Skip to main content

The Surprise of Easter

The First Easter was an unexpected miracle for the first disciples

To make sure that all mankind knows that it is not over but actually just beginning, God has an Easter bombshell. While we may have been able to anticipate the wondrous joy of a day of resurrection, the first Easter was a complete surprise.

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - Christ is risen! He is Risen Indeed!

What a wondrous day this is - it is full of triumphant language, victory and hope. In the Eastern Church they have a one stanza hymn called a "Troparion" that they sing on Easter. It declares: Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and, on those in the tombs, bestowing life.

During Lent and especially during Holy Week we were excited in anticipation of our great Easter celebration. For some of us, it is the sheer exhilaration of being able to eat chocolate any time we want! But there is also the delight at turning the lights back on regarding our faith. We sing the Gloria again; we talk more about His resurrection along with His passion.

Remembering back to Good Friday, we know that one of the last things our Lord said was, "It is finished." He didn't mean "I'm finished. defeated. it was a nice try but I ended up here." He meant that our redemption is completed. His sacrificial work upon the cross has accomplished His mission.

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, in his book "Death on a Friday Afternoon," writes, It is finished yet time goes on. It is not over. Through all time, the cross point is the point of entry into His life of love, for that life and that love fill all time.

To make sure that all mankind knows that it is not over but actually just beginning, God has an Easter bombshell. While we may have been able to anticipate the wondrous joy of a day of resurrection, the first Easter was a complete surprise.

St. Maximus the Confessor:  Christ is risen! He has burst open the gates of hell and let the dead go free; he has renewed the earth through the members of his Church now born again in baptism, and has made it blossom afresh with men brought back to life. His Holy Spirit has unlocked the doors of heaven, which stand wide open to receive those who rise up from the earth.

Christ is risen. His rising brings life to the dead, forgiveness to sinners, and glory to the saints. And so David the prophet summons all creation to join in celebrating the Easter festival: Rejoice and be glad, he cries, on this day which the Lord has made.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Today's message will have a long introduction with a very short message. Let's take a look at the surprises of Easter.

The first surprise takes place early in the morning. The stone is rolled away.

This was not just a small stone, but a disc-shaped rock that was rolled in front of the door to the tomb. It was around 6 feet in diameter and weighed approximately 4,000 pounds. It was rolled in front of the opening in an inclined groove. Rolling downhill to cover the entrance was one thing - but rolling it uphill would be something much harder!

Not only was there a stone but a seal - which was a cord stretched across the rock and fastened on either side with sealing clay. To remove the seal would mean certain death.

The entrance was also guarded by Roman soldiers, who must remain at their post or face execution for dereliction of duty. All together, it would be most impossible for a group of zealots to open the tomb and steal the body.

When Mary Magdalene and the other women arrived early in the morning they found this stone is out of the way and the entrance to the tomb is open! Matthew indicates that a great earthquake took place as an angel rolled it away and the guards were passed out on the ground. What a spectacle! They find the tomb empty! Jesus is not there. This is strange.

And now the second surprise: As they ran to tell the apostles, they encountered two angels in white. John puts this in as a flashback after the section we just read, while the other accounts keep things in order.

The angels said to the women, Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day.

His teachings must have started to rush back through their minds, how he said this would happen. "He had told us," they may have thought, "but we didn't understand!"

Then comes the third surprise. Matthew and Mark record that the women encounter the resurrected Jesus as they are on their way back to inform the disciples of what has happened. He tells Mary Magdalene to tell the disciples to meet him in Galilee.

They were met with unbelief by the disciples, except for Peter and John who ran to the tomb. John stopped at the entrance, but Peter, who was trailing, ran straight in.

Encounters with the resurrected Christ changed everything. After meeting the resurrected Jesus, the women quickly ran to tell the disciples. After meeting the resurrected Jesus, Thomas the doubter, who wanted to put his finger in the marks of the nails, cried out, "My Lord and my God!" After meeting the resurrected Jesus, the hearts of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus burned, recognizing him as he broke bread.

The surprise of Easter eventually set the whole world ablaze with the glory of God. A private belief soon became a public faith.

So, let's get to the message. It is very brief and comes from St. Paul's letter to the Romans. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

The resurrection of Christ confirms His act of redemption - that our sins are forgiven by the blood of the cross. The resurrection also conforms us more to him as His resurrection grace is now working in us. He told us he would not leave us alone but would send "another comforter," the Holy Spirit.

There is nothing we face in life that is more powerful than the resurrection. There is no sin too great that he cannot roll the stone away from the tomb that surrounds our hearts and breathe in new life. There is no circumstance too insurmountable for his grace to penetrate our hearts and give us new hope.

The surprise of the first Easter has become an endless gift of resurrection life to all who desire to partake. We can become "a new creation in Christ," as St. Paul tells us, where "the old has passed away and the new has come."

Easter is a call to all of us. It is a call to those who have no faith, have wandered away from their faith or have allowed their faith to dim. The resurrected Christ is inviting you to come back and drink deeply of His grace and forgiveness. You can have that new life.

It is also a call for those who are walking faithfully with Him. He is inviting us to come in closer, to experience His love in a deeper way and abide in Him that we can more abundantly bear the fruit of His love in our lives.

So there is an Easter invitation for all of us. As Jesus said to the Church at Laodicea in the Book of Revelation, "Behold, I stand at the door and know. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him and he with Me."

This is the Easter call for all of us.

During the time of Communist rule in the Soviet Union, there was a Russian Communist leader named Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin. In his day, he was considered a powerful a man. He had taken part in the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, was editor of the Soviet propaganda newspaper Pravda and was a full member of the Politburo, the chief ruling committee in the Communist party..

In the 1930's he was sent from to Kiev to address a huge assembly on the subject of atheism and the beauty of communism. Addressing the crowd, he aimed his heavy artillery specifically at Christianity hurling insult, argument, and proof against it.

An hour later he was finished and looking out on the crowd, he was convinced he had destroyed their faith and dismantled any resistance to communism. He said defiantly to the crowd, "Are there any questions?" This was followed by a deafening silence.

Then one man approached the platform and mounted the lectern standing near the communist leader. He surveyed the crowd first to the left then to the right then finally he shouted the ancient greeting known well in the Russian Orthodox Church: "CHRIST IS RISEN!" En masse the crowd arose as one man and the response came crashing like the sound of thunder from the entire assembly: "HE IS RISEN INDEED!"

So, my brothers and sisters, CHRIST IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED!

Father Randy Sly is the Associate Editor of Catholic Online and a priest with the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter ( established by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, through the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus. He is currently the chaplain of the St. John Fisher Ordinariate Community, a priest in residence at Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church and Director of Pro-Life Activities for the Ordinariate. He is a popular speaker for parishes, apostolates and organizations.


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'

Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2015
That human trafficking, the modern form of slavery, may be eradicated.
Evangelization: That with a missionary spirit the Christian communities of Asia may announce the Gospel to those who are still awaiting it.

Keywords: Easter, resurrection, faith, Christian life, foregiveness, new life


E-mail:       Zip Code: (ex. 90001)
Today's Headlines

Sign up for a roundup of the day's top stories. 5 days / week. See Sample

Rate This Article

Very Helpful Somewhat Helpful Not Helpful at All

Yes, I am Interested No, I am not Interested

Rate Article


Leave a Comment

Comments submitted must be civil, remain on-topic and not violate any laws including copyright. We reserve the right to delete any comments which are abusive, inappropriate or not constructive to the discussion.

Though we invite robust discussion, we reserve the right to not publish any comment which denigrates the human person, undermines marriage and the family, or advocates for positions which openly oppose the teaching of the Catholic Church.

This is a supervised forum and the Editors of Catholic Online retain the right to direct it.

We also reserve the right to block any commenter for repeated violations. Your email address is required to post, but it will not be published on the site.

We ask that you NOT post your comment more than once. Catholic Online is growing and our ability to review all comments sometimes results in a delay in their publication.

Send me important information from Catholic Online and it's partners. See Sample

Post Comment

More Easter / Lent

'So it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead' - Luke 24:46

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption. continue reading

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in all four canonical Gospels. (Mark 11:1.11, Matthew 21:1.11, Luke 19:28.44, and John 12:12.19) ... continue reading

Holy Week

On Palm Sunday, we celebrate the first joy of the season, as we celebrate Our Lord's triumphant entrance into Jerusalem where he was welcomed by crowds worshiping him and laying down palm leaves before him. It also marks the beginning of Holy Week... continue reading

Holy Thursday

HOLY THURSDAY is the most complex and profound of all religious observances. It celebrates his last supper with the disciples, a celebration of Passover ... continue reading

Good Friday

On Good Friday, each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption. In the solemn ceremonies of Holy Week we unite ourselves to our Savior, and we contemplate our own death to sin in the Death of our Lord ... continue reading

Easter Sunday

Easter is the principal feast of the ecclesiastical year. Leo I (Sermo xlvii in Exodum) calls it the greatest feast (festum festorum), and says that Christmas is celebrated only in preparation for Easter. It is the centre of the greater part of the ecclesiastical year ... continue reading

Fasting and Abstinence

For most people the easiest practice to consistently fulfill will be the traditional one, to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year. During Lent abstinence from meat on Fridays is obligatory in the United States as elsewhere. Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed (Lk. 5:35). continue reading

FAQs About Lent

Everything answered from when does lent end, ashes, giving something up, stations of the cross and blessed palms. The key to understanding the meaning of Lent is simple: Baptism... continue reading

Stations of the Cross

Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion. First Station: Jesus is condemned to death... pray the stations now

What did you give up for Lent?

What did you give up for Lent?

From the humorous to the bizarre, people have had interesting Lenten experiences. Tell us about what you are going to give up for this Lenten Year.
What others gave up »

Lent / Easter News

Good Friday

  • Good Friday

    On Good Friday, the entire Church fixes her gaze on the Cross at Calvary. Each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption.

    The Cross

    In the symbol of the Cross we can see the magnitude of the human tragedy, the ravages of original sin, and the infinite love of God. Learn More

Ash Wednesday

  • Ash Wednesday

    Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption.

    The Ashes

    The ashes are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are christened with Holy Water and are scented by exposure to incense. Learn More

Stations of the Cross

  • Stations of the Cross

    Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion.

    Opening Prayer

    ACT OF CONTRITION. O my God, my Redeemer, behold me here at Thy feet. From the bottom of my heart... Pray the Stations

Fasting & Abstinence

  • 'Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed' Lk. 5:35

    Abstinence. The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted.

    Fasting. The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday (Canon 97) to the 59th Birthday (i.e. the beginning of the 60th year, a year which will be completed on the 60th birthday) to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal.
    Learn More »

Newsletter Sign Up

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Daniel 7:2-14
Daniel said, 'I have been seeing visions in the night. I saw ... Read More

Psalm, Daniel 3:75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81
Bless the Lord, mountains and hills, praise and glorify him for ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 21:29-33
And he told them a parable, 'Look at the fig tree and indeed ... Read More

Saint of the Day

November 27 Saint of the Day

St. James Intercisus
November 27: James was a favorite of King Yezdigerd I of Persia and a ... Read More