Thursday, 29 April 2010


Holy Communion Thursday 29 April 2010

Reading Acts 13: 13 – 25

From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem. From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down. After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the synagogue rulers sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak.”

Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Men of Israel and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me! The God of the people of Israel chose our fathers; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt, with mighty power he led them out of that country, he endured their conduct for about forty years in the desert, he overthrew seven nations in Canaan and gave their land to his people as their inheritance. All this took about 450 years.

“After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled for forty years. After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’

“From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Saviour Jesus, as he promised. Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. As John was completing his work, he said: ‘Who do you think I am? I am not that one. No, but he is coming after me, whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’

Gospel John 13: 16 – 20

Jesus Predicts His Betrayal

16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

18"I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfil the scripture: 'He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.'

19"I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He. 20I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me."

21After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, "I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me."


Last 2 weeks, Acts 5, 8 now 13. Philip and Ethiopian reading Isaiah. Christological exegesis of Isaiah 53 – suffering servant – Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth.

Followed by conversion of Saul – preaching in Damascus – Jews plot to kill Saul and his escape by night.

Back to Peter. Raises Tabitha, a believer in Joppa, from apparent death. Peter sent for by centurion Cornelius – had vision of unclean animals lowered in large sheet – mission to Gentiles starts – gift of Holy Spirit poured out on Jews and Gentiles alike. Peter reports back to church in Jerusalem what has happened.

James brother of John is killed, and Peter imprisoned. Peter miraculously freed. Barnabas and Saul commissioned by the church and are sent out on mission, starting in Cyprus. We catch up with them in Antioch. Saul renamed Paul thereafter – preached in synagogue. Long sermon about OT and how events and prophecy foretold coming of Jesus. Initially Paul invited back, but driven out from the region.

Gospel from John 13 also contains prophecy. Seems obscure, but starts with reference to foot washing. Now that you know these things, you will be blest if you do them.

Then Jesus changes subject. Predicts his own death. Treason of Judas preoccupies John: He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me... [quotation from Psalms] I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.

Both Acts and John passages very dark in a way – persecution, betrayal, death – yet in midst of suffering there is hope – mission of Paul and growth of church against background of persecution – betrayal and death of Jesus leads to our redemption and salvation.

Problem of suffering is a perennial one. Why does suffering seem to be essential part of human condition? Does God cause us to suffer? What is the point of it all? It’s clear we come closer to God through suffering. Delve deeper into ourselves when we are in pain. Maybe come out of a time of suffering with a renewed vision of what we are.

If Jesus himself no stranger to suffering why should we be? His history, and that of early church is filled with suffering, but although it is a mystery to us, it is what is beyond it that is the key, and often the only comfort when we are in the midst of it.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Easter 4 – Sunday 25 April

Who are we?

Reading Revelation 7.9-17

I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no-one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”
All the angels were standing round the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, saying:

Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honour
and power and strength
be to our God forever and ever.

Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes – who are they, and where did they come from?”

I answered, “Sir, you know.”

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore,

“they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.
Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat upon them,
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd;
he will lead them to springs of living water.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Gospel John 10.22-30

The time came for the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. The Jews gathered round him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no-one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no-one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”


Revelation series Year C – first week Who is God? – Alpha and Omega – before time began and after it ends – same as OT

Last week – Who is Jesus? – God incarnate – worthy of all praise – Lamb who was sacrificed – abundant provider – judge of all things

Today’s gospel links the two – Feast of Dedication – everyone had been asking who Jesus was? – now they wanted definitive answer.

Disciples called him Rabbi, Messiah
Nicodemus – teacher who has come from God
Nathaniel – Son of God – King of Israel
Woman at well – prophet – rest of village Saviour of the World
Authorities dismiss him as Jesus son of Joseph whose father and mother we know or suggest demon possessed
Crowds conflict – sometimes good man or deceiver or Messiah

Debate continues to this way. We are continually asked same question as Peter – who do you say I am? IN modern secular world – understanding of who Jesus is no longer taken for granted – is God of Christians and of Jews same God as God of Islam? – how does Jesus figure in all that? – we are called upon to witness to what we believe is truth – but as Pilate observed What is Truth?

John the Evangelist paints his own picture – If you are the Christ, tell us plainly the Jews ask. Jesus replies “I have told you but you would not believe.” Why? Because you have to be of his sheep to hear his voice. Those who demand an answer were not of his sheep. Those in the fold are given to Jesus by the Father – they hear his voice – they will not perish but are given eternal life.

To those in the sheep fold, Jesus adds: I and the Father are One. Is this not the real answer to the question about the One God posed by Islam?

To those outside the fold, Jesus gave another answer. Look at what I do. See my works. Listen to m y words. Observe the signs and miracles. They can only be done in the Father’s name. If nothing else, what I do speaks for me.

Is this something we can say, in our daily witness to the Truth? Whatever you think of my words, if they don’t speak to your heart then observe my deeds. They way I live. My aim always and increasingly to do as Christ would do. No longer ‘Watch my Lips’ – but watch my life! How do you rate? How do I? Hard isn’t it?

Jesus is the Good Shepherd and we are his sheep . In today’s passage from Revelation he is the Lamb who was sacrificed and will become their shepherd. Whose shepherd? Well, ours of course – that is our hope.

Having asked questions Who is God and Who is Jesus this week we focus on – who are we? Passage all about us. John the Seer says:

I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no-one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.

Just before this picture – 6th seal broken. Physical foundations of creation are shaken. Destruction reaches such a pitch that all people hide. Suffering and destruction overwhelming. Church on earth joins with God’s army in his battle with the powers of evil. It is the church militant here on earth as BCP says .

Fight that will be won. God will have the victory. There will be much tribulation – but the vast number of people from every race, colour and creed is the church triumphant – this is the vision given to John the Seer as an interlude amidst all the destruction.

To that number – so big no one can count it – are given white robes. Bizarre picture of washing robes in blood to make them white. Putting on garments in Scripture – sign of status – Prodigal Son – coat of many colours – seamless garment of Christ. White robes a sign of purity – but also status as the elect who have come though persecution and destruction and joined the host of heaven.

In all their troubles, they can trust in God. He pitches his tent over them. Protects from sun and wind. Gives hospitality. Will shelter them. Picture of comfort in a dry, arid land translated to a picture of paradise.

Final verse: “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” With this promise ringing in their ears, the early church faces trial and persecution and martyrdom. The 7th seal is opened, signalling next cycle of end-time woes.

And we ask ourselves same question as that posed to the early believers. Who is able to stand? Answer is: Those whom the Lamb has washed. With those words of encouragement, this persecuted minority—the first-century church—is able to move ahead, because they know where God is taking them.

And today's believers know the same.


Sunday, 18 April 2010

The Revelation of the Lamb

…and a good breakfast by the lake…

Reading Revelation 5.11-14

I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honour and glory and praise!”

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honour and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”
The four living creatures said, “Amen”, and the elders fell down and worshipped.

Gospel John 21.1-19

Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realise that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”

Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”


Last week – continuous run of readings from Revelation – only ones in 3 years. Asked – “Who is God?” Answer was – God is God – Alpha and Omega – one who was and is and is to come – same God as God of OT. God is also in Jesus – the incarnate – resurrected firstborn from the dead.

This week, second reading from Revelation. If last week’s reading asked Who is God? – this week’s asks Who is Jesus? Setting is heaven. We move on from 7 letters to 7 churches. John the Seer looks. Hears song of thousands upon thousands of angels.

What are they singing? Praise to God? Not exactly. They are singing to Jesus, the Lamb of God.
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honour and glory and praise!”

Every creature in heaven and on earth joins the song. Sing to He who sits on throne – and to the Lamb. They are worthy to receive praise and glory and honour and power for ever.

So answer to question Who is Jesus? – he is the Lamb. Lamb implies sacrifice – only he could take scroll and break its seals. Jesus was Lamb that was slaughtered – in what way is he worthy? He is worthy to receive 7 things:

...power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honour and glory and praise.

7 is the number of completeness. It is finished – and there is nothing more for him to accomplish or to receive. And so the 4 living creatures around God’s throne said Amen and the elders fell down and worshipped him.

Amen was all that was left to say, and after Easter we could well concentrate on just giving thanks for all that has been done for us. To say Amen ourselves. To give praise for the one who is the lamb, the resurrected Lord.

As a result of the empty tomb, everything changes for his disciples. But they don’t quite yet understand what to do. So they fall back on past experience, and of course need to earn some money. Go fishing. Led by Peter.

The expedition is a failure. Catch nothing. In morning, see Jesus on shore. Another series of lessons to be learned:

1. Abundance – after catching nothing using own skills – 153 fish. Like 150 gallons wine at Cana. Feeding of 5,000.

2. Provision – breakfast is ready – already fish and bread on the fire – last supper turns into last breakfast – God’s abundant provision

3. Forgiveness – Peter denied Jesus 3 times – now is asked “Peter, do you love me?” – 3 times. Feed my lambs – take care of my sheep – follow me! So Jesus calls Peter to love him, but to love others too.

4. Sacrifice – but this love will lead to sacrifice – Peter will be called upon to give up his life. Someone will have to dress him and lead him where he does not want to go. This represents Peter’s execution – through which Peter would himself glorify God.

So Peter, like his master who is the Lamb who was slain, glorifies God by his sacrifice. No one has greater love than this, that he lay down his life for his friends (15:13). Who are our friends? Jesus says:

14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because servants do not know their master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other. (John 15)

So we come full circle. Command to Peter (and us) – feed my lambs – follow me – be prepared for sacrifice to glorify God. And God is glorified in John the Seer’s vision of heaven:

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honour and glory and power,
forever and ever!”
The four living creatures said, “Amen”, and the elders fell down and worshipped.

And in these days after Lent, Holy Week and Easter, we echo the praise and glory for our redemption, by adding our own Amen.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Persecuted Christians

Reading Acts 5

27 The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 "We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name," he said. "Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood."

29 Peter and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than human beings! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Saviour that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him."

33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death.

Gospel John 3

31 The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33 The person who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on them.


Last week, Peter speaks in Solomon’s portico after healing man disabled from birth. Peter and John then arrested by Council of High Priest. Asked by what power or in whose name they have been acting?

Peter, having so recently shrunk away and denied Jesus three times, is now bold. He criticises the leaders of the Temple for their part in Jesus’s arrest and crucifixion. Temple leaders see they are uneducated men and are amazed by the way they speak. No point in debating. Man who had been healed stands alongside them. Nothing much they can do, except warn them to stop preaching in name of Jesus and let them go.

After their release, all the believers meet together and pray for boldness. Share all possessions. Everything they own held in common. No one was needy among them – both those who owned property sold it and gave it to the apostles for use in the church.

This is the golden age of the early church, when everything is hopeful, many people are healed, and everyone behaves as if Jesus were about to return imminently. Like the communist ideal, it does not last long.

Ananias and Sapphira cheat, and they pay a dreadful price for their deception. Apostles arrested and thrown into prison, but miraculously escape. There are still some of the religious leaders prepared to stand up for them, but not for much longer. A lot of the rest of Acts is about persecution. Even so, the church grows and many wonderful things happen.

We carry on reading Acts right through to Pentecost 22 May. If anyone wants to fill in the gaps rather than only hear Thursday’s passages, let me know and I will copy the lectionary. It’s a great story. There’s a lot we can learn from the early church.

We may now be facing increasing persecution as Christians in increasingly secular or politically ‘correct’ nation, where once the rights and privileges of the C of E were not questioned. Congregations are ageing – many average over 70 years old – church may be dying unless we can welcome more families and young people.

What will future bring? Will persecution lead to the church going underground (like disciples after crucifixion) or flourish in adversity (like early church hounded and persecuted to death)? Whatever the truth, the answer is in our own hands.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Who is God?

Second Reading Revelation 1.4-8


To the seven churches in the province of Asia:

Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father – to him be glory and power forever and ever! Amen.

Look, he is coming with the clouds,
and every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him;
and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him.
So shall it be! Amen.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Gospel John 20.19-31

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.


Might seem perverse to ask question ‘Who is God?” If the proverbial Man from Mars arrives tomorrow and asks this question – what would we answer?

On ‘Doubting Thomas Sunday’ – might seem equally perverse to preach on anything other than today’s gospel from John 20.

Continuing theme of expectation – disciples did not have long to wait after burial of Jesus before word of resurrection forced them to confront just this question. Who is God? Thomas was otherwise engaged. What was he doing? His comrades were hiding in Upper Room. Was he braver than they were – risking arrest and crucifixion or hard labour himself? Or was lying low alone? We don’t know.

Anyway, on the evening of the first day of the week, the disciples encountered the risen Jesus. They were overjoyed. He breathed on them God’s Spirit. But did they associate the risen Christ with the one true God?

Thomas famously doubted. He wanted not only eye witness evidence but physical contact too. Thomas was not one to be won over by an apparition. Only Thomas declares Jesus “My Lord – and My God” when he is convinced. This was the greatest blasphemy of all for any Jew – so did he mean what he actually said?

This year we are reading from Lectionary Year C. It’s a 3-year cycle. Only this year do we get a string of readings from Revelation. They start today – Easter 2 – and last until Easter 7. I wonder how many preachers will stick with Thomas, and how many will even mention Revelation?

It would be a shame not to – especially as today’s passage seeks to answer the very question: “Who is God?” After the opening greeting, John the Seer starts with 3 points:

· First - the greeting is from One who was and is and is to come. This tells us God has not changed. The God of OT has not retired.

· Second – greeting is from seven spirits who are before God’s throne. 7 in scripture is the number of completion. John addresses Revelation to the seven churches that are in Asia. To write to 7 is to address all churches. Greeting from 7 spirits around the throne is greeting from all.

· Third – greeting is from “Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.” Jesus has three attributes.

* First – ‘faithful witness.’ Word for witness here in Gk is martyr. A martyr is one who has died. This means Jesus was faithful as a witness even unto death.

* Second – Jesus has been resurrected. He is firstborn from the dead. Those in the Upper Room and the early Christians faced persecution and martyrdom themselves. The knowledge that Jesus himself, the first martyr, was resurrected must have been a great encouragement and comfort to them.

* Third – it is now Jesus who ultimately is ruler over all the kings of the earth.

So in answer to question Who is God? – answer in v8 is God is God. The constant battle in Revelation is between the true God, the God of Israel, the incarnate God who is Jesus, and the false gods of this world.

God is the One “who is and who was and who is to come.” God is, was, and will be the Alpha and the Omega. Alpha, of course, is the first letter of the Greek alphabet. Omega is the last letter. So in answer to our question, God is before the beginning and after the end.

In John’s day, the false gods and kings of the earth over whom Christ will reign included the Roman emperors (who also claimed the title lord and god.) This morning we can ask ourselves who are today’s equivalents? What are our false gods? Who are the powers and rulers of this world that stand in opposition to the one true God? In other words, what are the gods and powers of this world that are attracting people in this day and age, and what does the true God have to say to us about them?

When Thomas declares Jesus is “my Lord and my God” Revelation helps us flesh out what he is actually saying about him. All of those titles – faithful witness; the One who freed us from our sins by his death; ruler over the powers of this world; the one who loves us – all describe for us the risen Christ in all his fullness.

They open up the Almighty to us, just as on TV The Wonders of the Solar System reveal to us what we had only previously observed by looking at the night sky.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood ... to him be glory and power forever and ever! Amen.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

He is Risen

All-Age Holy Communion for Easter Day

Gospel Luke 24

On the Road to Emmaus

13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, "What are you discussing together as you walk along?"

    They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, "Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?"

19 "What things?" he asked.

    "About Jesus of Nazareth," they replied. "He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see."

25 He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over." So he went in to stay with them.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, "It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon." 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.


Last week – Palm Sunday – high drama of triumphal entry. This week high drama of resurrection. For those who come faithfully to church on Sundays – pass from rejoicing to rejoicing and miss events of Passion.

Maundy Thursday – last supper, washing of feet, Christ the suffering servant. Good Friday – trial, betrayal, crucifixion, death of Jesus, burial.

That’s why last week after referring briefly to triumphal entry – what it meant – Messiahship – I took theme of expectation.

Disciples and those who lined road expected military style messiah. That’s what Jewish leaders and Roman governor feared. That’s what condemned Jesus to death.

After trial, crucifixion, death – disciples’ hopes dashed. Jesus’ mission had ended in failure. Expected a manhunt.

I then went on to talk about our expectations of what might have taken place after resurrection. We know the story – but coming afresh to faith would we not expect Jesus would appear in triumph? Show he had survived death? Put it beyond doubt? Compel faith?

What would we expect his first words? “I am risen. Look – it’s me. Now will you believe?”

Not so. Jesus first appeared to Mary. His first words not of triumph. “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Later same day – appeared to minor disciples – road to Emmaus. Don’t even know their names. Cleopas does not appear anywhere else.

First words also a question. “What are you discussing?” Does not compel belief. Is not even recognised physically. Expounds the Scriptures – probably explains prophecy of Isaiah 53:

3 He was despised and rejected by men,
       a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
       Like one from whom men hide their faces
       he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he took up our infirmities
       and carried our sorrows,
       yet we considered him stricken by God,
       smitten by him, and afflicted.

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
       he was crushed for our iniquities;
       the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
       and by his wounds we are healed.

6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
       each of us has turned to his own way;
       and the LORD has laid on him
       the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
       yet he did not open his mouth;
       he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
       and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
       so he did not open his mouth.

God does not compel belief. For most of us, faith is fragile. We don’t often even recognise the Lord. Just flashes of understanding, like Mary’s or when Jesus broke bread at Emmaus.

This is the faith into which we are about to baptize. During our communion, this is when we can recognise the presence of the risen Christ among us. Jesus – the Suffering Servant – Man of Sorrows who was pierced for our sin – whose punishment has brought us peace – and by whose wounds we are healed.

This Jesus often seems ambiguous to us. Asks us questions – “why are you crying?” or “What are you discussing?” His hoped for response from us – on Easter Day in particular – like disciples at Emmaus – “Were not our hearts burning within us? It is true! The Lord has risen.” He has risen indeed. Amen