do you, or don't you?
Notes from our 2020 Easter Sunday Resurrection day service
On this Easter Sunday, I want to pose a couple of questions framed by the words:-
‘Do you, or don’t you?’
‘Do you or don’t you what?’
We are in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic at the present time. A heart rending time, with many people of all ages and backgrounds succumbing to its effects.
The presence of Jesus on earth some 2000 years ago also had a profound effect on society – his presence in the land of Israel at that time disturbed societies functioning, with thousands of people following him around, with people having their lives turned upside down by him – largely in a positive way, unlike Covid-19....
When Covid-19 first appeared in Wuhan Province in China, most of the world looked on, felt sorry for them, but didn’t realise the huge impact what was happening there was going to have right across the world....
I imagine for the Roman occupying forces in Israel, when they saw the tensions this young preacher and healer Jesus brought over in this small nation of Israel, they had no idea of how his influence was going to spread and grow, in a very short time, over the known world of the time, and now right across the world.
There are some small spots in the world which don’t seem to have yet been influenced in a major way by Covid-19, just as there are still some areas that haven’t heard fully the life changing news of Jesus.
So, ‘Do you, or don’t you, what?’
Do you, or don’t you:
Believe, behave, brush
(really wanted to use the word ‘encounter’, but ‘brush’ was the only ‘b’ word the thesaurus could come up with! Brush, not in the sense of a thing for sweeping with, but that which happens when you walk down the street, or through a supermarket and you don’t socially distance properly!!)
Do you, or don’t you believe in the reality of the Covid-19 virus?
Do you, or don’t you believe in the reality of the resurrection of Jesus?
Do you, or don’t you behave as though you believe the reality of those things?
And finally, do you brush up with Jesus, do you encounter him, or do you keep a 'safe' social-distancing from him?
We have been reading Luke’s account of the Easter events through this Easter. We’re going to pick up where we left off after the crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday
People react in all sorts of ways don’t they?
In spite of 1000’s of people sadly dying as a result of the effects of the Coronavirus, there are still those who don’t seem to believe that it’s real, even some bizarre ideas circulating that it’s the effects of 5g! Come on??!! 5g has hardly launched in the UK, only touching a few City Centres and yet Covid-19 is reaping it’s havoc across the nation and across the world.
Weird beliefs and thoughts have been made to avoid believing in the truth and reality of the resurrection of Jesus.
Some say he didn’t really die.... that he just swooned on the cross.... some say that he was replaced with Judas....
A senior figure in the Jewish hierarchy clearly believed he’d died, Joseph going and asking Pilate for Jesus’ body... and Pilate granting his request.... which seems to imply both believed he was dead! His body was taken off the cross, wrapped in cloths and put in a tomb. That seems pretty dead to me.
The women disciples seemed pretty sure he was dead, preparing spices and perfumes, not to anoint Jesus with, but to anoint his body with.
Going back a few verses, the centurion who was overseeing Jesus’ crucifixion, after Jesus had breathed his last said ‘Surely this was a righteous man.’ He didn’t say ‘is’, he said ‘was’, because he believed he was dead.
The Jewish authorities tried to find excuses for the resurrection of Jesus, not wanting to believe that it was true; even paying soldiers who were guarding the tomb to lie and say that the disciples had stolen the body. They must have been paid a lot to go through the humiliation of being seen not to have been able to fulfil their role well in guarding the tomb!
People really don’t like to believe in the resurrection of Jesus, because if he did rise to life again from a Roman crucifixion, after being beaten to near death by a Roman flogging, it is one of the most momentous moments in history – in the lines of one modern hymn:-
Death could not hold you; the veil tore before you; you silenced the boast of sin and grave; the heavens are roaring, the praise of your glory, for you are raised to life again!
If it happened, then it is one of the most momentous moments in history and has implications, because we need to respond to what happened then, and why.
The women who met the angels at Jesus’ tomb, were reminded hat Jesus had said, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’
Jesus knew he was going to Jerusalem to suffer, to be put to death, and that he was going to rise to life again!
The women rushed back to the other disciples to tell them what they had seen and heard, but, v11 ‘they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.’
People still feel the same today! The Easter message seems like nonsense to so many – you don’t really believe that Jesus actually rose from the dead? It’s a nice story to inspire hope.
Actually, no, it’s much more than that, Jesus did rise from the dead; he is alive; and people still encounter him by his Spirit today! People around the world are still having their lives changed through the resurrected Jesus.... 2000 years later.... Why would people lie about that 2000 years on???!!!!
V11,12 ‘..they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.’
Peter, faced with questions, faced with doubts, went and investigated
If something as amazing as this really happened, then it has to be worth investigating! Peter came with his doubts and questions, but instead of dismissing them, and saying, ‘Aaacchh.... I’ll just move on, leave them to their fancies....’ He went and investigated.
Over the years, several avowed atheists have set out to write books disproving the resurrection of Jesus once and for all.... each has become a follower of Jesus in the process and gone on to write books supporting the resurrection!
In recent years, the Alpha course has become a way for people to explore the Christian faith, to come with their questions and doubts, and like Peter to come and to look and to see.
Normally Alpha would begin with a meal and a chance to chat, then have a video talk and then opportunity to talk about the things raised or other big questions of life in small groups.
Obviously with the current situation in terms of social gathering, we cannot do that at present.... But, with the wonders of modern technology we can do it in part online!
We are going to start another Alpha course Tuesday week the 21st April at 7.30pm. We will gather together for a Zoom conference call to chat and get to know one another a bit, then watch the video talk on our own devices, before coming back together and sharing in small groups for discussion on Zoom.
If you’d like to be involved, keep an eye on ‘Upcoming Events’ on the Church website and sign up, it should be up there soon!
With the coronavirus situation you have a pretty good idea of how seriously people take it by how they behave!
Do you, or don’t you behave?
Wash your hands regularly? Self-isolate if you are vulnerable or exhibit any symptoms? And where the rubber really hits the road, socially-distance appropriately!
ILLUSTRATE older lady at Aldi / young Mum at Co-op
The older lady clearly wanted to do the right thing, but didn’t know how, needed someone to show her. The young Mum seemed to see it as an inconvenience and was clearly not taking it seriously.
It’s very easy to fall in to both of those situations as far as faith in Jesus and knowing his resurrection are concerned!
EXPAND & APPLY.
What we all need, what we perhaps long for is the
Brush – the encounter – not the foolhardy, inappropriate poor social-distancing, but the longing for the day when we can meet with friends, family again – when we can gather physically as a church again and embrace – when it happens, I’m believing for a BIG celebration!
The disciples had the brush, the encounter with Jesus after his resurrection, and many of us have had similar since then, where God comes and meets with us by his Spirit, as he is doing with some of us right now as we are in his presence.
READ Luke 24:36-49 and reflect on this brush with Jesus, this encounter with Jesus for the disciples
Do you, or don’t you believe?
Don’t miss out. Don’t shut your minds and ears to the truth of the resurrection of Jesus, like those who shut their hearts and minds to the reality of the coronavirus.
If you’ve got doubts and questions like the early disciples did, then come and explore on the Alpha course.
Jesus opened their minds so that they could understand the scriptures.
Even if you’re a Christian already, whether for a short or a long time, if you’ve not done the Alpha course, think about joining in and letting the Lord open your minds again to some of the basic truths of the Christian faith.
Do you, or don’t you behave?
Try to live your life as though Covid-19 wasn’t there, try to live your life as though God isn’t there and the resurrection of Jesus didn’t happen. Well the virus is there, and we need to live wisely. And Jesus did rise from the dead and he is alive today!
And here we are today.
The chance to repent and receive forgiveness of sins is there for us all today, and is being preached across the nations of the world today. When we come to Jesus and give our lives to him we brush with him, we encounter him.
If you’ve never done so, ask him to come into your life today, ask him to forgive your sin, thank him for dying in your place and rising to life again, and he will come and meet with you by his Spirit
Reflect on the words and truth about the resurrection of Jesus, reflected in this modern Easter hymn by Noel Richards