Reflections on the Readings for Sunday 24 April 2011
Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-9
This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad – hallelujah! Easter Sunday is symbolic of the reality out of which we are invited to live our lives. This day is a proclamation that life and not death is the final word in God’s universe. The symbol of the empty tomb is at the heart of the Christian faith. Mary Magdalene went to the tomb expecting to find the body of her beloved teacher behind cold stone, but instead she found an open doorway. It is a reminder that God’s way triumphs. ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.’ The world of power and privilege both secular and religious that rejected the young prophet and healer from Nazareth is turned on its head. The crucifixion was not the ignoble end to a great but misguided life; it was the culmination of a life lived in radical obedience to God. God vindicated Jesus by raising him from the dead, a resounding ‘Yes!’ that is simultaneously a ‘No!’ to the forces of sin and death which conspire to smother Life.
Peter’s speech in Acts illustrates how this story formed the essence of the proclamation of the early Christians. Just as they had been witnesses of Jesus’ life and ministry, the disciples also became witnesses to the resurrection. Empowered by the same Spirit which anointed Jesus, and having shared fellowship with the risen Christ, they continued his ministry of healing and liberation. The life of Jesus the rejected One becomes the standard by which everyone is to be judged. Nevertheless, he does not bring condemnation, but offers forgiveness. This is the Gospel which we have received and which we pass on to others.
To be followers of Christ is to live out of the truth of the resurrection. Often we are like the first disciples who came upon the empty tomb, confused and not sure what to make of it. We are painfully aware of death and suffering, the limitations around and within us, and experience ourselves being crushed by the same powers that put Jesus to death. But Jesus has walked this way already and triumphed. He has passed through death and so robbed the powers of their ability to intimidate and destroy us. Paul invites us to imagine our resurrected life curled up in embryonic form inside Christ in God’s presence. That life will blossom at the culmination of all things. Its green shoots can be discerned already. The resurrection story is our story too.