IT’S SUNDAY. HE IS RISEN, ALLELUIA!
It has always been interesting to me that Jesus appeared to the women first. In biblical times women were not counted. But throughout his ministry he engaged with the women, we think of the women at the well, Mary, Martha, Mary Magdalene, and now on this Resurrection Sunday, he appears to the women first.
This is important to note and demonstrated the whole ministry of Jesus to engage with the people in society who were looked down upon by the leaders of the society. Jesus willingly engaged with these people, because he was offering good news to all who would listen.
Now on this new day and despite Jesus, telling the disciples what was going to happen, the unexpected happened.
The stone of the tomb was rolled away….Jesus was gone, He has risen.
It was a busy day for all… Because…
All on the one day, he appeared to Mary Magdalene in the garden, to Peter, to 2 disciples on the Emmaus road, and later that day to all the disciples (except Thomas, but that’s another story, for another time).
It must have been incredible for Jesus’ followers, after the despair and downright horror of Roman crucifixion, here is Jesus alive, Joy is back in the followers lives.
For us today, as we celebrate in the best way we can this Easter Day, we need to remember that in the resurrection, there is life for all, and throughout time the joy of the resurrection has affected many people, and given new life to millions of people…and you!
It is interesting to look at History, no, not history, but HIS STORY, and seek to learn new things in our walk with him. And in this time of Covid 19 and lockdowns, this is the opportunity to learn new things about your walk with Jesus. God is after all, the God of surprises. Expect the unexpected!!
On this day we think about the Saturday. Jesus is dead, his body lies in a borrowed tomb. The religious leaders thought that some of Jesus’ followers would go to the tomb and steal his body. So guards were posted to protect it. We read in the Apostles creed that he descended to the dead. Scholars have long argued just what this meant in relation to Holy Saturday. One thought is that he descended to the place we call hell, where Jesus offered redemption to the dead, and rescued them, in the same way he rescued us through his sacrifice on the cross.
To be honest, we can only speculate on what went on during that Saturday. The only time we will find out for certain is when we return to glory and we can ask him in person.
I guess more went on with the Disciples on that day, they were in hiding. Their Lord was taken from them in the cruellest way. Yet in their sorrow, they forgot just what Jesus had said about himself in relation to these few days.
We have the luxury of the biblical accounts, but how often, do we forget what Jesus did for the world. We forget to read, we forget to reflect, we forget to pray. And despite this God never lets go of us. He is the gentle healer of all our issues. Jesus who died for us on Good Friday, is with us always (Matt 28).
We have been given opportunity in this time of lockdown to spend some quality time in reflection, reflect on life, reflect on Jesus, and when we do meet again we will celebrate.
But don’t let that stop you this Easter.
IT’S SATURDAY…….BUT, SUNDAYS COMING!
We arrive at the hardest part of the week. Jesus’ death by crucifixion. The Roman’s extreme method of death, hoisted on to a cross.
When Jesus was brought before Pilate for the 6th and last trial. He wanted to flog Jesus and let him go. The crowd were present and were whipped up into a frenzy as people shouted Crucify Him!
Passover festival was a time when Pilate could release a prisoner, I feel that he misread the crowd, as he seemed to be saying that Jesus had done no wrong. The crowd shouting Crucify him, was somewhat louder than the elements who wanted Jesus to be freed. So instead of freedom Jesus was sentenced to be crucified, and Barabbas, a criminal was freed. Pilate washed his hands, to indicate that he had no blood on his hands, and it was the crowd who did the deed.
Jesus had to bear his cross to the place of execution, a place called Golgotha. There he was nailed to his cross with a person on each side of him. The gospel accounts tell us that story, and are worth reading again, because of the way they were written there are subtle differences in the account, that ultimately build a whole picture. In this period of lockdown, and as we see the hope of the restriction of lockdown, I am sure that some of you are doing jigsaws, and how satisfying it is to finish it. The same is true of our gospel accounts. If you miss one, it is like having an incomplete jigsaw. You need all the pieces.
After his death, Jesus was taken to the tomb, where his body was prepared. The stone was then rolled in front of the tomb. All of this done in the 3 hours after his death, and before the Sabbath started.
Why do we call it Good Friday, when it was all about death? It probably shows that with Jesus’ death it has liberated us from sin and given us the possibility of relationship with God.
IT’S FRIDAY……………BUT, SUNDAYS COMING!!!!!!
As we reach Thursday, we see the end of the beginning. That is not an error in typing. The final days of Holy Week are the end of one chapter of the life of Jesus, his life to this point was just the beginning, despite knowing what happens on Friday, we see this part of His story end.
The resurrection, the appearances, the ascension, and the coming of the Holy Spirit, is the start of a new adventure for the Disciples…and us.
But today, we see Jesus preparing both himself and his disciples for his death. Pauls letter to the church at Philippi, described Jesus as taking on “the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:7). At the Passover supper, Jesus washed the feet of the Disciples, before in the meal that followed, to which Jesus gave a new meaning. The bread and wine represent his body and blood.
After the meal Jesus, went with Peter, James and John to the Garden of Gethsemane, They were instructed to keep watch, but they slept.
Away from this scene, Judas was gathering the troops to go and arrest Jesus. He identified Jesus with a traitors kiss.
Jesus was taken away and overnight, Thursday into Friday Jesus was subjected to 6 trials, 3 Jewish, 3 Roman.
The Disciples fled in an attempt to save themselves, and they went into hiding. Peter on the other hand was nearby, as Jesus was taken from trial to trial, and when questioned, denied 3 times that he knew him.
Today for us how do we see these events, are we with the Disciples or the crowd who began seeking blood. Take time to reflect on our position, would we change our stance in the light of the obvious evidence of Jesus identity. For those who like history, something to ponder. There is more evidence for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, than there is for the existence of Julius Caesar.
We look to Friday, to crucifixion…… But Sundays coming.
Yesterday we looked at the cleansing of the temple in Mark 11. On Tuesday Jesus went back to the Temple to teach, and his authority is hotly disputed by the Pharisees. Jesus later leads his Disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane, which is located at the foot of the Mount of Olives. It was here that Jesus delivered what has become known as the Olivet Discourse, the last of the 5 great discourses recorded in the Gospel of Matthew (Matt 24)
It was also on this day it is recorded that Jesus wept over Jerusalem, and also Judas conspired to betray Jesus.
It was a time of great sadness and yet a time of great joy. Sadness in looking at the state that Jerusalem had become, but joy in that he could teach his Disciples further before the end.
How are we affected by things, are we happy or sad, I must admit to being a little of both. Sad that we have not been able to gather together to share Easter, in some of our churches, but happy that we have needed to find new ways of being church in the period we have been in lockdown, and as such can still be reflective and worshipful in our time of isolation. There is much online that we can see and hear. For those who do not have such things, there is worship on TV, Songs of Praise, and other things while we celebrate this Easter period. God is good all the time, and this is something we need to remember.
It also gives time to reflect on Holy Week,
Wednesday was thought to be a day of rest. Use this day well, reflect on what has happened, and look towards the days to come.
Yesterday we thought about the events of Palm Sunday and Jesus coming into Jerusalem with his Disciples and other followers. He did go to the temple at night but it was quiet, so he left for Bethany.
So today, Jesus and the Disciples left Bethany and headed back to the temple in Jerusalem. On arrival, amidst the hustle and bustle of activity, Jesus got angry and started turning over the tables of the money lenders and other traders. I do find it interesting that Jesus himself wasn’t arrested, but no, instead he taught the people that the temple was a house of prayer and not a den for thieves. (Mark 11:15 – 19). Meanwhile the teachers of the law heard of this, and because they were scared plotted against Jesus. The crowd on the other hand were amazed.
Today we have seen similar things that have made us angry, and the impact that can have on others. Because of the temple activities prayer and other such activities would be difficult, if not impossible amongst all that activity. And we as we look back on the past 12 months of upheaval, we saw people panic buying, supermarket shelves empty, people who are in need unable to get even the basics. People taking items from the foodbank boxes, which indirectly puts pressure on our foodbanks. We look back and think at what a year it has been.
It is fine to get cross about our current situation, God hears this and helps us. Jesus went out into the hills to reflect and pray. We are in a position to be able to reflect and pray, just at home.. I am also reminded by one of my many conversations today that when we come out of this crisis, our world will have changed, we will have changed. The opportunities that will present themselves should be grasped. John Whimber, once said that we should take our negatives, turn them into positives and use it to help others. Be church in our communities at this time not only during Holy Week, but for all time.
May God bless you all
Pastor Sean Worsley, The Methodist Church Norwich Circuit