Sermon: Easter Sunday 4 April 2021
Acts 10:34-43 Hymn to the Risen Christ APBA p. 6. 1 Cor. 15:1-11. John 20-1-18
Allelujah, Christ is Risen, He is Risen indeed, Allelujah?
Today marks the day the Christian church the world over celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Today places an emphasis on God’s triumph over death, asking us to focus on the joy of Resurrection. But is it all that simple?
How do we arrive at Resurrection without first facing Jesus life, trial, and death? There is no resurrection without death. No new life without struggle, no light without darkness, no joy without pain.
It is a simple truth, that Jesus resurrection could not have taken place without first Jesus being born of Mary, lived as one of us, died and laid in a tomb. In fact the resurrection is for us the culmination of Israel’s journey told through the Old Testament. Jesus resurrection is the pinnacle, the triumph of all that had gone before.
The resurrection is a mystery, we do not know how it happened, there is no scriptural description of Jesus rising from the grave, it is for us as much a mystery as it was for those disciples who ran to the tomb that morning to find the stone rolled away and the grave clothes placed on the stone.
There are still many things in the world we find hard to understand, why do people suffer, why can’t we just live in peace with one another, why do pandemics occur, why is it that some people seem to have nothing but ‘good luck’ and other’s face terrible trials, seemingly one after another? There are no simple answers to these questions. Often we are left wondering about the events of our lives and the lives of others. But what do you make of the life of Jesus?
The New Testament scriptures are replete with references to the resurrection that make it abundantly clear that there is no resurrection with death. In Acts Peter speaks to Cornelius’ household in Ceasarea saying, the ‘message’, of the good news of the kingdom of God ‘spread throughout Galilee after the baptism that John announce: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed… for God was with Him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear,… and everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. (Acts 10:37-40, 43). The apostle Paul writing to the Corinthian church that which he believed to be of upmost importance saying: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures’ (1 Cor 15:3b-4). Paul goes on to say that if the resurrection had not occurred our faith is in vain (1 Cor 15: 14,17).
What does the apostle Paul mean when he says, according to the scriptures? Paul is referring to the Old Testament prophecies and the story of the Old Testament the point to Jesus being the Messiah, the one who was and is and is to come again. Paul was well versed in the tradition of scripture. He lays claim to his credentials, a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, a Pharisee. Paul most likely studied the scriptures from a young age and as one who had persecuted the Christians, had a moment of revelation on the road to Damascus. Paul would come to realise all that he had studied pointed him to Jesus as the promised Messiah to Israel and later to the Gentil world as well.
The resurrection of Jesus meant the disciples would go on to recall all that Jesus had told them. The moments that he foretold his death and resurrection. How when Jesus was alive they missed the meaning of his words to them. How they abandoned Jesus upon his arrest. How Peter denied knowing Jesus. How at the Cross, only some women, and the beloved disciple were there. How a Roman soldier said, ‘truly this is the Son of God’ when Jesus breathed his last.
And so on this Easter day, recalling to mind Jesus resurrection, we also recall his life and death. What difference does this make to you and I in our daily lives? In this service those of us who are baptised come to renew our baptismal promises. Today, we are reminded of the promises either made on our behalf or that we made ourselves at our baptism or confirmation. We recall that we made a decision to follow Christ, to turn to Christ, to reject evil and to repent of our sins. We then affirmed the faith of the Church declaring individually that Jesus redeemed each one of us, that we place our faith and trust in God, the Father, the Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit and water is then sprinkled upon us as a sign of our baptism.
Jesus death and resurrection matter because they bring redemption, the forgiveness of sin, the grace and peace of God into our hearts and minds and eternal life. So if you are hearing this for the first time, or have not been to church for a long time, this is what the Resurrection means to Christian believers. Jesus life, death and resurrection mean that you and I are welcomed into the family of God, forgiven our sins, are blessed in the receiving of the body and blood of Christ in the eucharist and have eternal life.
It doesn’t mean we won’t continue to ask the difficult questions of suffering and calamity in the world. It means that we no longer face the world alone. God is with us. Mary Magdalene stood at the tomb in grief, thinking the body of Jesus had been taken but instead she is met by angels saying, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ As she turns she sees a man, but not recognising him, hears the same question, ‘Woman, why are you Weeping. For whom are you looking?’ And in her grief asks, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him. Jesus simple reply, just one word ‘Mary’ and straight away Mary recognised it was Jesus. Mary Magdalene became the first preacher that day as she ran to tell the disciples. Jesus calls to each one of us, calling our name, inviting us in. May this year be one that you answer the call of Jesus in your life, to live as a disciple of Jesus. Amen.