21 April 2019 – Easter Day – 8.00am – Holy Communion – Revd Michael Beesley
Isaiah 65 vv.17-25: The prophet describes his vision of God’s heaven for the people of Jerusalem, with everyone sharing a healthy, peaceful and fulfilled family and working life, and animals of all kinds living well together.
Acts 10 vv.34-43: St Peter declares that he witnessed Jesus’ amazing life of teaching and healing, saw how He was crucified by the authorities; and how God raised Him from death. Peter said he was among the chosen witnesses who shared a meal with Jesus in his new life beyond death and were commissioned by Him to spread the Good News of God’s love and forgiveness.
St Luke 24 vv.1-12 St Luke recounts how Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary, the mother of James, and other women went to honour Jesus’ body in the tomb, but found it empty. They were confronted by men in dazzling appearance who reminded them that Jesus had told them He would be raised from death after three days. Peter also went to the tomb and found it empty.
As once again we celebrate this Easter Jesus’ resurrection and risen life, we reflect on the mind-blowing impact these massive, life-changing events had on those who witnessed them as they happened; and we pray that we will know the Risen Jesus alongside us in our life. .
These unique and extraordinary events of Jesus rising from death are totally beyond our comprehension. This, of course, is understandable because they were made possible only through the power of our Almighty Creator, who is completely beyond our human minds to comprehend.
In his prophecy, Isaiah records these words from God (Chapter 55, vv.8 & 9): “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways; and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
In our first reading, we heard Isaiah’s vision of God’s heaven for the people of Jerusalem. It is far removed from any human-made society.
In this vision, everyone is living a healthy, peaceful and fulfilled family and working life. Even the animals which are usually killing or being killed by each other are living in harmony. “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together…. They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain”.
Yes, this vision is totally beyond our human ability to bring about or even to understand how God could make it happen! It is a divine vision of heaven!
Then we come to St Peter’s eye-witness witness statement in the Acts of the Apostles.
He tells not only how he was alongside Jesus when He was teaching and healing, but how he also saw Jesus’ death on the cross, and three days later witnessed His resurrection. Then, how he spent time with Jesus and shared a meal with Him when He was living in His new life beyond His dying.
Peter may not have been able to comprehend how this had happened, but he was prepared to risk his life to declare publicly that Jesus was alive and alongside him in His risen life.
As we know, Peter had to pay the ultimate price for his faith. He was executed by the Romans for refusing to stop declaring his unshakeable faith in his Risen Lord and spreading the Good News of God’s love and forgiveness that Jesus had come to bring to the world.
In the wonderful piece we heard from St Luke’s Gospel, he tells us how the grieving group of Jesus’ women friends went to His tomb to pay their respects by anointing His body with spices.
They were surprised to find that the stone covering the entrance had been rolled away, and then they were startled and terrified when they were confronted by two men in dazzling appearance who told them Jesus has been raised from the dead just as He said He would be.
The women are overwhelmed. They go back to tell Jesus’s closest disciples this amazing news; but they think it’s all an illusion borne of grief.
But Peter goes to the tomb to check it out for himself. He too finds the tomb empty; and now he just knows his Lord is alive in a totally new way, as he discovered for himself and told us in the witness statement we heard in The Acts of the Apostles. Peter knows that from now on wherever he goes and whatever he is doing, Jesus will always be alongside him.
This is the joy of Easter: that wherever we are in life, whatever we are doing, and whatever is happening to us, good or bad, the Risen Jesus is alongside us, as He was with Peter, Paul and His other disciples, and He’s continued to be with those of faith down the centuries and today.
St Matthew recalls Jesus’ final parting words to his disciples before he was taken fully into the dimension of heaven, “Remember, I am with you always to the end of time”. (St Matthew 28 v.20)
Jesus is always alongside us with His love and His challenge to follow His ways of love, service and forgiveness, and to be welcomed by Him into heaven beyond our dying, just as He was.
One of the most wonderful things about being a Christian is this knowing we have Jesus’ divine presence alongside us, sharing our happiness when life is going well and understanding and caring for us when we face suffering and distress of any kind.
So, this Easter, let’s rejoice and thank God that these amazing events of Jesus’ resurrection, and the profound effect it had on those who witnessed it, reassure us that we are always held firmly in God’s powerful and loving hands, as Jesus was throughout all His life on earth and into His life beyond.
So, in a minute of silence, I invite you to sense the Risen Jesus sitting alongside you now….. As you do so, you can say whatever you want to say to Him, and be open to whatever He wants to say to you; or just sit together in the silence grateful that His eternal love is enfolding you.
(One minute silence)
Finally, let’s give thanks and rejoice with the second verse of William Dix’s hymn, “Alleluia! Sing to Jesus!”
Alleluia! Not as orphans
are we left in sorrow now:
Alleluia! He is near us;
faith believes, but knows not how.
Though the cloud from sight received him
whom the angels now adore,
shall our hearts forget his promise,
'I am with you ever more'? Amen.
William Dix (1837-1898)