Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
On this day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I share a sermon preached by John Chrysostom (ca. 347-407) in the fourth century. Prior to his sermon, I share some information about Chrysostom the man, one of the early church fathers, which will give you some background as you read through the sermon from Chrysostom the preacher (the golden mouthed preacher).
Chrysostom excelled in the disciplines of rhetoric and law. However, not finding satisfaction in these studies, he pursued Christian asceticism. While living an ascetic life, he pursued God and almost ruined his health. It was a means God used to refine and prepare him for another kind of ministry.
Leaving a more monastic life, he moved to the city and adopted a less physically rigorous lifestyle and engaged in a more public ministry. Being recognized for his God-given gifts, Chrysostom was ordained a deacon in 381 and an elder in 386. His primary role as an elder was preaching. God used his earlier training, especially in rhetoric, to expound the Word of God will clarity and with power. Eventually in 398, Chrysostom was appointed Patriarch of Constantinople, a role in which he served until his death in 407. He was committed to reform, both the moral leniency of pastors/clergy and the moral corruptness of the city. This commitment of ministry and message, led to trials and difficulties for the nine years he served in this role. Toward the end of his life, he was exiled because he defied an imperial order. While in exile he died.
God had gifted Chrysostom greatly as a preacher of the Word of God. God also gave him an inner resolve of courage and conviction. He spoke truth boldly. As is often true, when he exercised his God-given gift of preaching, he found strength, concluding, “Preaching improves me. When I begin to speak, weariness disappears; when I begin to teach, fatigue too disappears.” But as is also often the case, when one exercises those gifts of preaching truth, particularly when it is a call to reform, it may lead to trouble and tribulation. This is true for one of the early church’s most gifted preachers.
One notes, “In this role his rhetorical skills amplified by his scholarship and piety earned him a reputation as a biblical expositor second to none.” Based on his published sermons, treatises and letters (600 sermons and 200 letters survive), later generations concluded the same, with leaders in the sixth century church referring to Chrysostom as Chrysostomos, “golden mouthed,” i.e. Chrysostom is the “golden mouthed preacher.”
Chrysostom’s “theology was expressed primarily in his sermons and was neither systematic, precise, nor original. His sermons drew spiritual and moral applications from a literal and grammatical exegesis of the Scriptures.” Chrysostom was given the title “Doctor of the Church, as he is considered one of the great early church fathers of the East, along with a few other church fathers of the East, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Athanasius.
Read, ponder and mediate on the truth expounded by John Chysotom in this fourth century Easter sermon.
“The Easter sermon of John Chrysostom” (circa 400 AD)
Are there any who are devout lovers of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
Are there any who are grateful servants?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!
Are there any weary with fasting?
Let them now receive their wages!
If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their due reward;
If any have come after the third hour,
let him with gratitude join in the Feast!
And he that arrived after the sixth hour,
let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.
And if any delayed until the ninth hour,
let him not hesitate; but let him come too.
And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour,
as well as to him that toiled from the first.
To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows.
He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor.
The deed He honors and the intention He commends.
Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!
First and last alike receive your reward;
rich and poor, rejoice together!
Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!
You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,
rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!
Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.
Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!
Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He destroyed Hell when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he said,
“You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below.”
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?
Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!