Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, "Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.
"You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know, this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.
For David says concerning him, "I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life;you will make me full of gladness with your presence."
"Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, "He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption."
This Jesus, God raised up and of that all of us are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear.
Save me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
O Lord, you are my portion and my cup,
you it is who hold me fast.
I set the Lord ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed. (R./)
Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,
my body, too, abides in safety;
because you will not abandon my soul to darkness,
nor let your beloved see decay. (R./)
You will show me the path to life,
the fullness of joy in your presence,
happiness at your right hand forever. (R./)
The women left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, "Greetings!" And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."
While they were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened. After the priests had assembled with the elders, they devised a plan to give a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them, "You must say, "His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep." If this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story is still told among the Jews to this day.
The Greek Orthodox Christians have a lovely custom at Eastertime. Throughout this week they greet each other with the message Christos anesti (“Christ is risen!”) and the expected reply is alithos anesti (“Yes, truly he is risen!”)
Our Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles make various attempts to describe the miracle and wonder of our Lord’s rising from the dead. Peter’s sermon at Pentecost was addressed to many Jews from abroad who all shared a sense of Jewish history, so he set Jesus within the framework of that history. Just as the living God guided the life-journey of his people , so He directed the life, death and resurrection of his chosen Messiah. The act of divine power that raised Jesus from the dead was already predicted a thousand years earlier, in the inspired poetry of king David. David’s prediction of victory over death applied directly to Jesus, to whose resurrection Peter himself could witness.
There will always be people who deny Easter and all that it means. That was so from the very beginning. The chief priests and the elders put out a story, to the effect that the disciples stole his body while the guards were asleep. We find modern versions of that anti-Easter story in our newspapers today at times. Atheists want to deny what God has done and put something trite in its place. But this Easter week we rejoice at what God has done.
Where, we may wonder, did Saint Matthew get the story about the soldiers guarding at the tomb, who were bribed to claim that the disciples had stolen Jesus’ body? Probably some such claim was being made in his day by enemies of the Christian movement. Knowing that this false claim was in the air, Matthew’s source may have invented the bribery story as a suitable rejoinder. This unusual account shows how the Evangelists and the author of the Acts tried to express the inexpressible, the mystery of One who had passed to a life beyond death, and was still a vital presence among his faithful followers.
The mood of those Easter days is well pictured in today’s gospel. Filled with awe and joy the women quickly left the tomb and ran to tell the disciples. They now knew that God’s love is lifegiving, and that God is more powerful than any evils we inflict on each other. Easter tells us that we do not walk through life alone. As Jesus says to the women, “Tell the others that they must leave for Galilee; they will see me there.”
As he went ahead of his disciples, so he goes ahead of us to all the places we find ourselves in. His resurrection is life’s triumph over death, hope’s victory over despair.