St. Augustine of Canterbury Anglican Church
+Bishop Peter F. Hansen
Sermon for Easter Day, April 9, 2023
“CHRIST being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
I FIND IT INTERESTING that one of the proofs Jesus offered of His Resurrection, proof to His friends that He wasn’t a ghost, to show that He was truly Himself, risen and alive on that first Easter: was food. St. Luke reports that, “while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of a honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them.” Lk 24:41-43 He asked for food and ate it. Why was that proof? It was proof of one fact: that He was, and still is, truly like us. Sitting down to eat is something one of us might do.
Look at Philippians. Jesus had first only been in the form of God – the Spirit, the Word, the Son of God – so He knew it wouldn’t be wrong to claim equality as a member of the godhead, forever without beginning. But, at the request of His Father, He made Himself of “no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Phil 2
I came across that familiar passage last Sunday, and it struck me how like another bookend it is to the original creation story we read in Genesis. “God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” Gn 1:26 God originally made humans in His own image and His likeness. Then Adam sinned, and so now—in Adam’s likeness—we’ve been under judgment, inheriting a sin we didn’t originally commit. But being sons of Adam, we own the problem.
In the commandments God gave Moses, the second says not to make things in the likeness of men or animals or things heavenly or devilish, especially to worship them. The word likeness again. Now we stay away from it. Don’t worship images. The Moslems overdo that command, making all pictorial art an offence to God. But they don’t understand why or what was coming. The image of God was marred in us, so we should not follow such fallen images. Nothing is wrong with images, but we were to save that place of likeness for the One who was to come, and who would receive our likeness in Himself for His mission to save us. He restored God’s pure image and likeness in a human form, in His own face. Then He took that human likeness to the cross, weighed down by the enormity of all our sins of all time, and died beneath it, bearing it until all sin was put to a death with Him.
The third day – Friday, Saturday, and now Sunday morning – He burst out of that tomb alive, still with His likeness as the human Jesus, and as God the Son, astounding any who might see Him, because He was alive. He is still alive, for He is Risen!
It’s interesting that no one who saw Him Resurrected remained unbelieving. And the first one He chose to see Him was not an Apostle, but a woman from whom He had driven seven devils, Mary of Magdala. At first, she mistook Him for the gardener. She asked Him where they’ve taken His dead body. “Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.” Jn 20:15-17
She asked a stranger a question and found out He was the answer Himself. She grabbed His feet and hugged them like to never let Him go again. That’s why, in the King James, He said, “Touch me not” but in a better translation, “Don’t cling to me, because I will be leaving, to ascend to my Father, your Father too, to my God, and now He’s your God.” She hoped He was going to stay forever. He could stay, but just 40 days more. His likeness was at first impossible for her to believe. But she had been faithful to be at His cross, and now at His tomb. And so, a woman was given the first sight of Him after He rose. He rose. Jesus is risen!
People were made in God’s image and likeness, which we partially lost. We were forbidden in making likenesses to worship. Then one who was worthy of that worship was finally given, because as God the Son, He took our likeness, while at the same time He was God. And now, this incarnate, crucified, resurrected man will give you His likeness and His heart and soul and Holy Spirit and life eternal, will share His character with you, and give you His Body and His Blood to eat and to drink.
It's all restored, and better than in Adam and Eve. Then, we were as gods on earth, godlike rulers of a planet. Now, in Him, we are becoming the true children of God, to be married in a spiritual reality to the very King of all Creation, Christ the King, and be seated with Him in His throne, and be given dominion in that perfect world that will be without end. We shall see Him for ourselves and not another, as Job believed. We shall see clearly, and not like now, blinking through dark glasses.
King David realized this and sang, “I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” Ps 17:15 St. John exclaimed, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”1 Jn 3:1-2 It’s what St. Paul meant by our putting on the Lord Jesus Christ. We’re going to resemble Him, somehow. The first way will be in the resurrection. And in the fulness of that life, we’ll bear the image of God within us, be branches of that noble tree, fruits of His vine, something in the eyes perhaps. We will be risen, because Christ is Risen!
Our Baptism is a kind of dying to that old life, Adam’s likeness. And, if St. Paul is right, “If we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall also be in the likeness of his resurrection.” Rom 6 God sent His own Son in the likenessof sinful flesh, for sin, condemning sin in the flesh, as Paul continues to assert, so that we might receive that divine image of the God-man, and no longer have to walk the low path, but now the high road. “When Christ, who is our life, shall appe
ar, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3:1
People fuss about how they look, their clothes, the hair, the jewelry, the make-up. Perhaps that’s what God warned us of. He warned us because we’re now given so much better. Christ took our likeness so that in seeing Him, we’d know God loves us that much. And then we can take His image, His likeness back, and bear that nobility, that heavenly air, that… what is it: goodness? Holiness? It’s fresh. It’s joyful. We can smile. We are so glad. Christ is Risen! He is risen!
And it’s only just begun.