In our mid-week evening prayer on Thursdays this week and next we are using a tradition known as Stations of the Resurrection to reflect on various people and events in the Bible after the resurrection of Jesus. This week we met the angel who sat on the stone of the tomb, Mary Magdalene the first to visit the empty tomb and meet the angel, we met Peter and John the beloved as they run to the tomb they are told is empty, then the women disciples gathered in Jerusalem and then all the disciples young and old, men and women gathered in an upper room when Jesus appears in their midst and finally the men of the road to Emmaus who encountered Jesus on the road as they left the festival of the Passover in Jerusalem to return to their homes .. presumably in Emmaus!!
In the Easter season our task, like that of the early disciples and characters of the post-resurrection accounts, is to make sense of the appearance of Jesus after his crucifixion and to ask what this all means!
What does it mean that the Lamb of God, the One who was put to death in the same nature of the Passover Lamb at that annual festival in Jerusalem, what does it mean that this sacrifice was different because the Lamb that was slain overcomes death and returns to life. The Lamb that was slain would not need to be sacrificed again next year because this Lamb of God had overcome the sting of death and proved a sufficient sacrifice for all time. What does this all mean!In our reading from the letter of John to the churches we are given John’s opinion. John, the beloved disciple who ran to the tomb that Easter morning, says this is what it means .. this took place that we might know what love is!
Considering all that had taken place in Jesus birth and ministry. All that had happened in the death and suffering of Jesus. This is what John concludes .. it is all so that we might know what love is!!
John writes ..’this is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.’ The resurrection message is one of both comfort and command. Take comfort because it has been revealed that God loves us .. God loves us so much that he gave his only son to die. Not to condemn us. Not to cause anxiety but to set our hearts at rest once and for all. That we need not worry about the annual sacrifice of the Passover Lamb being sufficient to find forgiveness but that we might know there is no condemnation for those who love God. Therefore be at rest .. as John puts it
‘this is how we — set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
It is the fulfilment of the promise in Psalm 23. As we consider the resurrection of Jesus we see that God the Good Shepherd has walked with Christ through the Valley of the Shadow of Death .. and has opened up to us new, green pastures. And we have been shown we need not fear because we will dwell in the presence of the Good Shepherd forever.
This is the comfort we take from the resurrection appearance of Jesus. Like the disciples and the women and the men on the road to Emmaus we find rest and peace through this Gospel message.
And we also find a command .. we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
This is the command the disciples understood and through which the Church appeared on earth. It is why the Church exists today. If you want to answer the question why are we here, what is the Church .. here is your answer. We are those who have found comfort in Christ’s resurrection message and who therefore seek to bring comfort to others. The Church is simply a people who seek to love not with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
That of course is much to hard a task .. but as the Easter season moves into it’s later days we start to consider how it might be possible. In the events of Ascension and Pentecost the means by which we might achieve this task are revealed.
This morning we gather as those in the upper room, like those walking the road to Emmaus and we meet Jesus in the midst of our confusion and doubt and weariness disbelief and Jesus says .. I love you .. with a love stronger than death .. with a love that overcomes suffering and grief .. I love you and you can be at peace .. why not love one another as I have loved you .. by this others will hear the message of resurrection love too!