Church Sunday Worship

Easter Sunday - 17th April

Readings – Acts 10:34-43, Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24, John 20:1-18,

Luke 24:1-12

I’m writing this with most of Holy Week still to come so am reminded that during this Holy Week we shall have read, sung and enacted the details of Jesus’ arrest, trial and death. His death is imprinted on us. So when we come to Easter and hear the gospel telling us that Jesus is not among the dead, our minds reel. How can this be? Like the disciples 2000 years ago we have more experience with death than with resurrection. Our experience of death forms us. We know death to be like a closed door that separates us from those who have died; resurrection is not part of our usual experience, nor was it part of the disciples’ lives before Jesus. Like the disciples we too, in our own way, must consider and decide whether this news is just an idle tale.

In the reading from Acts we hear Peter giving a thumbnail sketch of Jesus’ ministry and death to the Gentile Christian Cornelius and those assembled in his home. But, Peter says “God raised him on the third day.” And just as there were witnesses to Jesus’ healings and to his crucifixion so there were witnesses “who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.”

Jesus’ resurrection was central to what the earliest church taught about him. Because God had raised Jesus from death, we can know that God had acted and was still acting through Jesus to bring healing and reconciliation to believers. Witnesses to the resurrection, then, were very important. When people questioned or doubted what they had been told, witnesses could affirm the truth of what had happened. Even though Peter is reported to have had initial doubts about Jesus’ resurrection [Luke 24:11-12] there is no sense in Acts that Peter was ever among those who considered resurrection to be an idle tale.

In all four gospels, the experience of disciples precedes the development of theological understanding. Women go to the tomb in the early morning and discover the stone rolled away. In John’s gospel after Mary Magdalene tells what has happened, Peter and another unnamed disciple run to the tomb and discover the truth of Mary’s account “Although as yet they did not understand.” they believe. They believe that Jesus has been raised from the dead before they understand why and before they have seen the risen Jesus.

Jesus first appears to Mary, who doesn’t know what to believe or understand. She came to the tomb seeking Jesus’ body but meets one who calls her by name and charges her with the responsibility to tell the others. Mary is the first witness to the resurrection.

In Luke’s account, Mary comes to the tomb with several other women. Upon seeing the stone rolled away, they enter to find the tomb empty. They don’t understand until “two men in dazzling clothes” appear, terrifying them and telling them “He is risen.” When the women tell the others what they have experienced the disciples call it an idle tale.” It will take more than the witness of the women to convince them.

Yet, convinced they are, but that must wait until next week when Jesus appears to the disciples.


A hymn for the week – Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia! [R&S 232]