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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Barron » Robert Barron - Three Lessons of the Resurrection

Robert Barron - Three Lessons of the Resurrection

Robert Barron - Three Lessons of the Resurrection
TOPICS: Easter, Resurrection

Peace be with you, and a very blessed, very happy Easter Sunday to everybody. Hey, listen, the Resurrection of Jesus is the be all and the end all of the Christian faith. If Jesus didn't rise from the dead, all bishops, all priests, all Christian ministers should go home and get honest jobs. If Jesus didn't rise from the dead, all the Christian faithful ought to leave their churches immediately. St. Paul put it this way, listen: "If Jesus is not raised from the dead, our preaching is in vain and we are the most pitiable of men". It's no good trying to explain the Resurrection away or rationalize it as a myth, or a symbol, or an inner subjective experience.

Trust me when I tell you, they've been trying from the very beginning of the Church to the present day to do exactly that, to make it more credible, less threatening. But none of that, none of that does justice to the novelty and the sheer strangeness of the biblical message. Of what's on display on every page of the New Testament. I've described it as the grab-you-by-the-lapels quality of the New Testament. It's not like other kind of spiritual, religious, or philosophical texts that are trading in abstract ideas and drawing you into the dynamics of the spiritual life. Nothing wrong with any of that, but read those and then read the New Testament, and trust me, you'll see the difference. These people weren't trading in platitudes or spiritual abstractions.

Something happened to them, and it was so overwhelming, so strange and disturbing, they wanted to tell the whole world about it. I'll say it bluntly again. If Jesus is not raised from the dead, Christianity is a fraud and it's a joke. If he did rise from the dead, then he's the fullness of revelation. He's the full manifestation of God. And he must be the center of your life. Can I echo here something C.S. Lewis pointed out? The Resurrection of Jesus just poses to us this kind of dreadful option, if you want. I mean, either you're with him or you're against him. If he didn't rise from the dead, he was a terrible, misguided lunatic making these extravagant claims about himself that were completely unjustified. And he ended up put to death and thrown into a grave. We should spend zero time thinking about him.

If he rose from the dead, then he is who he said he was. Then he is the incarnate Son of God. Then he is the still point around which the whole universe revolves. You're either with him or against him. This day, everybody, this Easter Sunday, compels us to make that choice. Now in light of that, I just wanted to establish how real and strange and decisive the Resurrection is. But having said that, I want to explore real briefly, just three great truths that follow from it. Here's the first one. This world is not it. I'm going to try to be careful and qualify here. I don't mean this world's bad. I don't mean we should just flee from it. I'm not advocating Platonism or Puritanism or some sort of dualism, but I think our culture really needs this message of the non-ultimacy of this world.

Look, this world that our senses take in, that our minds understand, that science studies, etc., of course it's real. Of course it's good and true and beautiful and all of that. I don't deny one bit of that. But the danger today especially is we fall into a kind of ideological materialism, an ideological naturalism that says being is simply identical to this world of our ordinary experience. What's the problem with that? Well, the problem with that, everybody, is it conduces toward a sort of nihilism. Let's face it. Everything in this world is passing. It's evanescent. It comes and it goes. Think of all the plants and insects and animals from time immemorial. What's happened? They've come into being for a short time, then they pass out of being. Even the stars and planets, you give a large enough expanse of time, they come into being and pass out of being. We fragile human beings?

The Psalmist says, "What's our span? Seventy years or eighty for those who are strong"? It's still basically true, isn't it? We come and we go. If this world of ordinary experience is all there is, well then the only option really is a kind of despairing nihilism that nothing lasts. Everything passes away. But what if, everybody, what if this world, and yes in its beauty and its truth and its goodness and all that, but what if this world is not all there is? What if in fact there's a dimension of reality that stretches beyond this one? The creed speaks of our belief in the God who's made the visible and the invisible. There's a realm of being that transcends this one and that our lives are ordered finally to that place that does not pass away. That place of supreme goodness and truth and beauty.

You see how the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead opens the door to that world? Not that it's just happened for everybody, but it's an opening of a door. Now through the Resurrection, we can see into this higher realm, and our lives have a new focus, a new higher purpose. Nihilism does not have the final word. "Death," Paul says, "where is thy sting"? To speak of death is to speak of the ultimacy of this ordinary world, and Paul says, where's your sting? There's something beyond this world. There's the first lesson of the Resurrection. Here's the second one, a little less cosmic. It's more political. In light of the Resurrection, the tyrants know that their time is up.

Remember the cross now, the cross upon which Jesus died. The cross was the Roman Empire's way of asserting its authority and of bringing to submission those who were opposed to it. Rome put people to death and their armies conquered the world and so on, but the cross was the worst and most humiliating, most degrading way that Rome could put to death any of its enemies. It was reserved therefore for slaves and the lowest and the most despised people. I've said before that our word "excruciating", the worst kind of pain, comes from "ex cruce," from the cross. The cross summed up the tyrants' way of maintaining control. The fear of death. All of it was contained in the cross.

And so, people watching the death of Jesus on Good Friday, those who loved him, those who reveled in his words, those who took in his miracles and thought, "Finally this is the Messiah of Israel, finally this is the one who will save us from our enemies, this is God's Messiah", they all felt, and you can sense it, can't you, in the Scriptures; look at the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, the deep disappointment they felt when, actually, he's not the one. He was put to death on a Roman cross. The tyrants as always seemed to have won.

See, that's what struck them. That despite these beautiful words and actions, at the end of the day, might makes right. At the end of the day, the tyrants win. But then there's the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. What struck them? What struck them with enormous power? That actually the tyrants do not have the final word. That God took everything the world can possibly throw at us and he swallowed it up in his ever greater mercy and his ever greater power. The risen Jesus shows that God's love and mercy are more powerful than anything that's in the world.

See, everybody, that from the beginning of Christianity to today makes the tyrants tremble, because the weapon they have is the fear of death. The weapon they have is their oppression of their enemies. But if God's love is more powerful than the worst the tyrants can throw at us, then a new world has opened up. I talked about how this has been true from the beginning. Look at the way these first Christians who had nothing, they weren't part of a political organization, they had no army behind them, there were just a handful of people, but the boldness with which they preached.

The fact that Caesar put most of the first preachers to death. He knew exactly what they were saying. He knew their proclamation meant that there's a new king in town. Yet they proclaimed with such boldness. Well, bring it right up to the present day practically. John Paul II in Poland, challenging the leadership of that oppressive country, preaching Christ crucified and risen from the dead, he revealed that the tyrants no longer have power. There's the second great lesson of Easter. The third great lesson of the Resurrection is that the path of salvation has in principle been opened to everybody.

St. Paul says to us in Philippians, "Though he (Jesus) was in the form of God, he did not deem equality with God a thing to be grasped, but rather he emptied himself, took the form of a slave being born in the likeness of men. He was known to be of human state, and it was thus that he humbled himself," listen now, "obediently accepting even death, death on a cross". What's Paul talking about there in that famous hymn from Philippians? It's the downward trajectory of the Incarnation. He begins with the Father in the form of God, but then empties himself, taking human form, being born in the likeness of men. And then going even further, accepting even death. Then even further, Paul says, death on a cross.

Again, in that time and place, there was no more terrible death that you could imagine. Death on a cross. The Son, watch, went all the way down into everything that bedevils us. He went all the way down into the negativity of our human experience. Now why? So the Father sends the Son all the way down. Death. Yes, even death on a cross. But then, in the Resurrection, "he highly exalted him and bestowed upon him the name above every other name. So that at Jesus' name every knee must bend in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth, and every tongue proclaim to the glory of God the Father, Jesus Christ is Lord".

You see what he did? The Father sends the Son all the way down so as to embrace, in principle, everybody. All those who had wandered far from God. And then in the Resurrection, the Father calls the Son back through the power of the Holy Spirit. Thereby, in principle, again, calling all of us back. As I've said before, as we run away from the Father, we sinners, we are because of this act running into the arms of the Son. There's no place finally that we can escape the invitation of the Divine Mercy. The Resurrection is not just a kind of one-off miraculous thing that happened long ago. No, no. It's describing a present dynamic of the spiritual life.

If we accept the mercy of the Son, then in the Son we can arise and return to the Father. The Resurrection means the in-gathering of all the people that Christ has reached out and found. Whenever we make this gesture, we're signaling this truth. That the Father sent the Son all the way down and then gathered in the Resurrection everyone into the Holy Spirit. Those are three lessons, friends. There are many, many more we could draw, because this is the be all and the end all of the Christian faith. If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is in vain, but he has been raised. That's the great Good News, and therefore our preaching is not in vain, and therefore these great truths can animate us to the present day. God bless you, and happy Easter.
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