Home      Back to Easter Day        





A Sermon on

the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord

by Dr. Robert Crouse

“And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.”

Revelation 21.5


We are accustomed to think of Easter as the most joyous of festivals, and certainly all the texts of today’s liturgy, and all the Easter hymns, fill our mouths with words of rejoicing:


“Come ye faithful, raise the strain

of triumphant gladness; 

God hath brought his Israel

Into joy from sadness.”


“Come ye sad and fearful hearted

With glad smile and radiant brow

Lent’s long shadows have departed

All his woes are over now

And the passion that he bore:

Sin and pain can vex no more”


“Death is conquered, man is free

Christ has won the victory.”


In light of all this joy perhaps it is not easy for us to realise that the first Easter was not, for the friends of Jesus, a very happy occasion.  If you consider carefully the Gospel accounts of those events following the Resurrection, I think you will see that the immediate response of the disciples was not one of triumphant joy, bur rather, one of fear, and bewilderment, and despair.


One of the most poignant of those stories is the one about the two disciples walking sorrowfully along the road to Emmaus.  As they walked along, a stranger joined them, and asked them what it was that they were talking about so sadly.  And they told him about Jesus’ death and the empty tomb.  “But we trusted,” they said (and hear the bitter despair of the words), “we trusted that it had been he who should have redeemed Israel.”  So blinded were they by their grieving that they did not then recognize that the stranger who walked with them was the Risen Lord.  “O slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” 


Perhaps their blindness surprises us.  But consider what had happened.  The shameful death of Jesus upon the cross of suffering had spelled for his followers the end of all  their hopes.  The triumphant procession into the Holy City only a week before, when the crowds had hailed Jesus the Messiah with their cries of “hosanna” must now, after Calvary, have seemed nothing but a farce.  Something had gone wrong, terribly wrong.  For how could this Jesus, cruelly executed, dead, and buried, be the redeemer of Israel?  Could God create life out of death?  And now even the body was gone.


They did not understand.  They were confused and disappointed and afraid, and they ran away and hid. 


They did not understand because they could not see beyond all their own shattered expectations -  “We trusted that it had been he who should have redeemed Israel.”  Despite all that Jesus had said to them about his dying and rising again, and all the peculiar nature of his kingdom, it was simply impossible for them, while he was still with them, to see beyond their own rather limited hopes and ambitions, and their own expectation that they had found in him a leader who would restore the ancient kingdom of Israel.


That God’s way of redemption could be something very different and altogether greater than their own cherished hopes, they could not comprehend.  It was only in the devastation, the shattering, of their own expectations, only in such pains of travail, that they would give birth to faith – that their eyes would be opened to see God’s new and living way.  It was only by sharing in Jesus’ dying, in themselves, that they would share also in his new life.


For it is not God’s work to support and confirm our complacencies and conventions.  It is God’s work to make all things new. And there is no new birth, says Jesus, without those pains of travail.


We all have our own plans and hopes and ambitions.  We all have our own expectations, and we are disappointed and frustrated when they are unfulfilled.  “We trusted that it had been he who should have redeemed Israel.”  We all know how God ought to manage things. We want him for a partner in our plans, and we are bitterly disappointed when things seem not to work out that way. We worry and fret and even despair.


But all that is so pitifully wrong – for it is God’s truth that if we would live, we must first die.  “You are dead,” says St. Paul, “and your life is hid with Christ in God.”  “Unless a grain of wheat fall to the ground and die,” says Jesus, “it abideth alone, but if it die, it beareth much fruit.”  It is out of death that God bring resurrection.


It is when we are freed from the bondage of false hopes and empty optimisms, the captivity of vain ambitions, and narrow complacencies, that we become heirs of God’s new kingdom.


It is when the bread is broken that it becomes the bread of life.


It is when the vine is outpoured that it becomes for us the cup of blessing.


God makes the world from nothing – He makes new life out of death.  And that is a painful and awesome transformation!


We do not come to God for a little help, a little support for our own good intentions – We come to him for resurrection. God will not be asked for a little – He will be asked for all; for it is He who makes all things new.


And therefore rejoice in Him, and sing a new song.  For he is the first and the last, and the living one. To Jesus Christ, who dies, and lives, together with the Almighty Father and the Holy and life-giving Spirit – to God the Holy Trinity, be all honour, praise and dominion, now, henceforth and for ever. 


Amen. +