Easter Day 31.3.13 Luke 24.1-12

23 03 2013

Fear and Belief

The story of this morning, this first of mornings, points to ultimate newness. That sounds abstract, but the means by which it does so is profoundly down to earth and human.

Luke 24.1-12

On the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. 6Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ 8Then they remembered his words, 9and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.


To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

Head Questions

  1. What’s the significance of ‘the first day’?
  2. What’s the significance of the women being first to know?
  3. On the whole, is this a story of belief – or disbelief?

Heart Questions

  1. The women have en emotional journey from grief to perplexity, from terror to… well to what?
  2. How did the disciples feel when they heard from the women?
  3. Peter ended up ‘wondering’ or, as the NRSV has it, ‘amazed’.  How do you picture him as he goes home?

Hand Questions

  1. Do you seek the living among the dead?
  2. Which words of Jesus, if you remembered them, would change your life?
  3. Peter did not go along with the disbelieving majority. How does this challenge you?


These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you.  That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands.  Take your time.

Easter Day 8.4.12 John 18. 1-20

4 04 2012

Running , Seeing, Telling – but not Holding

John’s account of the resurrection is a mysterious predawn story which sheds wonderful light wherever it is told. It is full of life but also full of curious human and material detail. It puts pictures in our imaginations rather than ideas in our minds. That is why artists have found it so inspirational. The preacher must talk about it, of course. But there are ways of talking that also paint pictures. Maybe the preacher’s task at Easter is to paint a picture so that people can really see.

John 20.1-18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was sJesus and Mary Magdalenetill dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ 3Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. 4The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples returned to their homes.11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ 14When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ 16Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’ 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Reflections and Questions

‘She ran’ v 2. ‘The two were running together’. v 4 These are two of the very few references to running in the New Testament. The father of the prodigal son also runs to meet him.

What does this running tell you? What makes you run?

‘Then the disciples returned to their homes.’ v 10 This sentence often comes across as the biggest anti-climax in the gospel. But then we often forget that Jesus’ mother Mary would have been at the home of the beloved disciple.

Do you read this going home as anti-climax or as an important part of the narrative? Why might they have gone home?

‘Do not hold on to me’. v17 These poetic and mysterious words of Jesus to Mary, ‘noli me tangere’, have inspired many artists. They can also touch our imaginations. It is about being close – but not coo close. It is about sustaining spiritual desire – but not quite satisfying it. It is about the not-yet-accomplished nature of our discipleship.

How do you picture this scene? How do you deal with the restraint implied?

‘I have seen the Lord’. v18 It is Mary Magdalene speaking to the apostles. This is why she is called ‘the apostle to the apostles’. She is the first evangelist. And notice that she uses the word ‘seen’. Seeing is a primary and spiritual way of knowing.

Who was your apostle? To whom might you be an apostle? Who needs to hear your testimony?

Finally, check out my seven tips on ‘how to make Easter joyful’ http://stephencherry.wordpress.com/2012/04/04/how-to-make-easter-joyful/