What Luke has passed on in the Acts will be the sort of message that Peter would have delivered and the style that preaching actually had in those early years. They all contain reliable information about the way the early churches understood and expressed their beliefs. The reading we have today is a sermon that Peter delivered after his understanding had been expanded by his experience with Cornelius. It is significant that the public life of Jesus is referred to and not just the resurrection. For Jesus gave His whole life for others – not just His death. So that’s what we are encouraged to do with our lives as we celebrate the fulfilment of Jesus’ life this season of Easter! Cornelius was not a Jew and Peter came to realise the universality of the redemptive benefits of the life of God in Jesus – for all, not just Jews. In all the centuries since then, Christians, as individuals and as organisations, have often failed to grasp the enormity of this message – the absolutely unlimited range of God’s love for everyone who recognises Truth and does Good! Today we particularly celebrate and rejoice over the achievement of God in the resurrection of Jesus, but it is regrettable that the few verses omitted at the beginning of our reading are the ones that proclaim this universality – “Then Peter addressed them: ‘The truth I have now come to realise’ he said ‘is that God does not have favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears God and does what is right, is acceptable to him.’ “ (Acts 10:34f The Jerusalem Bible 1966).
Paul’s encyclical letter, Colossians, is direct evidence for us of his understanding of the impact of the resurrection which he preached to the Christian communities that he initiated. The second reading makes the same point as the first. We celebrate the success of Jesus, but want this to affect the way we live now! This is utterly apposite for our celebration today of the resurrection. Paul teaches that our humanity is elevated by Christ in terms alluding to the imagery of Christian baptism; this ceremony for early Christians included immersion under water followed by elevation out from it, actions that symbolised a dying to an ordinary this-worldly life and rising into a new extraordinary life in union with Christ and hence with the Life of God, where Christ is now enthroned. He reminds his readers of the consequences of this elevation; their aim in life on which they should set their hearts should be on a way of life like Christ’s; all their thoughts should be on higher ideals. As we celebrate Christ’s victory over death we should let Paul’s words speak to us who are trying to live up to our baptism into Christ.
The gospel we hear today shows us the truth of the resurrection, but also the amazement and confusion about what it really means. It is a new beginning so it starts “on the first day of the week.” It is a transition from an ordinary and even inadequate life – as it says “while it is still dark.” But there is a possibility of something better for those who are kind and gentle and loving, so it is Mary Magdalene who “came to the tomb in the early morning.” She is an important witness and announcer of the physical absence of Jesus’ body. Such a person can notice that there might be more to life – “she sees the stone removed.” But she will humbly seek confirmation from others so she “ran… and told them.” But she can’t yet believe for its beyond belief, so vaguely says “they have taken the Lord.” Peter and the other disciple are in the same state of uncertainty, so she includes them saying “we don’t know…” The two of them run to see, though the beloved disciple runs faster, he only looks “and did not go in.” Peter, the leader seeks out the evidence and sees that rather than a stolen body there are signs of an orderly departure of Jesus, for the burial cloths are neatly arranged. Then the moment of the beginning of the transition of their lives starts with the other disciple for “he saw and believed.” And it is celebrated by us today as we begin to understand the whole story of Scriptures. But we should now realise, as the Church began to, that it is the body of Christians and followers of Jesus’ way of life that comprise the body of Christ here and now.
See Jeffs Jottings – Risen life