Rev’d Jonathan Gale
Jeremiah 31: 1 – 6
The Joyful Return of the Exiles
At that time, says the Lord, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people.
2 Thus says the Lord:
The people who survived the sword
found grace in the wilderness;
when Israel sought for rest,
3 the Lord appeared to him* from far away.*
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
4 Again I will build you, and you shall be built,
O virgin Israel!
Again you shall take* your tambourines,
and go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.
5 Again you shall plant vineyards
on the mountains of Samaria;
the planters shall plant,
and shall enjoy the fruit.
6 For there shall be a day when sentinels will call
in the hill country of Ephraim:
‘Come, let us go up to Zion,
to the Lord our God.’
Acts 10: 34 – 43
Gentiles Hear the Good News
Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, 35but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. 37That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’
Matthew 28: 1 – 10
The Resurrection of Jesus
28After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he* lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead,* and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” This is my message for you.’ 8So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’
When I read this Gospel passage I can’t help thinking of the book, Who Moved the Stone by Frank Morison. Frank Morison was the literary pseudonym for Albert Henry Ross (1881-1950), a journalist and novelist who grew up in Stratford-on-Avon, in England.
Morison started out to write a book in 1930 de-bunking the ‘myth’ of the resurrection and ended up becoming a Christian and writing one of the best known defences of the physical resurrection.
There is no doubt something very unusual is introduced into the Gospel account. At key moments in God’s dealings with humankind, it seems, angels are involved. In this passage an angel has more to say than Jesus does, and when Jesus does appear, he corroborates what the angel has just said.
Although Jesus’ ministry lasted three short years, they were years jam-packed with toil and significance. To some of his disciples, they must have seemed long years. Jesus was speaking as though he were God and yet here they were, oppressed by the Romans and ruled by the Herods, a corrupt group of Edomite and Jewish heritage, who had found a gap in the market in helping keep order amongst the unruly Jews on behalf of the Romans.
The resurrection is an event of such stupendous significance because it is physical and it speaks of victory over sin, death and decay – of God’s promise to restore creation.
What this means is that you and I serve a God who is hands-on and intends fulfilling his promises.
The problem, though, is that just as the Israelites (by then the Jews) grew impatient with waiting for the Messiah, so we grow impatient waiting for his return.
Every time I see death or take a funeral I think, “C’mon, Lord! Your word says death is the last enemy to be defeated. Please come back and sort it.”
Jesus said, the kingdom of God is upon you, (Luke 11: 20) but I get impatient waiting for the Kingdom to fully manifest. I’m in good company when I do for John, the writer of the Book of Revelation, is also impatient in this regard.
I want Christ to come back and rule. But then, his rule is likely to be a bit different from my expectations. And yes, I know that Peter writes saying The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3: 9)
Nevertheless there is no convenient time for Jesus’ return and I want to see the rule of God in all its fullness.
Again, am I wanting to walk before I can run? What does God’s rule mean here and now? Perhaps the reason Jesus is ‘slow’ in returning is because there is still a lot to do.
I think the clue to answering my question lies, perhaps, in our Gospel reading today. Have you ever wondered why Jesus, whose entire ministry seemed headed for Jerusalem, (which was not only the spiritual capital of Judea, but also the place where the crucifixion and resurrection took place); told his disciples to meet him in Galilee?
Galilee was different. It was away from the centre of political and religious power and influence. Away from the corruption that characterises anywhere where power is wielded.
Jesus was getting his disciples back to basics – back to where it all started. I read recently that Pieter de Villiers (anyone know who he is?) the Springbok rugby coach had decided he knew the secret to beating the All Blacks – intimidate them.
Now, Pieter, do you think other teams have not tried this? Do you imagine that the All Blacks don’t know how to handle physical intimidation? Here’s the truth Pieter – an insight, and you don’t have to pay a cent for it – the secret of the All Blacks is that they keep going back to the basics!
This is what Jesus was doing with his disciples. Get back to Galilee (the place where you saw me exercising ministry and where you learnt to do it too). In Galilee I’ll lay out for you what I have in mind for you, and when I’ve spelt that out for you, I’ll disappear and send the Holy Spirit to empower you in that task.
So what did Jesus say to his disciples when he met up with them in Galilee?
18And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’* (Matthew 28: 18 – 20)
In Mark’s gospel something else is included, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. (Mark 16: 15)
The Good News is that Christ, in his death and resurrection, has defeated the spiritual principalities and powers.
Making disciples is affirming this Good News, and taking it to the next step – following Christ.
This is our job, what Jesus has commissioned us to do.
Both you and I are armed with a wonderful message. It is validated by the resurrection. Not everyone is going to respond positively to it, but some will. Let’s get out there with the Easter message.
The resurrection brought Jesus to life
Its purpose goes beyond that. It is so that his life can come to us, and that we in turn can pass that life on to others.
- Share the Good News
- Baptise those who believe
- Teach them to follow Jesus – and he’s always with us when we do so
The resurrection laid a foundation. Our joy is, in tandem with God, to build on that foundation and to share his resurrection life with others.
Getting to Galilee (author unknown)
We open now to the power of resurrection
To the loving presence
Flowing through the cosmos and through us
Rolling away stones from the mouths of tombs
Rising up out of death,
Faithful servant of eternal life.
We open to the power of our Easter God,
Hidden wholeness, weaving tapestries
From what we thought
Were merely tattered and torn ends,
The grave clothes lie,
Emptied of form,
In a cave designed for despair yet telling a different deeper truth:
That death is but a portal through which
Divine emptiness slips away
And into the future,
Beckoning us to go to Galilee –
Those places and times of our lives
When our hearts first burned with hope –
And await instructions for our Easter mission.
We find no good reason
To withhold or alleluias
Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed!