Easter Sunday 21st April 2019 – Caroline Stead
I think it’s fair to say that Easter is the most important of our Christian festivals.
Lots of customs:
- Sunrise services, Easter gardens with an empty tomb,
- Easter bonnets
- Easter eggs
- Egg hunts
- Egg rolling
- Special foods – Roast Lamb, Curd tarts, Simnel cake topped with 11 balls of marzipan to represent the 11 faithful disciples.
So what does it all mean?
This year we read the account of the resurrection from Luke’s gospel.
All the gospels are slightly different.
What did you notice this morning?
Group of women went to the tomb - Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women – the ones who had accompanied Joseph of Arimathea when the body was placed in the tomb on Friday.
Mary Magdalene is the only one named as witness to the resurrection in all four gospels – her credentials?
She is the one who had seven demons cast out of her (8:2). This is so in keeping with Luke’s gospel where the women and social outcasts are given prominence. In Luke’s words, those who are forgiven much, love much (Luke 7).
Today there is no gardener in the story speaking to Mary and calling her name.
2 men in dazzling clothes – angels? Asking them
‘Why do you look for the living among the dead?
And reminding them of all Jesus had told them.
The women went to the tomb to do what was customary – what they had done to Lazarus not long before. They went to anoint or embalm the body of their friend because there hadn’t been time after the crucifixion on Friday. They had only just managed with Joseph, to get the body to the tomb when the Sabbath started, so they left it safe and came back early on the Sunday morning.
And the body was not there.
No-one expects a body to vanish!
Then two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them.
And they were terrified – at the start of Luke’s gospel, this is what had happened to the shepherds in the fields outside Bethlehem – they were terrified – God’s angels were again proclaiming some earth shattering news. Jesus has been raised, he is living – he told you this was going to happen and it has!
So how do you feel?
Excited? Glad? Joyful? Relieved?
According to this story it is more
Puzzled, terrified, unbelieving and perplexed!
They ran and told the eleven and all the rest – who were they?
But the disciples didn’t believe them. They called it an idle tale.
Did they think the women were trying to lure them out of hiding so that the authorities would kill them as well?
But there was one of them who couldn’t resist.
The very one who was always rather impetuous – Peter – thee one who tried to walk on the water, who wanted to build three shelters on the mount of transfiguration, the one who had been the first to recognise Jesus as the Messiah, the one who would never turn against him yet had denied him three times before the dreaded cock crow.
Peter just had to go and see for himself so he ran to the tomb – and he saw – then went home!
The women’s reaction to hearing the good news is to go and tell the disciples and the others gathered with them. Peter’s reaction is to be amazed but to go home!
What about you?
What is our/your reaction to hearing the good news of Jesus’ resurrection? Are we good witnesses or do we keep it to ourselves?
Perhaps Peter didn’t feel worthy to be a witness – was he feeling guilty for his earlier denial of Jesus? Do we feel worthy?
I wonder what it is that prevents us from being witnesses today?
Is it how we will be received?
Is it to do with our own confidence in ourselves?
Over the past months we have heard some wonderful testimonies of what Jesus means to people in this church – in the eulogies at their funerals.
It occurs to me how much better it would be to hear all of this before they had died so that we could talk with them about it – about the events in their lives that shaped them as Christians and affirmed their faith.
These are the stories that help other people to grow in faith and bring people without faith into faith.
If you are still alive, and I assume you all are, why not write a paragraph for page 4 of the weekly sheet telling us all your stories of how you have come to know the living Jesus and what he has meant to you in your life.
‘Do not look for the living amongst the dead’
‘Where is Jesus today?’ Do we recognise him?
Do not look for the living amongst the dead – in other words, look for Jesus amongst the living and you will find him.
Jesus is here with us this morning.
And if you look, really look, you will find him
You will find him in the words people say to you, in the loving actions of those around you.
You will meet him in the volunteer, someone taking time to listen, or praying at hospital bed.
You will hear him in the word of preacher, or through the way someone responds gracefully when they are experiencing situations that you would expect to chew you up.
Sometimes, you won’t know it was Jesus until later.
On this Easter Day as we joyfully proclaim
Hallelujah, Christ is Risen!
He is risen indeed, Hallelujah!
Let us go and seek Jesus amongst the living, and share our experiences of where we find him so that others will be encouraged to encounter him too.
Let us pray:
Risen Lord, you will be with me today.
Help me to acknowledge your presence and enjoy your companionship.
A few years later and the early church was growing – listen to where Peter is at now:
Reading: Acts 10:34-43
Acts 10:34-43The Message (MSG)
34-36 Peter fairly exploded with his good news: “It’s God’s own truth, nothing could be plainer: God plays no favorites! It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from—if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open. The Message he sent to the children of Israel—that through Jesus Christ everything is being put together again—well, he’s doing it everywhere, among everyone.
37-38 “You know the story of what happened in Judea. It began in Galilee after John preached a total life-change. Then Jesus arrived from Nazareth, anointed by God with the Holy Spirit, ready for action. He went through the country helping people and healing everyone who was beaten down by the Devil. He was able to do all this because God was with him.
39-43 “And we saw it, saw it all, everything he did in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem where they killed him, hung him from a cross. But in three days God had him up, alive, and out where he could be seen. Not everyone saw him—he wasn’t put on public display. Witnesses had been carefully handpicked by God beforehand—us! We were the ones, there to eat and drink with him after he came back from the dead. He commissioned us to announce this in public, to bear solemn witness that he is in fact the One whom God destined as Judge of the living and dead. But we’re not alone in this. Our witness that he is the means to forgiveness of sins is backed up by the witness of all the prophets.”