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Website reflection for 7th April 2024

“Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:46-48)

The Easter weekend has come and gone, and the children will soon be returning to school for the summer term. It may feel as though Easter is over and things are getting back to normal. Yet this isn’t how the church sees it – the Easter season in the church’s calendar lasts for fifty days, until the feast of Pentecost, which this year falls on 19th May.

This reflects the fact that, whilst the resurrection of Jesus was a one-off historical event, its implications are still with us – the world changed for ever on the first Easter day, and it took time for the early followers of Jesus to understand what this meant for them, just as it still takes us our whole lives for us to make our own journeys of faith. In these weeks after Easter, then, our Bible readings help us to appreciate the resurrection more fully and to come to a deeper appreciation of what it means for us in our own lives. 

That’s very much the case in today’s Gospel reading, from the final chapter of Luke’s Gospel. This episode takes place on the evening of the first Easter Day. Jesus’ inner circle of disciples are gathered together in Jerusalem and have been joined by those other followers of Jesus who have encountered the risen Christ on their way to Emmaus. The two groups have been sharing their resurrection experiences when Jesus himself appears among them, in a similar way to that in last week’s Gospel reading from John’s Gospel. 

Once more, Jesus begins by trying to bring peace to this confused and frightened group of people – “Peace be with you” are again his opening words. From there, he goes on to try to reassure them that he really has risen from the dead as he’d told them he would – he shows them his hands and feet and invites them to touch him to check that he’s  not a ghost, reinforcing this by eating some fish. He then takes them back over the scriptures they already know, showing how these point to his life, death and resurrection – it’s as though these were such world changing events, that the disciples need to revisit the scriptures they knew so well,  and to hear and understand them afresh in the light of what has now happened. In all of these ways, Jesus is helping them to understand and appreciate what has taken place.

And then, he prepares them for what is to come, for their response to these events. For the resurrection doesn’t just affect that small group of people in Jerusalem that day; it affects all people, in all places, at all times. For it to do so, though, people need to know what happened to Jesus and see what difference that makes to those who believe in him. So Jesus’ followers, then and now, must be witnesses of what has taken place – “you are witnesses of these things”, he tells the group in Jerusalem – so that the good news can be spread across the world. We’re not eye witnesses in the same way as were those in our Gospel story, but we are still called to witness to the power of the resurrection, not necessarily so much in words, as by showing in our lives and in the way we love and care for other people, the new and fuller life we can begin to know on this earth as a result of the resurrection. That’s a big and challenging calling for us all, and something about which we need to pray as we make our way through this Easter season. One of the prayers for this week may help us with this: 

Risen Christ,
you filled your disciples with boldness and fresh hope:
strengthen us to proclaim your risen life
and fill us with your peace,
to the glory of God the Father. Amen.