This coming up Monday we will hold a service for Alice Stephens. Alice lived alone in her apartment off Hopeman Parkway for a long time and finally had to move into Choice of Waynesboro, a care facility. I know we always say it, but this time it is as true as it has ever been that she is in a better place. When I first moved here, I didn’t realize that Alice suffered mentally. I would argue with her sometimes over the things she said. I eventually realized to not do that. This week, all of Alice’s problems came to an end. I believe she will make a beeline to Jesus to ask him to heal her just like the woman who suffered from bleeding did. The next time we see Alice, we might expect her to say something crazy, but she won’t. She will be in her right mind – completely healed. That is the gospel.
Homework Let me remind you that I gave an assignment for class this week. It was to fast for 24 hours from being critical. I got this from reading Catherine Marshall. She got it from Matthew 7:1-2 which reads, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” From that she writes, “One morning last week. He gave me an assignment: for one day I was to go on a ‘fast’ from criticism. I was not to criticize anybody about anything.” (taken from Spiritual Classics) Find a day to practice this and come to class and share your experience. You can speak up in class or write about your experience and have me read it. Whichever feels comfortable for you. I look forward to hearing what you found.
The disciples return to their homes, but Mary Magdalene stands outside the tomb crying. Jesus appears to her in a precious exchange, ultimately telling her: “I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”
Through the course of this day and the days following, Jesus appears to his disciples and hundreds of others.
Through his death and resurrection, all things are made new.
By now, the Roman guards are meeting with Jewish leaders about their incredible experience with the angel who moved the stone – money is being paid, stories created. Remarkably, it seems the Jewish leaders believed the soldiers.
The disciples, in contrast, did not believe the women who reported that the tomb was empty and that angels had spoken to them.
Peter and John run to the tomb…. it is open – the body is gone!
It is now the Feast of First Fruits – celebrating the miracle of the seed: planted in the earth to die, so that it might grow and yield a bountiful crop.
see a map indicating the location of the tomb in the EasterNow app
This wonderful content is put together in an app called EasterNow . Visit their website to download the app to your phone and experience this great story along with others.
Every December I preach about the birth of Jesus and on Easter, I preach about the cross. I don’t ever get tired of it because both events are central to Christianity. How could you ever run out of things to talk about in relation to the crucifixion of Jesus? This year I will preach on his death in a way that I never have. I like to talk about the power of the life of Jesus but this Sunday I will preach about the power of his death. If we had been alive at the time we would have intensely wanted Jesus to live, but what we actually needed was for him to die. We have an enemy, Death, that is merciless and cruel. Easter addresses the question to God, “Can you do anything about that?” Obviously, Easter is God’s way of saying, “Yes, I can. And, yes I will.” Hallelujah for the saving power of God that is the heart of the gospel.
Good Friday is over and Sabbath begins. Jesus is in the tomb, which is sealed by a stone and guarded by Roman soldiers. Jesus predicted, “Like Jonah was in the belly of a fish three days, the Son of Man will be in the earth for three days.”
The disciples are in hiding – probably wanted men.
This day begins the feast that follows Passover: the Feast of Unleavened Bread, an agrarian celebration commemorating the ‘good seed’ that must go into the ground and die to yield a crop. Our ‘good seed’ is in the ground.
The next feast, the Feast of First Fruits, begins Sunday, acknowledging God’s faithfulness to ‘bring in the crop’.
By now Jesus’ body is off the cross. The Jewish leaders learn that the body of Jesus has been given to Joseph of Arimathea. They appeal to Pilate to seal the tomb and post a guard, and Pilate gives the order.
Though Jesus’ disciples have long fled, the women have not. They cursorily wrap the body, lacking the customary oils and spices to complete the job before Sabbath restrictions apply. Sabbath restrictions – created by God – require that the women must return to finish the job on Sunday – after the Sabbath.
Now the Jewish leaders have a problem – the bodies of all three crucified men must come down off the crosses before sundown – Friday at 6:00pm – the beginning of one of the year’s most important Sabbaths.
If a Jew touches a dead body on Sabbath, he or she is ‘unclean’ for the Sabbath.
As well, an unusual Mosaic regulation found in Deut 21:22-23 instructs that a body hung on a tree must come down before sundown. To speed up death, the legs of the crucified men are broken. Jesus, however, is already dead. Roman soldiers confirm this with a spear to Jesus’ side, and blood and water pour out.
Joseph of Arimathea hurries to Pilate to ask for Jesus’ body, and –surprisingly – is given permission.
22 “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.