John Chrysostom’s Easter Sermon

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John Chrysostom preached this sermon about 1600 years ago. To this day, it is read every year on Easter in Orthodox churches. Here’s my own modern English paraphrase of the sermon:

Worshipers and God-lovers, come enjoy this bright, beautiful party! Thankful servants, come joyfully and share in your Master’s happiness!

If you’ve tired yourself out fasting, go get your silver coin. And if you’ve been working all day long from six in the morning, go get your due. If you came in at eight o’clock—no problem. A thankful heart is the ticket to joining this party. And if you arrived at eleven o’clock, don’t worry about it—you’re not going to miss out on anything. If you procrastinated until two in the afternoon, don’t fret—just come. Even if you arrived at four o’clock, don’t worry about your being late.

Our Master is generous so He treats the first person and the last person just the same. He’ll let the person who came at 4:00 P.M. get just as much rest as the person who started work at 6:00 A.M. He shows mercy to the last person and He serves the first person. He’ll  give a gift to this person and He’ll give a different kind of grace to that person. He welcomes our work but He even blesses our effort. He honors what we actually do but He even commends our mere intentions.

So, everyone, come, share in the Master’s happiness!

Whether you came first or second, come receive your reward! Rich people and poor people—get together and dance for joy! Ascetics and loafers—both of you have to honor this day! Whether you fasted or not, celebrate this day!

The table’s been set with a mountain of food—everyone, feast like a king! The calf has been fattened—no one’s going home hungry! Everyone, take a gulp from the cup of faith! Everyone, receive the riches of goodness! No one should complain about being poor anymore because the Kingdom has come and everyone is welcome!

No one should mourn their repeated failures anymore. Pardon has risen up from the grave like the morning sun! No one should fear death anymore. The Savior’s death has given us freedom!

Death killed our Savior but then our Savior killed death. He went down to hell and put it in chains. Hell tasted His flesh, but then our Savior put it into an uproar. Isaiah knew this was going to happen. That’s why he shouted, “Hell was put into an uproar because it came face to face with You in the lowest regions!”

It was in an uproar because it had been emptied! It was in an uproar because it had been mocked! It was in an uproar because it had been destroyed! It was in an uproar because it had been knocked over! It was in an uproar because it had been put in chains!

Hell snatched a dead body and found itself face to face with the living God! Hell invaded earth but came face to face with Ηeaven! Hell took what it saw, but fell down in front of what it hadn’t seen!

So, death, where’s your sting? Hell, where’s your victory?

Christ came back to life so Hell has been thrown down! Christ came back to life so the demons have fallen! Christ came back to life so the angels are partying! Christ came back to life so life is victorious! Christ came back to life so no one’s staying in their grave! And Christ was just the first one to come back—the rest of the dead will follow.

Christ deserves glory and power forever and ever.

Amen!

This Easter sermon already exists in both English and in Japanese. However, the language employed in the existing translations tends to be more formal. This formal language is doubtlessly appropriate for the sermon’s usual liturgical contexts, but it can provide a barrier to some. It was my desire to make this powerful statement of Christ’s resurrection-victory accessible to a less selective audience.

For the more formal translations, you can click on the links below:

Whatever strengths exist in this paraphrase of the Easter Sermon, I attribute to the sermon’s original preacher, John Chysostom; whatever weaknesses exist, I humbly own.

 

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