Easter Vigil - Jesus the 'New Lord'
‘Israel saw the great work which the Lord did against the Egyptians, and the people feared the Lord; and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.’
Alleluia, Christ is Risen!
He is risen indeed, Alleluia!
O Beauty ever ancient and ever new, late have I loved you!
‘Israel saw the great work which the Lord did against the Egyptians… and they believed in the Lord and his servant Moses.’
Those words from our second reading, from the book of Exodus, in many ways, lay the foundation of our celebration tonight. In this great story of salvation, God is revealed as Lord. We heard that because of the work that he had done in liberating the Hebrew people from slavery, and granting them their long-desired freedom, the peoplebelieved. They didn’t just believe in what had happened, a miraculous event, more importantly, they believed in him, the Lord, and his servant Moses.
These words from Exodus raise the question: did they not believe beforehand? Did they not believe in their hearts that God would save them? Had their love for him disappeared because of their captivity? We’re not given the answer. We do not know.
What we do know, and that verse implies this, is that the people had not fully believed, not fully trusted until the very moment, the very moment, when they were delivered…
God, working through his servant Moses, had rescued them from captivity – by bringing about their release, he had created a new people. He had formed them afresh.
They saw and they believed – they recognised him as the Lord.
And, as if the crossing through the sea were not enough, the sight of the drowned Egyptians, washed up on the sea shore, was surely another sign that their slavery was well and truly over; their oppression, ended.
Moses had stretched out his hands, and God sent his power. The foe they thought unbeatable was beaten, the oppressor that had held them in pain for so long, defeated. God reveals himself truly as the Lord; mighty and powerful. And we see clearly in that moment, that fear gives way to faith.
The story of the Exodus speaks to us tonight. In this moment, we gather to celebrate not only God’s deliverance in ages past, but now, a new Exodus. On this most holy night, we celebrate a new departure, a departure not from slavery at the hands of others, but rather a departure from the grip of sin and death. We hear of the new, radical, and eternal freedom won by God, and his servant, not Moses, but Jesus Christ. Jesus had stretched out his hand on the cross and now God sends his power – his power of victory over death.
The new Exodus is here – it is real – it is not confined to the people of ages past, it is not confined to the Hebrew people alone, it is new, and it is for all.
In raising Jesus from the dead, the Lord God says to you, to me, to all humanity, do you want the freedom that cost so much? Do you want share in the victory that took Christ to the grave? Do you want true and eternal liberation from the shackles of death?
If we turn to our gospel reading, we see the women go to the tomb. To their amazement, the stone is rolled away, and they are confronted with that almost unbelievable reality captured in the words of the angel: ‘he is not here he is risen!’
He is not here, says the man in white. The tomb is empty. The women behold their salvation: the tomb cannot contain him – the love of Jesus is a love stronger than the chains of death. What do they discover in that moment? That he has passed through death, and opened for us a new way, a way of victory. As Moses had passed through the waters, and escaped slavery, Christ himself has passed through the slavery of death, like the Egyptian on the sea shore, God’s servant, Jesus Christ has overcome the old foe, he has been drowned in his triumph, the old order is no more. Jesus is the new Lord, the Lord of the living and the dead. Creation is renewed by the victory of the Lord over death. No longer will the humanity be subject to death for ever. A new thing is here. A new moment a new reality. Christ rose in the flesh and so his victory is our victory. His Passover is our Passover. His Lordship is our Lordship, his triumph is our triumph.
What we must do to share in those things? We must have the courage to believe. To believe that the Lord can do the impossible.
We must discover the truth of the resurrection by going ourselves to the tomb like the women. But we must not be trapped as they were by fear – we heard – ‘that they said nothing as they were afraid’ so ‘amazed were they by what happened’.
Saint Mark is inviting us tonight to go to the tomb. Each of us has a decision to make, as to how we respond. Do we go there, trapped in fear by what we find? Or, or do we believe in the resurrection, and like the women of the Exodus, ‘sing to the Lord, glorious his triumph?’ The decision is ours. It is ours in this moment. Isaiah tells us that the with the Lord ‘there is nothing to fear’. Do not be afraid. Go, tonight, and see the great work the Lord did against the enemies of sin, death and the devil, and believe in God and in his servant, the new conquering Lord, Jesus Christ, ever ancient, ever new, who gives the gift of new life.
I will sing to the Lord glorious his triumph!
Alleluia, Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!