of His resurrection, the Lord appeared several times to His disciples, who were hiding alone and in small groups in different parts of Jerusalem. According to church tradition, Jesus first appeared to His Mother and comforted Her grief. Then the Lord appeared also to the other women, the myrrh-bearers, saying to them: "Rejoice!" They rushed to share their joyful news with the other disciples and the Apostles. This day the Lord appeared to the Apostle Peter and two other disciples, Luke and Cleophas, who were going to Emmaus.

That evening He appeared also to all of the Apostles who gathered in a house in Jerusalem, probably in the Zion's Chamber where the Lord's Supper was accomplished and where, seven weeks after Easter, the Holy Spirit came down onto the Apostles. Fearing the Jews, they confined themselves behind locked doors to discuss the rumors of His resurrection.

A week later the Lord reappeared to the Apostles, including Thomas, who was not present at the first appearance of the Savior. To dispel Thomas' doubts concerning His resurrection, the Lord allowed him to touch His wounds. Now Thomas believed and threw himself down at the Lord's feet crying: "My Lord and My God!" As the evangelists narrate, during the forty-day period after His resurrection, the Lord appeared to the Apostles several more times, talked with them and gave them His last instructions. Not long before His ascension the Lord appeared to more than five hundred believers.

On the fortieth day after His resurrection, in the presence of the Apostles, the Lord Jesus Christ ascended to Heaven and since then He "sitteth at the right hand of His Father." The Apostles, encouraged by the Savior's resurrection and His glorious ascension, returned to Jerusalem to await the descent of the Holy Spirit.