One of the most well-known of the ancient Christian preachers is John Chrysostom (c. 340-407). He is well-known because so many of his writings have survived. Many of his sermons hold up well even today.
The ancient apologists and preachers still act as a unifying voice for Christians all over the world. They lived and worked centuries before Christianity officially fractured into east and west and further fractured along national/ethnic and doctrinal lines. The Easter Sermon, as it is known to us, was delivered to a church that had not long before agreed on which books belong in our New Testament and a formula for the Trinity.
Some churches read this sermon as part of their liturgy for Easter, but many are not even aware of its existence. It is a powerful and encouraging message of resurrection and victory over death.
He uses the parable of the workers in the vineyard in Matthew 20:1-16 as his text to invite everyone to the table of the risen Jesus. He invites those who are mourning and celebrating, which brings to my mind the disciples of John the Baptist and of Jesus, as well as all those who may have been referred to in Jesus quoting of the Psalm in Matthew 11:17, “We piped to you and you did not dance, we wailed, and you did not mourn.”
This is followed by death mourning because it is defeated which leads him to quote I Corinthians 15:54-55.
There is forgiveness and life. It is no accident for us that Easter is celebrated in the springtime. That which looks dead is only sleeping, resting for the warmth of the sun to return it to life.
Here is John Chrysostom’s Easter message:
If any be pious and a lover of God,
let him partake of this fair and radiant festival.
If any be a faithful servant,
let him come in rejoicing in the joy of his Lord.
If any have wearied himself with fasting,
let him now enjoy his reward.
If any have labored from the first hour,
let him today receive his rightful due.
If any have come at the third,
let him celebrate the feast with thankfulness.
If any have arrived at the sixth,
let him in no wise be in doubt, for in nothing shall he suffer loss.
If any be as late as the ninth,
let him draw near, let him in no wise hesitate.
If any arrive only at the eleventh,
let him not be fearful on account of his slowness.
For the Master is bountiful and receives the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him of the eleventh hour even as to him who has labored from the first. He is merciful to the last, and provides for the first. To one he gives, and to another he shows kindness. He receives the works, and accepts the intention. He honors the act, and commends the purpose.
Enter all, therefore, into the joy of our Lord, and let the first and those who come after partake of the reward.
Rich and poor, dance one with another.
You who fast and you who fast not, rejoice today.
The table is full-laden; feast you all sumptuously.
The calf is ample: let none go forth hungry.
Let all partake of the banquet of faith. Let all partake of the riches of goodness. Let none lament his poverty; for the Kingdom is manifested for all. Let none bewail his transgressions; for pardon has dawned from the tomb. Let none fear death; for the death of the Savior has set us free.
He has quenched death who was subdued by it.
He has despoiled hades who has descended into hades.
Hades was embittered when it tasted of His flesh, and Isaiah, anticipating this, cried out saying:
Hades was embittered when it met Thee face to face below.
It was embittered, for it was rendered void.
It was embittered, for it was mocked.
It was embittered, for it was slain.
It was embittered, for it was despoiled.
It was embittered, for it was fettered.
It received a body, and it encountered God. It received earth, and came face to face with heaven. It received that which it saw, and fell whence it saw not.
O death, where is your sting?
O hell, where is your victory?
Christ is risen thou art cast down!
Christ is risen and the demons have fallen.
Christ is risen and the angels rejoice.
Christ is risen and life is made free
Christ is risen and there is none dead in the tomb.
For Christ is raised from the dead, and became the first-fruits of them that slept. To Him be Glory and dominion from all ages to all ages.
Sean Niestrath lives and ministers in Madisonville. You may contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.