I pray for all who witness for you in this world:
ministers, priests, and bishops,
men and women who have dedicated their lives to you,
and all those who try to bring the light of the Gospel into the darkness of this age.
Give them courage, strength, perseverance, and hope;
fill their hearts and minds with the knowledge of your presence,
and let them experience your name as their refuge from all dangers.
Most of all, give them the joy of your Spirit,
So that wherever they go
and whomever they meet
they will remove the veil of depression, fatalism, and defeatism
and will bring new life to the many who live in constant fear of death.
Lord, be with all who bring the Good News.
Abidjan, Ivory Coast
Sunday: Resurrection Sunday, Easter
Matthew 28:1-13, Mark 16:1-14, Luke 24:1-49, and John 20:1-23.
Welcome to Resurrection Sunday. Let’s read the story of the resurrection from the King Jesus Translation.
(Compare Mark 16:1–8; Luke 24:1–12; John 20:1–10)
1After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.
2Suddenly, a great earthquake shook the place. An angel of the Lord descended from heaven and rolled back the stone. The angel sat on the stone. 3His appearance was as lightning and his clothes as white as snow. 4The guards saw the angel. They shook with fear, and then they fainted cold, as though they had died.
5But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here, for he rose, just as he said he would. Come see the place where he was lying. 7Go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee.’ You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”
8They left the tomb quickly. They ran, with both fear and great joy, to report this to his apprentices. 9Jesus met them suddenly, saying, “Greetings!” They came to him, took hold of his feet and worshipped him. 10Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid, go and tell my brothers to go into Galilee. They will see me there.”
(Compare Matthew 28:1–10; Mark 16:1–8; Luke 24:1–12)
1On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene went early in the morning to the
tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2She ran to Simon Peter and to the other apprentice whom Jesus loved and said to them,“They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him.”
3So Peter and the other apprentice started out for the tomb. 4The two of them ran, but the other apprentice ran ahead of Peter and arrived first at the tomb. 5Stooping down and looking in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not enter the tomb. 6When Simon Peter arrived, he entered the tomb and saw the linen wrappings lying there 7and the burial cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not with the linen cloths, but wrapped up in a place by itself. 8Finally the other apprentice who had arrived first entered the tomb. He saw and believed. 9For at that time they did not yet understand the scripture that said it was necessary for him to rise from the dead. 10So the apprentices went back to their own homes.
The Road to Emmaus, Luke 24:13–35
(Compare Mark 16:12–13)
13Two of the disciples on that day were going into a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14They were talking to each other about all that had happened the previous days. 15As they were discussing this, Jesus approached them. He started walking with them. 16Their eyes prevented them from recognizing him.
17Jesus said to them, “What are the things you were discussing with each other as you were traveling?”They stopped dead in their tracks and became sad.
18One of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only one near Jerusalem who does not know what has happened over the past few days?”
19Jesus said to them, “What things?”
They answered him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth. He was a prophet and a powerful miracle worker. He taught God’s word to all the people. 20Our chief priests and religious rulers handed him over to receive the death sentence, then they crucified him. 21We were hoping that he was the One who was coming to redeem Israel. Also, this is the third day since all this happened.
22“Some of our sisters astonished us with their report. When they were at the tomb early this morning, 23they did not find his body. They told us they had seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive. 24Some in our fellowship went to the tomb and discovered that it was just as the women had reported, but they too did not see him.”
25Jesus said to them, “Are you so foolish and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke? 26Was it not necessary for the Messiah to suffer in order to enter his glory?”
27Then, beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them all the Scriptures concerning him.
28As they approached the village where they were going, Jesus acted as though he were going a bit farther. 29They strongly urged him, “Remain with us. It is evening and the day is over.” So he went to stay with them. 30As he reclined at table with them, he took the bread and blessed it. Breaking it, he gave it to them. 31Their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and then he disappeared.
32They said to one another, “Were not our hearts on fire as he spoke to us on the road, while he explained the Scriptures to us?”
33They got up and returned to Jerusalem and discovered the eleven gathered together with other brothers and sisters. 34The eleven said, “The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35They began to explain to them their experiences on the road and how they knew him by the breaking of the bread.
Of these three Easter stories the one that I can relate to the most is the third one about the two disciples walking on the road to Emmas. We know the name of one of the disciples; it was Cleopas. Many scholars believe the name of the other disciple was Mary, the wife of Cleopas.
The reason I can relate the most to this story is because it includes food. The couple invited Jesus to dinner, and he had Easter dinner with him. Or, he sort of had dinner with them. Jesus blessed the bread, then eyes of the couple were opened, and Jesus disappeared.
That reminds me of many of the Easter meals that I experienced growing up in Tennessee. As as soon as the blessing was said, Jesus disappeared. Easter was about dressing up for church, eating a gigantic meal at the house one of our grandparents, hunting Easter eggs, eating a chocolate Easter bunny, playing all afternoon with my cousins, and driving home tired. The idea of the resurrection of Jesus came and went about as quickly as Jesus disappearing from the table in Luke 24.
But resurrection ought to burn in our hearts throughout the year. It ought not be a once a year event that comes and goes about as quickly as our Easter Sunday meal.
Is the resurrection a daily occurrence in your life? Do you rise each day with a new attitude, a fresh outlook, a restored perspective? Do you experience resurrection power every day of your life?
Easter is about freshness, newness, and hope. Not just for that one day in history, but for every day of our lives.
I mentioned before in these devotionals for the Holy Week that the church I was raised in did not celebrate Easter. I should be more specific on why it did not recognize Easter. First, because Easter, named as a holy day is not mentioned in the Bible, and neither is Christmas. That’s true; it’s not, and I can respect my early church wanting to be a people of the book. However, resurrection Sunday is singled out in each gospel because it is a special day. I think my early church overlooked that fact.
Second, my early church believed that Easter, or Resurrection Sunday, ought to be remember every Sunday (when we take communion) and every day in the lives of disciples of Jesus. We ought to live each day with the recognition that we are living with resurrection power in our lives. I respect that. I believe it’s easy to forget that the resurrection happened every day in our lives. It is the resurrection that fuels our discipleship. The resurrection gives us hope of a future resurrection of the dead, which is one of the goals that motivates us as Christian, not the only goal, but an important one.
Nouwen writes, “Easter season is a time of hope. There still is fear, there still is a painful awareness of sinfulness, but there also is light breaking through. Something new is happening, something that goes beyond the changing moods of our life. We can be joyful or sad, optimistic or pessimistic, tranquil or angry, but the solid stream of God’s presence moves deeper than the small waves of our minds and hearts. Easter brings the awareness that God is present even when his presence is not directly noticed. Easter brings the good news that, although things seem to get worse in the world, the Evil One has already been overcome. Easter allows us to affirm that although God seems very distant and although we remain preoccupied with many little things, our Lord walks with us on the road and keeps explaining the Scriptures to us. Thus there are many rays of hope casting their light on our way through life.” (Nouwen, Show Me the Way, p. 156).
Resurrection Sunday is a reminder that we are never far away for a new beginning, a new hope, a new day, a fresh start, a restart, a reboot, and I don’t know about you, but I need new beginnings and fresh starts. I constantly stumble and fall. I’m a broken person. I’ll never be perfect. But God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, just committed to restarts and new beginnings, because God is a God of grace and hope, and resurrection power.
Thank you for the resurrection of Jesus. Help me to embrace your resurrection power every day of my life.
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