Notes from an All Age Easter Celebration Service, Easter Day 2009 (12.04.09)
When today’s passage was first written, it was a brand new story and that was the problem, which was why Luke had to stress that Jesus’ death and resurrection had always been intended.
• The women who went to the tomb were told by the angels that Jesus had promised them that he had to be crucified and would then rise again. (24:7)
• Stranger on Emmaus Road explained how the Moses and the Prophets explained what would happen to the Christ. (24:26-27)
• Jesus opened their minds so that they could understand the Scriptures – that the Christ would suffer and rise (24:44)
But Luke also knew that the time would come when it would no longer be a new story, but an old one. Now the story is two thousand years old. It’s all very well and good Luke saying that Jesus was raised back to life, but how can we know that this is true?
Luke doesn’t try and prove the resurrection by reasoned argument or scientific proof. Instead, he does something even more exciting. He tells us a number of different ways in which we can get to know the risen Jesus for ourselves today!
Series of items – to add to the Garden step by step…
EASTER GARDEN: Bring on the plants!
o Every year we tell this story, we remember how Jesus rose from the dead.
o The same thing happens in this chapter. Time and time we have the story being told and retold, with the resurrection as its ending. The women tell the disciples, the two on the road to Emmaus tell the stranger who joins them, then they tell the disciples when they discover the stranger is Jesus. As you finish the chapter with the disciples heading back joyfully to worship in Jerusalem, you also get the impression that they are bubbling to tell everyone they meet!
o By telling the story, we remember that Jesus is alive, and share that with others!
A good book is more than just words. As you read a good book, the characters in it and the places and situations they experience come alive, that’s what it’s supposed to do. Through the voices in this passage, Luke is telling his readers that this is what the Bible is there for too. As Jesus talks to the two men on the road to Emmaus, he explains all that the Law and the Prophets had to say about him. The Law and the Prophets was an expression that meant the Old Testament as we now know it. Luke tells us that as he spoke to them, their hearts burned within them. He is also showing us that as we read the Bible today, that God will bring Jesus to life through its words for us, our hearts will also burn as we read it, the divine speaks through its pages.
It wasn’t until Jesus joined the two men on the Road to Emmaus for diner that they realised who he was. What was it that gave him away to them?
o As they ate he took the bread, broke it and gave thanks and gave it to them? Does that phrase sound familiar to you? It’s just like the Last Supper isn’t it, where Jesus took the bread and wine from the Passover Meal and used it to talk about who he was and what he was going to do for them, for us. No doubt they recognised the words. For us, I’m sure that like me, you thought about taking Communion where we regularly read those same words. Is Luke saying that we can come to know the risen Jesus in communion? How?
o Powerful symbol of what Jesus did for us – how he died so that we could be reconciled to God, made friends with him again.
o Promise of what to come – life after death!
o Opens our imagination and awareness of God in the present
What is this? It’s a bit of paper with some pictures printed on it and some writing. Doesn’t sound particularly amazing does it! What’s it worth? Not much I wouldn’t have thought.
o What does it say on the note though? I promise to pay… Does that change anything? Still looks like a piece of paper to me! How am I supposed to know that its worth something? How do I know if it is really worth £20? By trying it. It is only by testing the promise that you can find out if it’s true.
o When the disciples first saw the risen Jesus in the room they were scared. They didn’t know if he was really who he looked like he was. Maybe he was a ghost? An Illusion? A delusion? That’s why Jesus told them to touch his hands and feet. By touching him they would be able to see that he was who he promised he was.
o Luke is telling us that at the end of the day, the only way to discover if Jesus is real is to test his promises. If we try to live by his promises, if we test him, touch him, we shall find that he is indeed trustworthy.
The final way in which we can get to know the risen Jesus today is found at the very end of the chapter. Jesus tells the disciples to go and share the great news of Easter with the rest of the world, but before they do so, they are to wait for God to give them power to do this – the Holy Spirit.
o Jesus is not with us now, he has left us, ascended into Heaven
o But the Holy Spirit is his way of being with us today,
reminds us what Jesus taught us
helps us to become like him
and enables us to continue his mission of love in action
The story of Jesus rising from the dead may be an old story, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t know him today. We can know him through retelling the Easter Story, letting the Bible bring him alive for us, finding him in Communion, testing his promises, and enjoying his Presence through the Holy Spirit.