“Christ is Risen!!”
“Indeed, He is Risen!!”
This is the enthusiastic exchange that is being heard this morning among the Christian faithful in the Western portion of the Church.
“Who says?!,” one might ask. Someone might respond, “Well, that is what the Scriptures say.” And, they would be right.
But, I would hasten to add that the Scriptures say more than “Christ is Risen” in some general sense. The faithful, in the New Testament, say it in the first person singular. “I say, Christ is Risen. I am a witness to this event.” The New Testament faithful are also emphatic that if we say we have fellowship with them, we need to say it too and not just say, “They say so and I believe them.” No, they put us on the spot and say, “Join us in saying, ‘I say so.'”
Jesus, prior to the exhortation of the apostolic faithful, commanded us to bear witness to the saving message and work of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. To bear authentic and authoritative witness that He had died, risen, is present, and is coming.
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samar′ia and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1.8)
Witnesses. Those who, in union with the Holy Spirit, speak in word and deed of the marvelous works of God the Father in Christ Jesus His Son.
St. Paul speaks of himself as a testifier.
Now I would remind you, brethren, in what terms I preached to you the gospel, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold it fast—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. (I Corinthians 15.1-11)
St. Paul goes on to speak of the importance of the living testimony of the Church and its members.
You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on your hearts, to be known and read by all men; and you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit; for the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3.2-6)
St. John speaks of himself as a testifier.
This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true. (John 21.24)
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing this that our joy may be complete. (1 John 1.1-4)
St. John adds a crucial aspect – the fullness of joy.
Our report of the appearing of the crucified and resurrected Christ Jesus in our lives brings the fullness of joy. You might say, if I may be so bold, it completes what is lacking in the sufferings and resurrection of Christ Jesus so to speak.
There is an essential fullness to our salvation that includes testimony – being a witness and bearing witness – to the resurrection of Christ Jesus.
Indeed, it was out of the creative environment set in place and governed by the Holy Spirit that first, the authentic testimony/witness of the Church issued forth into the world. And, it must be emphasized, it was first the proclamation by their way of life. Second, and simultaneously, the words of the believers emerged from this lived life of testimony/witness. These words became, in due course, the New Testament.
The Church is a community of disciples who testify to the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ Jesus. Our way of life as well as our words manifest the dying and rising of Christ Jesus by grace. In so doing, we experience and rejoice in the fullness of the joy of our victorious Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. Oh the delight and bliss of that joy ! !
By the authorization and grace of the Holy Spirit we are to be trustworthy witnesses of these things ! !
As St. Cyril of Alexandria says, “But now let the testimonies concerning His resurrection itself go with us on our way.” And let us add ours to it. Bear authoritatively by the grace of the Holy Spirit the marks, in your soul, on your body, through your way of life, and the words you use, the saving message:
Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ the coming One is in our midst.
Our joy is full.