The Resurrection of Christ Changed the World
Rev. Fr. Luke A. Veronis
Sunday of the Myrrhbearing Women
Christ is Risen! And with His Resurrection, Christ changed the world! That’s a bold statement, and yet when one studies world history and understands the impact of Christians throughout the centuries, there’s no denying the influence of Christianity on a global scale. Christ, and His followers, changed the world for the better. We can also point to the fact that one out of every three people who live on planet earth claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. This means that more than 2.3 billion people would say that Jesus Christ has played some role in their identity, and of course, for those who are serious in their commitment to Christ, surely His Resurrection has touched them and fundamentally influenced their worldview! As bold as this statement is – that Christ changed the world - it’s truly not an exaggeration.
Yet, to say that Jesus Christ and His Resurrection simply changed the world can still be a vague statement. He changed the world yes, but we must realize how He radically transformed and transforms the lives of individuals, of people like you and make, even today. The Risen Lord enters into the lives of people from all backgrounds and stages of life, from every ethnicity and country in the world, and He transforms the lives of rich and poor alike, of some educated and the uneducated, of those in influential positions in life as well as those who live on the margins. Jesus is Good News for all people and invites everyone to experience the Kingdom of God as a present reality, to receive the forgiveness of their sins and enter a new life in Him, to be empowered by His Spirit and experience the life-giving fruit of communion with Him. Yes, Jesus died on the Cross to take upon Himself the sins of the world. He descended into Hades and defeated death as a victory for all humanity to participate in. He ascended into heaven opening up the gates of paradise for anyone who receives Him and lives in Him.
Yes, these are all very bold statements, yet we stand by them because we see the reality of fundamentally changed lives in the followers of Christ throughout history, and even with the followers of Jesus in the present day. Some of the greatest movements in the world defending and freeing oppressed people came from Christ’s teachings and His influence in the lives of His followers. I’m sure we all can think of people whose lives have changed for the better because of their faith and walk with the Risen Lord! And a new life in Christ, a transformative life in Christ, is open to everyone, no matter what our status in life may be!!!
We can see examples of this in today’s Gospel reading where a variety of people, coming from quite diverse backgrounds, had their lives changed by Christ. Today is the Sunday of the Myrrhbearing women, but the Gospel reading actually begins with Joseph of Arimathea asking Pilate to remove the dead body of Jesus from the cross and bury him in his own grave, and then ends with the myrrhbearing women seeing an empty tomb and listening to an angel ask them, “Why are you seeking the living among the dead?” Let’s look at a few of the different characters in today’s story, and simply reflect on how Jesus changed their lives.
First there was Joseph of Arimathea. He came from the upper echelon of society – a respected member of the Jewish Council, a wealthy man who even owned his own tomb and buried Jesus there. The Evangelists highlight that although Joseph was on the Jewish Council, he did not agree with their actions against Jesus. He was a secret follower of Christ who was personally seeking the kingdom of God. He had courage, and the connections, to ask the Roman governor Pontius Pilate to take the dead body of Jesus down from the cross, and to bury him in his own tomb. Jesus impacted the life of this rich, influential leader of his day even to the point that after witnessing the resurrection of Christ, Joseph traveled as far as England preaching the Gospel.
The next figure we see in today’s Gospel story is the Roman centurion who oversaw the crucifixion of Christ. Here was a military man, a captain in charge of 100 soldiers, and the one not only responsible for crucifying Christ, but some traditions say he is the soldier that pierced the side of Jesus with a lance to make sure he was dead. What importance could such a man have in our conversation about followers of Christ? He was the man responsible for physically crucifying Christ! And yet, after seeing the way Jesus died, and witnessing the earthquake and the darkness that covered the land following his death, this soldier professed faith in Christ by saying, “This was a righteous man; He is the Son of God.” Not only did this centurion became a believer in the Resurrection of Christ, he even defended this truth to the point of being martyred for his faith. We don’t know the names of most Roman soldiers, and yet we do know this soldier as St Longinos the Centurion.
Mary Magdalene was another figure present both at the crucifixion of Christ, as well as a part of the myrrhbearing women who went to the tomb of Jesus on Easter morning. Scripture describes Mary Magdalene simply as a woman possessed by seven demons. Imagine being possessed by seven demons! She must have been quite a broken and despised figure, that is, until she encounters Jesus and her life is changed! Her devotion and love for Christ led her to become a witness for the Resurrection of Jesus as far away as Rome
And then there was Mary, the Mother of Joses and James, who also were a part of the myrrhbearers. This Mary was probably an aunt of Jesus. Yet we know from Scripture that initially even the family of Jesus did not believe or accept Him as the Messiah. So it’s significant to note that one of His family members embraced Jesus’ identity as the Christ, and thus, was present to see the empty tomb!
There was also Salome, the wife of Zebedee and the mother of the disciples James and John. She is the one who asked Jesus if her sons could sit at His right and left hand when He entered into His glory. This mother, who maybe at one time wanted prestige and privilege for her sons, eventually came to understand that truly following the Risen Christ meant to sacrificially serve others, even to the point of offering your life for others, just as Jesus did.
Each of these figures in today’s story represent people from very different backgrounds – a wealthy council member, a soldier who actually crucified Christ, a broken woman with a demon-possessed past, as well as possibly a family member who may have initially questioned who Jesus truly was, and a mother of two of his closest followers who misunderstood that greatness in God’s eyes came through serving others – diverse people from different backgrounds, and yet, each one of them had a common trait – they allowed their lives to be changed by their encounter with the Risen Jesus. They each became a “new creation” in God’s eyes, and thus, became witnesses of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection and ambassadors of sharing His Good News to the world around them!
The Resurrection of Christ has changed the world and changed the lives of these diverse figures in today’s Gospel reading. The question, though, is whether each one of us will allow Christ to change our lives? Will the reality of His Resurrection be so consequential in our lives, that it changes the way we actually view life and live life itself? May we always live with the hope and joy of Jesus’ victorious resurrection, never allowing anything in our lives to ever make us forget about this life-altering reality!
Christ is Risen!