Thursday 14 April 2022



This week-end is a momentum one in the Church calendar, as we reflect  on the events which took place on the first Easter period.

Jesus was having the Last Supper with his Apostles a few hours before he would be betrayed and taken away to be put on a trial, and then taken to the Cross.  None of this would have been a surprise to him, it was part of the divine plan which had been foretold.  The Chief Priests and Scribes were ready to kill him on any pretext.

Then one of his own Apostles betrayed him.  The lengths people will go to in religion and yet be without sincerity, is far greater than is often realised.  Judas betrayed for cash.

The death of our Lord was at Passover time, the most revered festival to Jews as they remember how God spared his people,  and as a lamb had been sacrificed to Israel in Egypt, Jesus would be a sacrifice to sinners, and be the atonement for our transgressions.  The feast would last a week in April, and the Passover meal held on the first day commemorating the deliverance from Egyptian slavery.

It is estimated there would be  two million people in the city, and Jesus knew what he had to do. He took his Apostles to an upper room, and used the ancient symbols of  bread and wine to give them a whole new meaning.  He foretold them of hi spending departure from them.

In all our lives there are things which have a special significance to us alone, as they cause us to remember someone precious to us, or an occasion bringing a meaning beyond ourselves. The bread represented the body of Jesus, and the wine represents the blood he would shed on the Cross,


Jesus was arrested and taken out of Jerusalem, stripped of his clothes, lashed 39 times with a leather belt studded with strips of metal, causing him to be torn horribly.  A crown of thorns was put on his head which cut his brow, and he was spat upon.  He was then taken to the Roman governor Pilate by the Priests, who demanded that he be sentenced to death.

Pilate was anxious to release Jesus if he could, as he had twice examined Jesus and could find no wrong.  He tried to find a way to release Jesus to avoid having to crucify him, but the priests were determined to have Jesus dead.

Pilate went before the crowd and wanted to persuade them to accept the release of Jesus, but they shouted for one of their own criminals to be free instead, so Jesus was handed over to the Roman soldiers.

He was marched through the city and made to carry his own Cross, but due to his physical condition he broke down, and a visitor in the crowd, Simon of Cyrene, took up ,the Cross and carried it to Calvary, a place outside the city  which was called the skull because it was so shaped, where two highways converged upon Jerusalem.

Jesus was put on the Cross, and nails were hammered into his feet and hands, and Mary his mother had to watch this terrible scene.  Jesus could have avoided this death, but he knew his purpose set by God, was to be the way for the sins of all people could be forgiven and made righteous before God, if they accepted Jesus as their Saviour.

 Jesus was mocked by an angry crowd as he hung from the Cross, one thief each side of him. One thief asked Jesus why if he could save others he couldn’t save himself.  The other thief rebuked his fellow thief saying, they deserved to die, but Jesus had done no wrong. He turned to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom’.  Jesus gave him a promise that he would be with Jesus in paradise.

Paradise comes from a Persian word meaning a walled garden, and when a Persian king wanted to bestow a personal honour on a subject, he made him a companion of the garden, which meant he could walk with the king in the garden. Jesus was promising the thief a place in the garden of heaven, where he could be with Jesus.

Crucifixion was the Roman way of capital punishment in which the victim was nailed to the Cross and left to die. It took time to die, perhaps days, so the victim was in acute agony until death came.

This all happened on Friday, the day of preparation,the day before the Sabbath. As evening approached,  Joseph of Arimathea took a risk and went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. (Joseph was an honoured member of the high council, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come.)  

Pilate couldn’t believe that Jesus was already dead, so he called for the Roman officer and asked if he had died yet.  The officer confirmed that Jesus was dead, so Pilate told Joseph he could have the body.  Joseph bought a long sheet of linen cloth. Then he took Jesus’ body down from the cross, wrapped it in the cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone in front of the entrance.  Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where Jesus’ body was laid.

The principal character in our Gospel passage is a woman named Mary Magdalene, who loved Jesus dearly.  Mary came from the village of Magdala on the Sea of Galilee, and was one of a group of women who became followers of Jesus, offering financial support and general help.  Jesus had healed her from demonic problems and she never forgot that.

Early on the Sunday morning Mary went to the tomb, and saw the stone had been rolled away and the body of Jesus had gone.  She ran to tell Peter and John.  According to the other gospel accounts, other women besides Mary went to the tomb early that morning.

It is sometimes claimed that the Bible accounts cannot be true because of variations in the gospels; that in fact only offers credibility.  If everyone here this morning was given a piece of paper, and told to go home and write an account of what happened from the beginning of the service until the time you left, I guarantee when you later compared all the writings, no two would be the same, yet no one could doubt you were here.  Any lawyer will confirm that when two witnesses offer an identical statement, there is an immediate suspicion they have colluded. We all have our own way of expressing something we have witnessed.

 John ran to the tomb, and John being the younger got their first, but he let Peter enter the tomb, being the stronger character. 

We notice here two believers, one gentle and reserved as John, whilst Peter was always more impulsive and decisive, each revealing their devotion in different ways.  There is room for all characters in the Church. 

Peter and John left the scene but Mary stayed; she loved Jesus when He was alive, and then was too grieved to leave.  Mary was the last person to stay with Jesus at the Cross, and first to go to His tomb.  This was a testimony to her loyalty for none of the men stayed.  She remained sobbing, but she was rewarded when she became the first person to meet the risen Lord. We see that those who are loyal to Christ are honoured by Him, and those who are most true will have most communion with Him

As she wept she saw two angels in white, and they asked why she was weeping.  She said it was because they had taken away the Lord, and she did not know where they had laid him. She then turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus asked her, why she was weeping and who was she looking for. Supposing him to be the gardener, she told him she was looking for the Lord and wanted to find his body so she could take it away. Jesus the identified Himself and told her to go and tell His disciples, so making her to become the first Christian witness. 

 In the evening of that first Sunday, the Apostles were gathered together in a locked room. The Apostles were in the Upper Room terrified, in fear for their lives. This was because rumours had been spread around Jerusalem that they must have stolen the body, and they feared the authorities might take action against them.
The doors were firmly shut yet Jesus appeared in the room to their amazement, but also joy. This suggests that His body was a supernatural body, and so if we are to be like Him in heaven, our future bodies will also be supernatural. Jesus was giving a demonstration in confirmation He was alive. This was no animation of a corpse; it was Jesus in a new form of being which could pass through doors.

You can imagine the reaction of the Apostles, who must have thought they were hallucinating, for most people do at some time have visions, especially if you are longing for someone whom you never expected to see. The Apostles were delighted to see the Lord however.

Then Jesus gave them command saying, just as God had sent Him He was now sending them out to preach the gospel in His name. Jesus when parting, He again said ‘peace be with you’ as a form of good-bye, and then breathed on them. He now tells the Apostles as God had given Him the Holy Spirit, He (Jesus) was giving them the power of the Holy Spirit, to go out and tell the world about His offer of eternal salvation for all who accepted and believed in Him. If anyone did not, they were condemned eternally.

Jesus has passed on this mission to the Church all down the ages to go out and speak for His message, so that when people hear that message from us, they are indirectly hearing the words of our Lord.

At this first meeting of Jesus with the Apostles, Thomas was not present but he was told by the other Apostles what had taken place, and Thomas being known for his scepticism, refused to believe them. He stated he would never believe they had seen Jesus, unless he placed his hand and finger in the wounds.
Thomas was just an ordinary fellow who didn’t know the full story, and wanted proof. A week later however he is back with them in the Upper Room when Jesus again appears, and Thomas realises his lack of faith and makes the confession with the deeply committed words, ‘my Lord and my God’. AND he never did put his hand or finger near Jesus’ wounds.

Jesus then said words which resonate powerfully today. ‘Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed.’
We must not criticise Thomas, it must have been hard to believe that someone so cruelly put to death should appear alive, it was a unique act in all history and people do have imaginary visions.

Jesus wanted to show the Apostles, and by extension to Christians through the ages, that His was a tangible bodily resurrection, and there was much evidence to prove so. The resurrection has been attested to by witnesses both inside and out of the Church. It has never been doubted there was an empty tomb, so where did the body go. Would men risk their lives without confidence and personal experience?

Our Lord then commissioned them to go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey everything he had commanded, and gave them the power to proclaim absolution to those worthy, and to refuse those who were not. There is nowhere in the Bible however where priestly absolution is authorised.

This is what the church of Jesus Christ is fundamentally and essentially here for; preaching the gospel Jesus left us, abandoning all fancy ideas of pleasing society. We don’t go saying the Bible states, but I have a better idea, we say exactly what Jesus said, so that indirectly what we say is Jesus speaking.
God wants us to be the hands feet and voice of Jesus

 If Easter had not happened; if Jesus had not been raised from the dead, then we have no faith.  Christianity rises and falls on the resurrection of Jesus.  This has been proclaimed down the ages and if not true, the Bible writers would have lied and millions of people would have made great sacrifices in the cause of the faith in vain.  Why would educated men like Paul, and down to earth fishermen, lie when they had nothing to gain by doing so?

     If Jesus had not been raised there would be no forgiveness, we would have no future, but the evidence is overwhelming in favour.  First century witnesses and documents tell.  We have testimony from men present at that time that the resurrection of Jesus was real, objective and physical.  This is what the Church has always believed in over two thousand years of Christian witness that has sustained the hearts of millions.

The Apostles Creed does not say I believe in the forgiveness of sins and the spiritual resurrection of Jesus, it says I believe in the resurrection of the body. The physical, tangible body, and when liberals challenge this, they do so in spite of all the evidence.

 After the resurrection we find the Apostles, who had been timid and frightened men, now ready to go preaching openly and fearlessly, and suffering violently for doing so.  Men do not invent stories to be put in prison and get beaten up, or hung on a cross like Peter, or stoned to death like Stephen.        

Let us always remember that Jesus never changes, He is the same yesterday to today for ever, and will take care of all who believe and put their trust in Him.

As I reflect on that first Easter season, it makes me realise how badly the Church has let God (and Jesus) down. We have Church leaders, Ministers, and members, not accepting the accounts of what took place, challenging the resurrection story, which one eminent lawyer has stated that the evidence was so strong, any jury would believe.

Jesus said, go and preach ALL I have commanded, and we have the teaching from his Apostles in the New Testament as Jesus himself gave. Whilst it is reasonable for us to worship in different ways according to denominational services, there should be no difference in basic doctrine—yet there is.

The first Christian Church, which followed Peter’s Pentecost sermon, was based on Apostolic teaching, accompanied by praise to God. No fancy clothing, no man made ritual, no services to celebrate and deviate from God’s order of creation, marriage and baptism. No Archbishop to excuse people for not accepting the resurrection.  I wonder why some Churches have a bible, they never use or believe it.

How God must weep when he sees the way the Churches have responded to the cruel death Jesus endured- on our behalf.

May God bless his Holy Word to us, and may we joyfully accept it.

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