So this is what I saw on Easter Sunday morning at around 7am, on top of a hill. By this stage I’d been rained on, wanted to go home, woken up too early (yes, I actually managed to defeat the smartness of my smartphone and mess up the alarm time… so I was woken an hour early for sunrise), got to the top of the hill and been surprised to find that others were also daft enough to join me… and then the rain stopped, the wind eased, we prayed and sang and got this view…
(as a friend said to me- how very appropriately Christian).
It was a very surprising and very good way to start the day. A few hours later I spoke in church about Luke’s account of the resurrection, and with great thanks to Scripture Union’s resources for all-age worship, this is a rough outline of what was said- you can hear it on audio at our website here
Have any of you ever had a really good surprise- how did it make you feel? Sometimes we love a surprise, at other times not so much. On the third day after Jesus had been crucified his friends didn’t want any surprises. They thought Jesus was dead- they had seen him arrested, tried, sentenced and crucified- if you were here on Friday we showed some scenes from the film Jesus of Nazareth as part of our time of prayer… and we, with them, stopped at the point of his death… at that point there hadn’t been a surprise- no one had rushed through the crowd and rescued him, the thunder and darkness hadn’t turned into a host of angels or a voice from the sky.
But now, on the third day, there was a surprise in store- there was more than one… there were 5 (hold up hand)
The stone- it should have been blocking the door, but was it? ‘No!’ The first surprise was that the tomb was open- the large stone (make fist) that had blocked the entrance was gone- this shouldn’t happen, large stones don’t just roll themselves away- this would have taken several people… how had it happened?
The body- dead bodies stay where they are put- inside a grave. They can’t move on their own. Was the body in the grave? ‘No!’ The second surprise was that the body was gone(open hand to make empty palm)- this was where Jesus had been carried to, had been wrapped and laid… but his body was not here, and the women didn’t know what had happened.
The two angels- Angels don’t normally hang around places waiting for people. Were there angels at the tomb? ‘Yes!’ The third surprise was that when the women went looking for Jesus’ body, instead they found 2 angels (hold up two fingers…). Angels were understood to be servants of God, messengers etc… if an angel appeared, something was up, if more than one, it was extremely significant, and a meeting with an angel was something out of the ordinary- if the open tomb and the missing body were confusing, this was something else!
The message- when an angel gives you a message, its usually important- was this message important? ‘Yes!’ And when you get an important message you need to listen to it (hand to ear)- Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, he is risen! Jesus had told his followers what was going to happen, but they- as we probably would, understood him to be using picture language ‘dead’ meaning some clever thing, and ‘rise to new life’ meaning well, something other than ‘rising to new life’- which could only happen after his death…
The burial clothes- when someone is buried, not only do they stay put, but they don’t change their outfit… Were there any burial clothes left behind in the tomb? ‘Yes!’ If the body had been taken, by anyone, taking off the burial cloths would have been a slow, fairly unpleasant job… why do it? And yet, there the bandages (wrap bandage around hand) were.
And those five surprises pointed towards the biggest surprise yet for the followers of Jesus- Jesus is alive… there are some surprises which make us shout, there are others which may take time to sink in- in Luke’s account each of the people are left wondering what this means… Over the next few weeks we’ll be considering how their reactions changed and how others reacted to the news that Jesus was alive, but today, for us, in our scientific world, with our busy, pressurised lives, lets just pause to wonder again at this- what this means for me, for my community, for the world…
Have a great week, massive Easter blessings.