Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ And 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 has been spread among the Jews to this day. Matthew 28:11-15 Monday of the Third Week of Pascha
Good morning Prayer Team!
Christ is Risen!
The Resurrection elicited various responses from the different people affected by it. Initially, it brought fear and uncertainty to the women who went to the tomb and found it empty. Thomas had his doubts. Fear quickly turned to amazement and joy for the women and the disciples. And to this day, there is great joy in the hearts of all who truly believe in the Resurrection of Christ.
The Resurrection didn’t bring joy to everyone. Both the Jews and the Romans were perplexed, confused, fearful and angry. The Romans looked embarrassed—How could soldiers place a stone over the tomb, seal the tomb and have a detachment of soldiers guarding the tomb and Jesus “escaped” from the tomb and no one had an explanation as to how it happened! And the Jewish leaders who had pulled all the strings to set up the crucifixion and the guarding of the tomb had their worst fears realized—the body was gone. Christ had risen from the tomb as He had said He would, and now their power was threatened. Indeed Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah. Their reign of terror over the Jewish people had ended with the Resurrection of the Messiah.
Both Jews and Romans had to act fast to concoct a story that would breed doubt and confusion among the people. The chief priests arranged to pay off the Roman soldiers. The Roman soldiers would tell people that the Body of Jesus was stolen in the night. The Jewish leaders would protect the Roman soldiers from punishment. The story would then spread among the people that there was no resurrection but rather a theft. And in this way, all parties would be spared.
Lies continue to be told about Christ to this day. I remember reading many years ago, a newspaper article that said that eighty percent of Christians believe in the Resurrection. Which led me to wonder what do the other twenty percent believe? Have twenty percent of Christians been convinced that there was no Resurrection of Christ? Since the time of Christ up until present day, there have been many perversions of Christianity, people working in the name of Christ but doing all manner of unchristian things. Even well-meaning people have focused on “doing” church rather than “being” the church—they’ve put up beautiful buildings but haven’t worked to spread the message!
And sadly, it seems that not a day goes by that Christianity does not come under some kind of attack. Christians are pressured to water down the message of Christ and many are doing so. Christians who stick up for what Christ really said are now being attacked. The authentic message of Christ that calls for taking up one’s cross and following is being lost amidst calls that any kind of behavior is okay and taking up a cross and following makes one either weak or narrow minded. Christ makes it very clear that the path to salvation is both narrow and a path of choice, not coercion, but one has to make the choice to follow. Today’s climate of political correctness says the door is open to everyone, no matter what they choose to believe or do in life. This sentiment is completely unsupported by Scripture.
As for the “payoff” of the guards, there are, to this day, people who are paying off the politicians, the media and anyone else with influence to spread lies about Christ, and to stop the truth from bring spread. And in some corners, it works, just like it did two thousand years ago. But in many corners it doesn’t work. Now, as then, people are still willing to carry the authentic Christian message. Now, as then, there is becoming the increasing potential for harm to come to the genuine believer. Now, as then, the followers of Christ are faced with not only the choice to believe, but to do so in the face of potential persecution. And now, as then, love will always win out over hate. That may not always ring true in material terms or even in one’s earthly life. But in spiritual terms, love conquers all. And in the span of eternity, those whose lives are centered around love for Christ, these are the ones who will inherit the kingdom of heaven. Unfortunately, anger has surrounded the Resurrection from the day it happened until the present day. But anger has not won. Joy has won. Because anger couldn’t cover up the Resurrection back then since there are countless people who believed back then and up until the present. Joy is what has spread this message. And joy is what this message is all about.
So, if there is any advice for the Christian today—don’t focus on the world’s negativity towards the Christian message. Focus on YOUR JOY about being a Christian.
The guards that kept watch over You, O Lord, related all the wonders that had come to pass. But the vain assembly of the Sanhedrin filled their hands with bribes, thus thinking to hide Your resurrection which all the world glorifies. Have mercy on us. (From the Praises of Orthros, Tone 3, Trans. by Holy Cross Seminary Press)
Focus on YOUR Christian joy today!
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