Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday

Is 52:13-53:12

It is Easter Sunday.  It seems appropriate that we share communion together as we remember the death and resurrection of Jesus.  But we are going to do it slowly today.

We read in that passage in Isaiah that Jesus was ‘he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him,’ so in a time of quiet let us remember those transgressions before God.  Let us bring them to him in confession, and ask that he nail them to the cross.

Lord we confess to you that we have said, done and thought things against your will.  That we have failed to do that which was within your will.  Nail that part of our being to the cross with Jesus, set us free.  We turn away from our sin and ask only your forgiveness; a forgiveness which we are unable to earn and could never deserve but we claim by your grace shown through Jesus’ death on the cross.  Amen.

I want to take you back to Thursday night.  Jesus sat down to supper with his disciples.  He took a piece of bread.  It was a Passover celebration so it would have been unleavened bread, but it was nothing special.  It was part of a meal, the food that was on the table.  He broke the bread and said, ‘this is my body, which is for you.’

I wonder what the disciples thought.  Maybe they remembered his words recorded in John’s Gospel where he says, ‘I am the bread of life… the living bread that came down from heaven.  Whoever eats this bread will live forever.  This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.’  Followed by those difficult words, ‘Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.’  Finally they see what he was getting at.

Although they probably didn’t totally comprehend until the next day.  The day they saw Jesus’ physical body, bruised and broken on the cross.  Broken for them – and for us.

As we break this bread we remember that body.  And we remember that we, now, are the body of Christ.  It might be stretching an analogy to breaking point, but perhaps we can see that as we eat this bread it does, literally, become the body of Christ – because it becomes part of us.  And we remember that he feeds us, gives us nourishment and strength by his word and by the Holy Spirit.

So let us pray.  Lord as we eat this bread may we remember your body broken on the cross for us.  Rebuild your body within us that we might be a living example and revelation of your love.  Amen.

As the bread is passed around, this is offered to anyone who trusts in Jesus.  If that is you, take and eat, remembering his death for you.  If you prefer to take a blessing please do that and know God’s great love.

After supper he took the cup, saying ‘this is the new covenant – a new promise, a new agreement – in my blood’.  Again, I imagine the disciples looking at one another, thinking back through their knowledge and experiences with him – what could he mean?

Perhaps they remembered that wedding in Cana, where he took the jars of water for Jewish ritual purification and turned them into wine of joy and abundant blessing.  Perhaps they remembered that he taught that new wine should be put in new wineskins; that he was overcoming the old system and bringing in something new, a new way for people to relate with God.  And perhaps they remembered that a covenant with God was sealed by a sacrifice, by pouring out blood on the altar in the Temple.

Again, we look to the next day, Jesus on the cross, a spear thrust into his side so that blood and water poured out.  The blood that confirms the love of God for each and every one of us, that signs the covenant promise of grace and enables us to be called his children.

Lord, thank you for the wine that reminds us of your abundant blessing; and for Jesus’ blood that seals the covenant promising your love and grace to those who trust in him.  As this wine is poured out for us we remember his blood poured out; and we remember too the pouring out of your Holy Spirit to bless and strengthen each one of us in our walk with you.

As we take the wine we hold on to the cup and drink together, remembering that his covenant was made with a community, not just an individual.  He calls us together as his church by virtue of his love for us and our love for him.  Let us drink and remember his promise to us.

The Bible tells us, as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim Jesus’ death until he comes.  It reminds us of that promise that he will return, that death is not the end, as we celebrate this morning.  The God who was there at the beginning, who came to earth as a man, lived, suffered and died, rose again and is alive today.  And he will return.



Reading, continuing our story in Mark from Friday: Mark 16:1-8

Easter egg hunt – searching for Jesus


We had our bereavement service two weeks ago.  Many people came who wanted to remember people who had died.  I would hazard a guess that most of those people had very little to do with the body of their loved one after they had gone.  In my experience, in our culture at least the funeral directors take them away and do whatever they do to make them neat and tidy, and short of visiting the funeral home we don’t see any more than the coffin.

That wasn’t the way of things in Jesus’ day (and isn’t in many cultures today).  The friends and family of the dead person would care for their body until its burial, including covering it in oil to delay decomposition and mask the smell of decay.

In Jesus’ case, it was late before the bodies of the crucified men were taken down from the crosses.  Joseph of Arimathea had asked to be allowed to take Jesus’ body and put it in his own tomb.  He had wrapped it in linen cloths but had not had time for the full burial preparations; the next day was the Sabbath and nothing could be done.

As soon as they were able, though, these three women, Mary, Mary and Salome, who Mark tells us had followed him in Galilee and cared for his needs there, took their anointing oils to put on his body where he was laid.

There was one problem.  There was going to be a huge great stone in front of the tomb!  As they walked along, they realised someone was going to have to move it.  Perhaps they should have asked the men to come along, after all.  But this was women’s work!  And, you know, the men hadn’t been exactly useful the last couple of days…  I mean, everyone knew they’d run away when Jesus was arrested, and Peter had denied having anything to do with him.  Some of them had been around when he was crucified, but not really close enough to be identified as his disciples (although he had spoken to John).  Would they really want to risk it now?

Never mind, something would come up.  Rumour had it there were guards at the tomb. Maybe they would help.

As they were talking about these things, there they were.  They rounded the corner and… the tomb was open!

They stopped.  They looked at each other.  Was this the right place?  They had followed the men two nights ago as Joseph of Arimathea had taken Jesus’ body and laid him there.  Surely they were in the right spot.  Yes, this tree was where they had stood, well back and out of the way, as the men rolled that huge stone over the entrance in the first place.  They would go closer – if anyone was around, maybe they would know what had happened.  If they had by some chance gone to the wrong place, anyone in the area would be sure to point out where the real one actually was.

As they got to the cave entrance, they knew they were right.  What had happened then?  Grave robbers?  But Jesus had nothing to steal!  They went inside.  No Jesus.  No body – just the grave clothes.  Well, if someone had wanted to steal they would have taken the cloth and left the body, not the other way around!

Imagine their confusion.  And their distress!  Not only had their beloved Rabbi been brutally killed but they couldn’t even care for his body properly.  What would they do now?

Maybe they felt angry, too.  I mean, someone has obviously moved him.  The men wouldn’t have – it has been Sabbath, and where would they have taken him to?  No one else of their acquaintance was going to have a tomb as nice as this one!  And if they were going to do that surely they would have told the women where to go.  (As it turned out, the disciples later had a lot of persecution for saying they hadn’t moved the body, but that’s another story).  So would the Romans, or the Pharisees have done it?  What would they have got out of it though?  Were they just messing with Jesus’ followers, enjoying the cruelty of denying Jesus the final dignity of being properly cared for in his death?

All these thoughts went through their grief-stricken minds that morning.  They stood dumbstruck staring at the empty bench in the tomb, not even talking to one another.  It felt like ages, but was probably just a few seconds, before they heard a slight noise behind them.  They spun around – a man was sitting on the other side of the tomb!  It wasn’t Jesus.  It was a young man, in a white robe, not like the cloth of Jesus’ burial, or the clothes of the Pharisees, or the working garb of a gardener.  The Romans then!  That must be it!  But why?  And what was he going to do to them?

“Don’t be alarmed.” – Helpful.

“You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified.” – We’re in the right place then.  What has he done with him?

“He has risen!  He is not here.  See the place where they laid him.” – Well, yeah, we can see he’s not here.  What does this man mean he has risen?  Is he for real?  Why have they stolen him away and tell us that he is risen?

“Go and tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee.  There you will see him, just as he told you.’”  – you expect us to tell the men that?  I get it!  This man is going to let us all start saying Jesus has come back to life, then the Romans are going to produce his body and discredit us and everything he has done.  We won’t just be the group that followed the guy who was crucified, we’ll be the gullible fools or the lying schemers, and everything Jesus did when he was alive will mean nothing.

What do we do then?

And they ran.  Grieving, afraid, alone.

Not exactly the triumphant end of the story we expect, is it?

Well, clearly they did tell someone eventually, otherwise we wouldn’t have the story.  And Matthew fills in the gap for us.  As they left, they met with Jesus himself.  Not a body in a tomb, but a real, live person.  A person who could be touched and whose feet they could clasp and who accepted their worship – the Risen Lord.  Not put in the wrong place, not stolen by grave-robbers, not moved by the Romans, but alive and walking and meeting with his followers.

And then the women rejoiced.  Then they went and told his disciples, and Peter – the only one to be named, the one who just might have thought he’d gone too far with his denial and lost all hope.  And no, surprise surprise the men didn’t believe them.  Who’s going to trust a fantastic message brought to you by women?  Everyone knows they are too emotional, too easily conned.

Until the men, too, met with Jesus.

You see, it is hard to believe that someone you last saw dead, crucified, blood running down his head and hands and side, has just come back to life.  However much you would like to believe it.  However special you thought he was, however many miracles he had done in his life, his death must have been the end of all that.  Until you meet him for yourself.

We smile condescendingly at Doubting Thomas, the disciple who said “unless I see the nail marks in his hands and feet, the wound on his side, I will not believe.”  But the other disciples were just the same.  And Jesus met Thomas, and showed him his hands, and feet, and side, just as he said.  “Stop doubting and believe.”  And Thomas confessed, “My Lord and my God!”

Because the Bible tells us that lots of people did meet with Jesus after he rose.  Disciples, 500 of them at one point.  Paul, the church’s enemy, intent on persecuting his followers.  And men and women throughout the centuries, through the power of the Holy Spirit.  We might not see him as the disciples did, but we can know he is with us, we can know he lives within us and gives us strength and hope, even in those times of deepest despair and grief.  And he turns our lives around, makes us a new creation, makes us whole, as we trust in him.

And, as we heard in our service of remembrance a couple of weeks ago, one day Jesus will return, and he will bring with him those who have died trusting in him.  It may not be tomorrow, or next week, or next month; we may not see them until we die ourselves, but we know that just as he was raised from death so one day will we all be raised, because by his resurrection he has defeated death for all eternity.  So let us sing together, (not our final hymn!)


Who are you in this story today?  What is your next step?  Have you met with Jesus?  Then have confidence to go and tell others he is alive!  Have you heard the story from others?  Ask him to meet with you personally.  Have you been refusing to believe, or to commit to him?  I challenge you today to repent, believe, be baptised into new life with him.

Lord God, we worship you, who have the power over life and death, Almighty, all-knowing, all-loving.  You revealed yourself to us through your Son Jesus, in a life of love, a death of sacrifice and an impossible resurrection.  Continue to reveal yourself today through your Holy Spirit, enable us to meet with you, our risen and living Lord; transform our lives into what they were always meant to be and grant us adoption as your children.  We know that we cannot be good enough to earn your love but that because of your love you sent your Son to make a way for us to come close to you; so bring us close to you as we trust in him today, and send us out to share the good news that you are alive, you reign and you care for each one of us.