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Worship, prayers and Bible resources

Third Sunday of Easter - Year B

Liturgical Colour - White


Jesus hope for the world

Introduction

The resurrection of Jesus turned the world upside down. For a man to be raised from death was not something new, Jesus had raised Lazarus from death. But the resurrection of Jesus was something diufferent. The resurrected Jesus was not the same. His body was different and even those who had known him well were surprised. Jesus was able to appear through locked doors and yet his body bore the wounds and scars of the nails which held him tot cross and the spear which the soldiers plunged into his side. The resurrected Jesus ate fish with his disciples and yet they knew that this was no mere resuscitation, Jesus had changed. The risen Jesus was different, he had gone thorugh death and passed through the other side, he would die no more. Jesus was now no longer just Jesus of Nazareth, he was their risen Lord. The resurrected Jesus gave them a shallenge to tell the world about him and because he was no longer confined by the physical world, he would be with them spiritually wherever they went and whatever they faced. That is why these frightened disciples left their cowardice behind and became some of the bravest and most fearless people the world have ever known. The world was turned upside down and that resurrected Jesus has been present with his followers ever since.

 

Opening Verses of Scripture  Psalm 118

I will exalt you, O LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. O LORD, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit. Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name.

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

Almighty Father, who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples with the sight of the risen Lord: give us such knowledge of his presence with us, that we may be strengthened and sustained by his risen life and serve you continually in righteousness and truth; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord; who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen Common Worship

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

 

First Bible Reading   Acts 3:12-18

When Peter saw this, he said to them: "Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see.
"Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you--even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. For Moses said, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among his people.'"
“Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days. And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, 'Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.' When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways."

Second Reading  1 John 3:1-7

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.


Gospel Reading   Luke 24:36b-48 

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.
He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, "Do you have anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.
He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."

Post Communion Sentence

Living God, your Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: open the eyes of our faith, that we may see him in all his redeeming work; who is alive and reigns, now and for ever. Amen
 

Commentary

So we know why Jesus was killed. It was out of envy and greed by those in power who saw him as a threat to their wealth and status. They refused to allow this carpenter from Galilee, (wrong job, wrong place) to come in and upset the apple cart. They had a workable situation in spite of Roman occupation and Jesus put the whole thing in jeopardy by his words and his actions, such as the overturning of the money tables in the temple. Jesus was not killed because he threatened the power of Rome, he was killed because he challenged the temple, the priests and religious powers.

Then no sooner had he died than he came back to life again. He appeared to his disciples and he spoke words of peace and forgiveness and told them to go and do likewise. Those who saw Jesus then went out and told others that Jesus who had died had come back from the dead and that they were witnesses. Some of them took some convincing. We know that Thomas wanted to actually touch Jesus before he believed. I am sure that we would all have been the same. However once they had seen Jesus, once they had the opportunity to speak with him and eat with him, then the reality of what had happened transformed them as individuals and as a group.

Of course we are those who Jesus spoke about when he said
‘Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed’

We believe as people of faith and we hold the faith through times of blessing and adversity, through the highs and lows of daily life. We hold the faith in heart and mind, and our faith is nourished through worship and Christian fellowship. The validity of the resurrection is not something which can be proved and the attempts to seek to convince folks who do not wish to believe by reliance upon the facts themselves is a futile activity.

Those who want to poke holes in the resurrection point to inconsistencies in the Biblical narrative. Matthew has the resurrection stories in Galilee, Luke in Jerusalem, John in both. In Mark there is one man in the tomb, in Luke there are two men, in Matthew it is an angel and in John two angels. For believers these very differences can suggest that the disciples didn’t get their heads together and concoct a good story.

However there are two features of the resurrection which I do believe think stand out as significant. The first thing of importance is that we need to remember the anger which existed towards Jesus from the Jewish authorities. They hated him enough to murder him. Yet when the stories started to go around about the resurrection of Jesus the Jewish authorities were unable to produce a dead Jesus corpse.

It is true that the disciples might have stolen the body themselves but the fact remains that they were so energised by the truth of the resurrection appearances of Jesus that they fearlessly proclaimed his resurrection to the extent that they were not only prepared to die but willingly gave of their lives, some in the most cruel manner. I remember a few years ago we had a church trip to see the Passion of Christ, a film which focussed on the death of Jesus and which was quite graphic about the crucifixion scene. I think if I remember correctly we all came out wondering why we had put ourselves through such a gruesome experience. We do well to remember that the disciples also gave up their lives in equally horrific deaths. It would be quite absurd to imagine that men and women would give their lives for something which they knew to be a deliberate deception. There is no more credible witness than one who is prepared to die rather than change their testimony. No wonder it is said that the death of the martyrs, or witnesses, was the seed of the church.

Jesus appeared to those who were thinking about him, who were looking for him. Today Jesus is still present to those individuals and groups who seek him. There will be no resurrection appearance to Richard Dawkins who seems to spend his time trying to be deliberately offensive to people of faith and evangelical in his atheism. If I were Jesus I probably wouldn’t show up either. But to those who honestly seek, the resurrected Jesus is alive today. This is because the resurrection of Jesus is not just a historical event, an event bound in our physical world, the resurrection is a spiritual reality in which encounter is just as important as understanding.

We obtain a glimpse of this in the Gospels themselves and it is important to remember this. When we speak of the resurrection we need to remind ourselves that Jesus was not resuscitated, his broken body was not just made to live again. Jesus was raised but he was raised spiritually not just the old Jesus made alive. The risen Jesus is able to pass through walls and it is all very Star Trek the way that Jesus is able to materialise in places and then disappear again. Shortly we will have the Ascension of Jesus and we need to remember this when we see those images of Jesus going up to heaven with his little feet eventually sticking out of the clouds. The risen Jesus did not have a physical body which was like his body before he died. Death and his subsequent resurrection changed Jesus. Jesus was no longer restrained by the physical laws which we are subject to.

The transformation of the disciples into what we know now as the Christian church, occurred because of the resurrection. The broken hearted, disillusioned disciples left behind their fears and despair and changed from frightened cowards into fearless lions.
Think of the complete transformation of Peter, a man who had let Jesus down really badly. He had been tongue tied when asked if he was one of Jesus followers, until he swore at those who accused him and ran away. After the resurrection all of that changed. He leaves his hiding place and preaches about Jesus and his resurrection in Jerusalem. As we would expect, the Jewish leaders who had killed Jesus to put an end to the challenge to their livelihood, have Peter arrested and he is brought before the Sanhedrin, the same court which sentenced Jesus to death. Peter is brought before Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and we are told the other powerful men of the family. This is a scene reminiscent of the Godfather, these are a family of men of great power, who have proved that they will stop at nothing if you challenge them, not even mirder itself.

Does Peter hide, does he say sorry, does he try and get out of the court with his life ? No Peter tells these killers that he acts in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the one they crucified but whom God had raised from the dead. He was threatened and told that he must no longer mention Jesus but Peter replied.

‘Who should we obey you or God? We cannot stop from speaking about what we have seen and heard.’

And there we have it. The inability of the powerful Jewish leaders who had Jesus killed to disprove the resurrection and the refusal of the disciples to keep silent about what they knew to be true even in the face of bloody killers. This was the powerful testimony of men and women like Peter, they no longer cared whether the Jewish leaders killed them because as far as they were concerned Jesus had conquered death itself.

Yet there was more than just a fearless confidence which possessed these disciples. They were unafraid because the spiritual resurrection of Jesus meant that Jesus was no longer confined to earth and time. Men had come back from death before. Jesus had raised Lazarus from death. Yet with Lazarus this was resuscitation, he was still in an earthley body. Jesus was not resusciated and this is exactly whet the resurrection stories are trying to tell. Jesus was not the same, he was different, he looked like Jesus but they never recognised him at first. His body bore the scars and he could eat fish but he could also pass through walls.

This new Jesus

  1. Was able to be with them when they were arrested
  2. He was with them when they faced the Sanhedrin
  3. Jesus was with them when they were put to death because they refused to deny the truth of the risen Jesus.

We know this to be true for example from the stoning of Stephen, the very first Christian martyr. Stephen was arrested and he was brought before the Sanhedrin too. The charge was made that he was speaking of Jesus and against the Temple and the customs of Moses. We know from the response of Stephen to the charges made against him that he had as little regard for the Temple and the Jewish authorities as Jesus before him. He accused the Sanhedrin of murder and we are told that they were so furious that they gnashed their teeth in anger !

You could forgive Stephen for being afraid, but we told that he was not. In the face of the threats against him he said that he was in the presence of the risen Jesus. He said
‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God’

Do you remember these words? They were the ones spoken by Jesus himself when they arrested him and asked him if he was the Christ. Jesus told them that he was the Son of God and said
‘The Son of man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God’

It was the risen Christ who was with Stephen as we are told they yelled at the top of their voices and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.

We are told that from that moment they tried to kill off the witnesses to the resurrection, the church in Jerusalem was persecuted followers of Jesus arrested. The reason that the church survived was not because they had a great Mission Action Plan. It was not even because they all did the Alpha Course. The church survived and grew because of the presence of the the risen Jesus.

Some images of the early church seem to suggest that everything was wonderful and nobody ever disagreed about anything. In the lesson from Acts last week we read that ‘all the believers were one in heart and mind’ Acts 4:32 We know that is not true! In the following chapter we read of Ananias and Sapphira who lied and tried to cheat the rest of the group out of money. The epistles of the New Testament and Acts itself is full of the arguments and disputes which characterised the first churches. It was ever thus and there has never been a time when the church has not faced huge temptations and challenges. At the time when the church has sometimes seemed at its greatest strength it has been the most corrupt.

Yet in spite of this it is the risen Lord Jesus who meets with those who put faith in him. We worship a living risen Lord who is not confined by any physical restraint and neither is he confined by any theologies or human traditions. Jesus speaks to those who put their trust in him. This is what the resurrection means today. We read about the encounters which Jesus had with those on the road to Emmaus, with Mary in the garden, the disciples in the upper room. But what really matters is that Jesus is someone we meet with and who is here with us today. Charles Royden

Meditation

Prayers of Petition

Many of our prayers are prayers of petition, and people seem to think that petition is the lowest level of prayer; then comes gratitude, then praise. But in fact it is gratitude and praise that are expressions of a lower relationship. On our level of half-belief it is easier to sing hymns of praise or to thank God than to trust him enough to ask something with faith. Even people who believe half-heartedly can turn to thank God when something nice comes their way; and there are moments of elation when everyone can sing to God. But it is much more difficult to have such undivided faith as to ask with one's whole heart and whole mind with complete confidence. No one should look askance at petition, because the ability to say prayers of petition is a test of the reality of our faith. (Anthony Bloom, The Essence of Prayer)
 

Hymns

  1. Jesus the name high over all

  2. For I am building a people of power

  3. Jesus Lives!

  4. The head that once was crowned with thorns

  5. I cannot tell why he whom angels worship

  6. Among us our beloved stands (See below -Tune Song 34mv)
  7. Facing a task before us (See below Tune Aurelia)

 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Prayer encouragement in the Christian life

Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian,

if it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die

 

Be light to my eyes, O Lord, and music to my ears. Be to me sweetness of taste and contentment of heart. Be sunshine to me in the day, food at my table and repose in the night. I give to you, O Lord, my body and my soul, all that I have and all that I am; my fame, my friends, my liberty and my life. Dispose of me according to your gracious will and the glory of your holy name; through Christ our Lord. Amen. John Cosin, 1594-1672


Risen Lord Jesus, who came to Your friends when all their hope was gone: come to us in the dark times. Come to those who despair, that they may feel your Easter presence in their hearts. Amen
 

Pray for me and I shall pray for you and all your friends that we may merrily meet in heaven. Amen (Thomas Moore)

 

Additional Material

Commentary

 

" Then He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures….”
The story of the appearance of Jesus to His friends in the locked room is full of details which affirm the reality of the event. Jesus invited them to touch Him, to prove that He wasn’t a ghost or some sort of vision. Jesus with His typical practicality ate with His friends, as He had so often done.
There is a lack of theatricality, of high drama about the event, which confirms for me that it really did happen exactly as the writer of the Gospels recounts. A writer, setting out to imagine the reappearance of a dead man, would have invented all kinds of spooky signs or high flown sayings. A writer would never have invented Jesus doing anything so mundane as eating a bit of fish!
Jesus had come to His friends to reassure them that all that He had predicted had come to pass. It was His very physical presence among them that was the key which unlocked the true meaning of his earlier sayings. The things that Jesus had told them, about His death and Resurrection made sense to them and gave them a new light in which to see the whole of His teachings and ministry. Armed with this certain knowledge of His Resurrection, those few individuals would go out and change the world.
Jesus’ resurrection changes everything for us, as it did for the disciples. Without belief that Jesus died and rose for us, we would be very odd Christians indeed. Those who seek to argue away the Resurrection are missing profound truths about the fact that Jesus was willing to be human and die for us, and to come back to assure us of His triumph over death.
When Jesus finally left His friends, He sent the animating power of the Holy Spirit, which jet-propelled these ordinary men and women to do extraordinarily brave things, inspired them to preach and teach and heal far beyond their normal capacities.
So we too can be transformed by the knowledge of Jesus’ undying love for us and the power of the Holy Spirit. Our lives can be turned around in ways that we have never dreamed possible. We have to pray for this wonderful power to enter our lives and trust in Jesus’ loving, practical oversight to give it meaningful direction. Revd Dr Joan Crossley

Hymn

1 Among us our beloved stands,
and bids us see his nail-pierced hands,
points to his wounded feet and side,
blest emblems of the crucified.

2 When at his table sits the Lord,
what generous food adorns his board;
when Jesus comes his guests to meet,
the wine how rich, the bread how sweet!

3 If now with eyes earth-bound and dim,
we see the signs, but see not him,
then may his love the veil displace
and help us see him face to face.

Charles H Spurgeon (1834-1892)

Facing a task unfinish'd,
That drives us to our knees,
A need that, undiminished,
Rebukes our slothful ease,
We, who rejoice to know thee,
Renew before thy throne
The solemn pledge we owe thee
To go and make thee known.

Where other lords beside thee
Hold their unhindered sway,
Where forces that defied thee
Defy thee still today,
With none to heed their crying
For life and love and light,
Unnumbered souls are dying,
And pass into the night.

We bear the torch that flaming
Fell from the hands of those
Who gave their lives proclaiming
That Jesus died and rose.
Ours is the same commission,
The same glad message ours,
Fired by the same ambition,
To thee we yield our powers.

O Father who sustained them,
O Spirit who inspired,
Saviour, whose love constrained them
To toil with zeal untired,
From cowardice defend us,
From lethargy awake!
Forth on thine errands send us
To labour for thy sake.
Frank Houghton (1894-1972)