THE LORD AND GIVER OF LIFE
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book, but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name. John 20:30-31
EASTER is not only the celebration of the Lord's resurrection from the dead, but the assurance of our own as well. We say in the creed, "I believe the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting." The body we refer to here is our own. As Jesus was awakened, we too shall be awakened. As Jesus was raised, we too shall be raised. As Jesus was given a new and glorified body, we shall receive the same at the resurrection of all flesh. This is the ultimate purpose and promise of the Lord's suffering, death and resurrection, to give amnesty o rebels, and give life to the dead.
We hear the same promise from Ezekiel in today's Old Testament lesson where he says, "And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live..." (Ezek 37:13)
And again from St. Paul's letter to the Romans, "If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you." (Romans 8:11)
The one who does all these things, dear Christian, is none other than the Holy Spirit of God, the third person of the Holy Trinity. He is exactly what we confess Him to be, "the Lord and Giver of Life," but if He is so vital, where does He come from? And how do we make Him our very own? Those are the questions we will feast on this morning.
One of the most overlooked words in our faith is the word Christ, a word that is used nearly 500 times in the New Testament, and is a regular feature of our liturgy, offices, prayers and hymns. Most people think that Christ is just another name for Jesus, a synonym like Savior or Redeemer, but it is much more than that. The word Christ comes from the word chrism, which means oil.
In the Old Testament kings and priests were anointed or chrismated with oil. Copious amounts of olive oil were poured over their heads and ran down their beards so that they listened and shone like the sun, like the Light of the Word Himself, whose earthly representatives they were, but every priest or king ever anointed was more than met the eye. He was an object lesson directig us to the Anointed of God. He was a living prophecy of Jesus, the Lord's Christ, whom the Father would send in the fullness of time.
St. John wants everyone to know and everyone to believe that this Jesus is the Christ, so he makes scripture. He writes a gospel. He creates a sacred text and concludes it by saying, "these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name." May we who have celebrated the solemnities of the Lord's resurrection, believe that today! May we give it all credence because there is nothing more precious in this world than what St. John writes here, nothing more dear than having Life in His name, yet we know that sinners cannot have life because the verdict of Scripture is that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and that the wages of sin is not the life and good times it promises, but cold, cruel death instead, so if we are to enjoy this most cherished and guarded possession of all, our very existence, and if further we are to "look for the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come," then we must rely on Jesus the Christ, Jesus the Anointed One, Jesus the One who is chrismated not with olive oil, but with the Holy Spirit of God, with the Lord and Giver of life.
We learn this from the testimony of St. John the Baptist who says, "I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on Him. I myself did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, "He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit."
Others throughout salvation history, prophets, priests, craftsmen and kings were always given a measure of the Holy Spirit, for without this anointing they could not conduct their divine work, but St. John the Baptist assures us that this Anointed One of God, chrismated with the Spirit, not only possesses the Spirit, but gives the Spirit to men, "without measure." (Jn 3:32) He demonstrated this on the evening of the first Easter when He passed through locked doors, greeted terrified disciples in peace, and breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld." He did the same on Pentecost, only on a grander scale. He does the same in the church each day, for whenever a baby is baptized or absolution given for sins confessed, or as often as the glad tidings of the gospel are given voice; the One who is at work behind the scenes is the Lord and Giver of life Himself, forgiving our sins and the sins of all believers and imparting his fruit of love joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Therefore we should know today, on this second Sunday of Easter, that Jesus is the Christ: Jesus the chrismated One, who by His Spirit is always at work in the church raising up our dead bones, and breathing new life into them. Amen
~ Rev. Dean Kavouras