The first reading is taken from the Acts of the Apostles, (chapter 10, verses 34-43 passim), where we hear a speech made by Peter before a Roman Official about the resurrection of Jesus. The book of Acts is written as an history of the growth, spread and preaching of the early church chiefly through Peter and Paul. The book seems to be a sequel to the Gospel of Luke and also written by him. The custom at the time of writing such an account often included speeches by key figures written by the author. However, there are definite elements in the recorded preaching of Peter that reflect the use of an early source which may well have been Peter himself. You will notice that the way Jesus is described is less developed than the way even Paul writing in the 50’s described the nature of Jesus (as Son of God); at an earlier time it was said that God was with Jesus in all the things He did and after His death God raised Him to life with Himself and set Him up as judge of all. The opening remarks of Peter may reflect the change that he went through after encountering the attitude of Paul, from seeing the Jewish practices as essential to God’s favour to saying that God “accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.”
The short second reading from Colossians, (chapter 3, verses 1-4) is addressed to a newly baptised Christian. After accepting the preaching about Jesus, a person could ask to become a follower of the Way of Jesus and be baptised and join the community of believers. Baptism was by total immersion and was a symbolic act of dying, being buried and rising anew; dying to a life of following the degrading values of money, pleasure and worldly success; putting all that behind one and rising (out of the water) to live with Christian values within the life of Christ now present on earth. The Christian lives with a new life that is visible only in the values that are followed and the sincerity of one’s life, but will be revealed completely at the end of time, when they expected Christ would come again in some way. We see here the use of a word probably coined by the writer of Ephesians (which we read on the 4th Sunday of Lent) – a single word meaning raised together with (συνηγερθητε) urging us to live up to what we are and with the life we share in of Christ!
In the gospel (John, chapter 20, verses 1-9) we have a description of the realisation that Jesus is risen. There is always much to consider in the words of this fourth gospel; we notice for example the significant role of women and that other disciples are secondary to Peter. And it makes us realise something about the resurrection that otherwise might not have been documented, namely, that none of the followers of Jesus, men or women, really had any idea that he would be raised up to life anew after His crucifixion – they thought the body had been stolen and had not understood any prediction of this event. The resurrection is a mystery – it is about the life of Christ not just after death but in a new way entirely within the Godhead but also present within our world, in all that is positive and good in it. This is a belief that we too are unable to grasp fully; and it is not so much something that we have to understand as something that we have to live out as the disciples and the early Christian showed us: this is how Easter should impact on us!
There is a reflection also by me (Jeff Bagnall) for this Sunday