Sermon by Rev Mick Norman Easter Day 4th April 2021
Mark 16:1-8……… Jesus is alive!
Happy Easter everyone! It’s Easter Day today and Christians have always met, one way or another, on a Sunday for Easter celebrations.
Sunday has also become the main day of the week for Christian worship ever since Jesus rose from the dead. The central Christian Easter message is “Jesus is alive!”
In my sermon today I am going to look at the evidence for Jesus being alive. The first eye-witnesses and the early witnesses; the church in the first Millennium, and the church community today—-all point to Jesus being alive. We have a very good basis to believe that “Jesus is indeed alive”.
Part one. The eye-witnesses. Mark 16 paints the familiar Easter Day story, one that would have been oral history for many years and then written down by the gospel writers. Here we follow the reaction of Mary Magdelene, Mary the mother of James and Salome as they find an empty tomb that first Easter morning. I wonder for a moment, have you ever lost something valuable and special to you?
I remember losing my beloved red mark II Ford Escort in the 1980s. After playing in a cricket match I went back to the place where I had parked my car - and it was gone!! Amazed , bewildered, terrified,— yes I was in shock that my car had gone -probably stolen. I can understand how these disciples would be feeling at the sight of the missing body. Had it been stolen or moved? Surely not. A state of shock. Instead of finding a dead body they find “a young man dressed in a white robe…..and they were alarmed”(v 5)
In 2018 Denise and I visited Jerusalem and we were able to see a tomb that was like the one described here in the gospels. It may have even been the one! I was struck by the tight space and how the disc/solid wheel like stone would have been heavy with a 6 foot diameter.
What’s more these disciples were still in the early stages of grief at the death of Jesus , still trying to get their heads round that . And now the body was missing. Very shocking and upsetting. Even good news can take a few days to sink in. It is no wonder that the three disciples were in shock and that the ‘Jesus is risen’(v6) message from the man in the white robe is taking time to sink in. No surprise they flee from the tomb trembling and bewildered(v8). Whatever else we get from this reading- there is no evidence at all for the dead body of Jesus in the tomb, where it was supposed to be.…
Part two is briefer. The early witnesses. We heard earlier from chapter 15 of St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, written about 55AD some 20ish years after the Easter events. Verses 5 to 8 summarise the many sightings of Jesus being alive that are recorded in the gospels; as well as Paul’s own encounter with Jesus recorded in Acts 9. Individuals and crowds claim to witness Jesus being alive again- Jesus doing the things that only Jesus can do.
Part three. We have the whole history of the Christian church, all around the world. Each century Christian communities have witnessed Jesus being alive (through God’s Holy Spirit), hearing their prayers and doing wonderful things. The Christian community has been active in the face of plagues, wars, illnesses, famines, fires, floods etc bringing God’s love in practical ways to a needy world alongside the good news of Jesus.
In 731AD, the Venerable Bede wrote “A history of the English church and people” covering seven centuries of wonderful and often miraculous evidence of Jesus’ life here in this country. Here are three examples of chapter headings from this book: Bishop Germanus sails to Britain with Lupus: with God’s help he quells two storms, one of the sea, the other of the Pelagian heresy (AD429) (Book1 chapter 17). Aidan’s prayers save the royal city of Bamburgh when fired by the enemy (AD651) (Book 3 chapter 16). By his prayers and blessing, Bishop John saves from death one of his clergy who had been bruised in a fall… from a horse (AD700 approx.) (Book 5 chapter 6)
1300 years later we see that Jesus is alive today. This week in our own villages, we have witnessed Jesus alive , during a pandemic, in our own communities. [email protected] The Easter cards that went out with gifts in our villages were brilliant. Designed by school pupil Allie Stone of Hazel class, we see three Good Friday crosses, six butterflies, a rainbow and a mystery wall. Looking a little like a door on the outside of a church building, it also bears an uncanny resemblance to the empty tomb in Jerusalem!!
So, in conclusion, ‘Jesus is alive’ according to the message that the first eyewitnesses heard at the unexpectedly empty tomb.
‘Jesus is alive’ according to the witnesses of the first Christian communities.
'Jesus is alive’ according to Ven. Bede and other church historians in each of the last twenty centuries.
‘Jesus is alive’ according to the twenty-first century church.
So many reasons to believe that Jesus is alive. Yet at the end of the day, ‘Jesus is alive’ is a statement of faith. We believe it or we disbelieve it.
Do we believe that Jesus is alive and makes a difference in our world today? Do we believe that Jesus hears our prayers and as a result we are changed for the better, and that lives and communities around us are also changed?
We do! We do! (I sense you thinking) because ‘Jesus is alive’ !
Jesus continues to bring new hope and life in the face of a pandemic………or whatever other challenges we will face. We have many good reasons for a Happy Easter! in difficult times.