Encounters with the Risen Jesus
Trevor introduces our new sermon series
Easter will soon be upon us, not just one day to celebrate the life of the risen Jesus but the beginning of a whole season in the church’s year, 40 days from Easter Sunday through to Ascension Day, a time to focus and reflect on all that is made possible by the one who has triumphed over the grave. As we anticipate the prospect of lockdown ending and a transition into the ‘new normal’, whatever that may look like, this seems like an appropriate moment to spend time in the company of our risen Lord. According to the Apostle Paul, Jesus made numerous appearances to his followers in the time between Easter and his return to heaven: ‘For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep’ (1 Corinthians 15:3–6). However, the gospel writers only record a few of these scenes, which we find in the closing chapters of Matthew, Luke and John. On some of these occasions, what is most striking about Jesus is the delight he takes in spending unhurried time with his friends. On the evening of Easter Day, for example, he is not holding a comeback rally in Jerusalem.
Instead, he walks along the road to Emmaus with two followers before accepting their invitation to a meal. Later, we read of him cooking barbecued fish on the beach and speaking words of forgiveness to Peter. However, these are stories of challenge as well as comfort. There are two missionary mandate scenes which we will study. In the Gospel of John, the disciples are told, ‘As the Father has sent me, I am sending you’ (John 20:21). Matthew’s Gospel, meanwhile, finishes with the Great Commission’s famous command to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:19). These are stories where Jesus speaks to his disciples in many different ways, stories which need to be heard by people weary and in need of comfort after a pandemic and also by those in need of fresh energy and vision as a time of new opportunity and possibility begins.
My prayer is that God will comfort us in our affliction and afflict us in our comfort as we reflect on these passages.