Once there were two friends who were wandering in a dangerous desert when all of a sudden, they started to argue with each other. One of the friends became extremely upset. He felt a deep sorrow in his heart since his friend did not seek to understand him. He knelt on the sand and with his fingers he wrote, “Today my brother in Christ made me sad and upset.” He continued to walk in the desert and almost stepped on the tail of a serpent but avoided it thanks to the warnings of his friend. This time, instead of writing on the sand he found a stone and engraved on it, “Today my brother in Christ saved my life.” His friend turned to him and asked the purpose of these markings; the marking in sand prompted by anger, and the marking in stone, prompted by brotherly love. The wise young man responded to his friend saying, “When someone upsets us we need to write it on the sand so that winds may blow it away and erase them. But when someone does right by us, we need to engrave it in stone so that nothing may erase it.”
In today’s reading, Matthew tells us that the Jewish lawyers asked Jesus to give them a sign, a proof that He spoke the truth, and that He indeed was sent by God. Although they addressed Him as “Teacher,” their politeness did not disguise their hatred for Him. Just earlier, members of their group had accused Jesus of being in league with Satan, and that His miracles were done with the power of the evil one. They did not believe Jesus could produce a sign of a true prophet of God.
Moses had written in the Law that a true prophet could be distinguished from a false one by his prophecies. If what the prophet said would happen, did in fact happen, the prophet was true. If it did not happen, the prophet was false, and should be killed. The lawyers were looking for a legal excuse to kill Jesus. Would Jesus give them a sign of His authenticity? Jesus knew their evil hearts, but He gave them the sign of His Resurrection. He prophesied that, just as the prophet Jonah had been three days and three nights in the belly of the sea creature, so would Jesus be in the tomb. As Jonah came out of the sea creature in three days, even so, would Jesus come out of the grave in three days and engrave that sign on their hearts.
The enemies of Jesus understood what Jesus prophesied, and they did not forget it. After the crucifixion, they had a guard placed in front of the tomb, where Jesus had been buried, to watch and make sure that the disciples did not take the body away, and claim the prophecy had been fulfilled. The lawyers did not realize that the prophecy had gone right over the heads of the disciples; it did not sink into their minds. Although Jesus had told them many times, the disciples did not expect Jesus to be crucified, much less, to rise from the dead. Jesus did rise from the dead, exactly as He had foretold. The lawyers had their sign. And what did it prove? It proved that they did not believe the sign God showed them.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ has a meaning for unbelievers: condemnation. But for those who love and follow our Lord, it is a sign of salvation. For the unbelievers who reject Christ, the Resurrection proves that they have rejected the Truth. But for those who have accepted Him, it proves what they already know, that their sins have been dealt with on the Cross, and the believers are free of the penalty of sin and death. Moreover, the Resurrection points to the fact that if our bodies die, we still live with Him, and someday, our bodies will also be resurrected.
As in today’s story the idea of resurrection is engraved in the Bible and in the ears of all those who truly follow Christ. What Christ preached and did is indeed engraved in our hearts as witness that the Lord of all came down from heaven and by shedding His blood on the cross showed us the path to the Kingdom. His life is similar to the act of the friend who saved his friend’s life who wanted to engrave it on the stone and not in the sand. However, just as many saw Christ’s resurrection and still did not believe in Him, we too might unknowingly end up in this denial and not trust God especially during these challenging times.
Today, since the idea of Christ’s resurrection is engraved in our hearts, we come to church every Sunday to celebrate the joy of the glorious resurrection of Christ. As the priest prays in the absolution saying, “Whatever you forgive on earth shall be forgiven in heaven” and reinstates us in the sacrament of the Holy Church to do good for the glory of the life to come, I pray that God engraves the act of our repentance in the stone so they may never be erased. Also I pray that God calls and reinstates all of us in the sacrament of the Holy Church so that we may do good which again will be engraved in stone. And those engraved good works will be read during His Second Coming and make us worthy to be the inheritors of the Kingdom. May Sunday, and every day, be a day of remembering, with joy, this greatest of signs—the sign of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Amen.