EASTER SUNDAY 2021
Call to Worship
(based on John 20)
Out of the darkness of grief and despair
comes a message of hope. Christ is risen.
Christ is risen, indeed.
We run to the tomb to see for ourselves.
And it is true. Christ is risen.
Christ is risen, indeed.
We hear a voice call our name,
and we know our risen Lord
is with us now and always.
Christ is risen.
Christ is risen, indeed.
Thanks be to God.
(based on John 20)
READ THIS PRAYER OUT LOUD TO YOURSELF
O God of all our days,
we come this morning with eager anticipation.
We seek to know you, to see you, to touch you.
Open our hearts,
that we might experience you anew.
Open our lives,
that we may be faithful witnesses
to your resurrection.
May we, with shouts of joy,
proclaim your steadfast, liberating love
to all people, everywhere. Amen.
APPEARING TO US
For fifty days after His resurrection, Jesus appeared to many.
This morning I wish to consider many of these ‘special’ appearances He made with believers and nonbelievers alike.
Is there a significance in the order of His appearing? I leave that for the reader to contemplate.
For now, let us visit these encounters as presented by Scripture.
Upon the LORD’s resurrection He first appeared to Mary Magdalene.
This account is recorded in John 20:15-16 (NLT) and reads as follows:
“’Dear woman, why are you crying?’ Jesus asked her. ‘Who are you looking for?’
She thought he was the gardener.
‘Sir,’ she said, ‘If you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.’
‘ Mary, Jesus said!’
She turned to him and cried, ‘Rabboni!’ Which is Hebrew for teacher.”
This is the Mary from whom Jesus cast seven demons as recorded in Luke 8:2. KJV
“And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils.”
Here she is, at the empty tomb, in deep sorrow because He is not there.
She speaks to the ‘gardener’ asking where have they taken Him?
Are you a Mary?
Perhaps you were, or even are now, under an assault from Satan.
Is he assaulting you with the demons of drugs; the demon of sexual impurity?
Assaulted with rage, anger, self-inflicted injury, unforgiveness for some injustice perpetrated upon you?
In searching for answers or a way out, you stumble through a waste-land of empty promises, empty dreams until – until, by His grace you come face to face with the empty tomb.
You hear a small still voice, and in turning you hear Him call out your name.
Suddenly, in a moment of mercy and grace He vanquishes the demons and you are free!
New life and purpose surge through you just as it does through Him.
He’s alive! And because He lives so do you – so do we all who believe.
A new life – a second chance, but this time imbued with His life, His strength, His purpose.
He first appeared to Mary, one like many of us today.
“Master” was the only word on her lips.
A woman, an outcast, irrelevant to all except to Him who created her for better things.
For a better life.
First to Mary; first to hear Him speak her name!
Secondly He spoke to a group of other women, including Mary, the mother of James, Salome, Joanna – again to women first. (Luke 24:10; Mark 16:1)
Mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, grandmothers – seeking Him.
Seeking Him but not only for themselves but for their loved ones.
Isn’t that what mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts and grandmothers do?
Is that you today?
Searching for meaning in the deep sorrows of life?
Bringing not only the ointment and spices of prayer but also carrying to Him, names etched upon your hearts.
Names of husbands, brothers, sons.
Hoping that even in death, He may still hold the answer.
Then they see Him!
Shining as the sun-shining with new hope that since He lives then so too may their husbands, brothers and sons live.
And they remember His words,
“I am the resurrection and the life, he that believes in me though he were dead, yet shall he live.” (John 11:25 KJV)
If this is you today, do not weary in doing good, in prayer, in hope, in bringing loved ones to the empty tomb.
Thirdly, He appeared to Peter. (Luke 24:34)
Are you a Peter today?
Perhaps you’ve denied Him too when things became tense.
Denied Him after you believed? Then too – especially then – He comes and appears.
In the depth and loneliness of denial His grace surrounds you and He meets you where you are.
Peter, do you love me? Then feed my lambs.
Peter, do you love me? Then care for my sheep.
Peter, do you love me? Then feed my sheep. (John 21:15-17)
He addressed each of Peter’s three denials with grace of mission for Peter.
Have you, like Peter, denied the clear direction of Jesus?
There is hope. Jesus does not cast you aside but comes a second time – with mission and purpose for your life.
Even momentary denial through fear does not deter our Lord.
“Who shall separate us from the love of God through Christ Jesus? Shall . . . nor any other thing, shall separate us . . .” (Romans 8:35-39)
Forth appearance was to two disciples walking the road to Emmaus. (Luke 24:25)
Perhaps you have sat under the teaching of Scripture for many years;
Know the stories from the Bible but as yet have not joined the dots.
Then you are as these two as they walked away from Jerusalem.
Jesus appeared beside them and opened up the Scriptures concerning the things Christ must suffer.
From the Law, and Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms, patiently He made the connections for them.
Oh, to be part of that Bible Study!
So too, He will do for you what He did for them through the Holy Spirit.
If the Bible seems beyond you at times and in places, take a walk with Him.
Set aside a time each week, each day if possible, and walk with Him through the Scriptures.
Let you fingers do the walking through the scarlet pages.
As these two, so will your heart burn within you.
And you will come to a place of intimate fellowship as He breaks the bread of life for you – breaks the Word of Life for each.
“. . .And they recognized Him as He was braking the bread.”
As these two sat about the table with Him, upon seeing His hands breaking the bread of fellowship, they saw the nail prints!
The dots were fully connected.
His substitutionary sacrifice.
It all became so clear.
Take the journey with Him but always return to the empty tomb.
His fifth appearance was to the ten disciples – minus Judas and Thomas.
His faithful followers. He appears to them several times during the next fifty days.
Always encouraging them, always speaking peace.
Perhaps they were thinking, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31)
Yet Jesus says, “Peace. Be not afraid.”
“My peace I give unto you. Not as the world gives give I my peace.”(John 14:27)
“In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
These words of comfort and assurance are for you today – you who are faithful followers of Him.
“I will never leave nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
He brings past encounters to our remembrance – the large catch of fish;
He reminds us of places we may have forgotten, where He met us once before.
We need to be reminded of those times.
He casts our mind back to past times of His faithful appearing.
He sits and eats with the disciples showing that He is not just a spirit or spectre, but a living, flesh and bone risen Saviour!
Later, he appears to His disciples again upon the Mount of Ascension and reveals to them His glory.
Someday, we too, will see His full glory.
He appears, in that still small voice to believers everywhere today!
Will we continue to hear Him?
Let not our ears become complacent – He is alive!
He continues to appear and speak!
Next His sixth appearing was to Thomas.
“I won’t believe unless . . .”
There are those like that today.
In the midst of our doubt He visits and appears to us.
What fantastic grace and mercy!
God does not fear our doubt – He meets it head on and declares:
“Oh taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the one that trusts in Him.”(Ps. 34:8)
He said to Thomas, “Come and see.” (John 20:27)
The stark reality of that moment!
“Here, put your finger here.”
Doubts may keep us from Jesus for a season, but they will never keep Him from coming to us where we are.
And He says, “I know your pain. I have experienced it too.”
Whatever the pain that keeps you at arm’s distance, know that He carried it also.
He loves you so and as a result is not willing that you should perish.
As we are reminded in 2 Peter 3:9,
“The LORD is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
His post resurrection seventh appearance was to 500 at one moment. (1Cor.15:6)
A vast number of confirming witnesses encompassing almost all tribes and tongues.
He is the Christ for the whole world – for the entire human community.
These 500 will take their first-hand encounter with the risen LORD to the ends of the earth and translate His promises into every language.
Are you one such missionary?
Labouring on a lonely mission field.
Toiling in a white harvest field.
You are among a great company – a vast array of witnesses
– witnesses to His appearing
– witnesses to His calling
– witnesses to His sealing you for such a time as this.
“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last upon the earth.” (Job 19:25)
His eighth appearing was to James, His half-brother.
Jesus leaves out no one.
Unto those today with special needs in that their experience in life is unique and hurtful, perhaps seeded with jealousy or resentment, still He visits.
What a wonderful, intimate, caring moment that this encounter must have been.
“A prophet is not without honour save in his own country and in his own house.”
(Matthew 13:57 along with Mark 6:4)
And yet, He returns to his roots, to his sibling brother.
The Creator and Sustainer of all things goes home to family.
He forgets no one.
He won’t forget you!
He won’t forget your family.
He also appeared to Saul of Tarsus, the ninth appearance in our list.
There are those today who hate Jesus with a religious verve.
And as with Saul of Tarsus, Jesus can break through their darkness and deception.
He can illumine them with such brilliance that a total change occurs.
“And the light shone in the darkness and the darkness comprehended it not.” (John 1:15)
From Saul to Paul;
From persecutor to apostle;
In a flash, from darkness to light it happened.
He appears many times in many situations to Paul as He does for us today;
As He will today to those antagonists of the cross.
“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)
He appeared a tenth time to John on the Isle of Patmos.
He is the source of revelation knowledge – the only true source.
All other sources are lies and deception.
The Word of God is our only source, our only bedrock of belief.
He shows us that He indeed holds the future.
From an empty tomb to a full throne-room.
From a lowly donkey to a white stallion.
The Author and Finisher of our faith.
The Alpha and the Omega.
The First and the Last.
He appeared in His resurrected glory to John – an old man – alone in isolation, spent, and gave to him such a glimpse of glory!
Seniors, shut away from the world, He visits and appears no matter our age.
Deuteronomy 33:25 – “Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be.”
2 Timothy 1:7 – “For GOD has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
May these two Scriptures be spoken over every elder – be sealed by His Holy Spirit, as He continues to daily appear and minister to each one of them.
In conclusion there is coming an eleventh appearing.
Every eye shall see Him!
He will cleave the heavens and appear with salvation in His wings.
“And behold I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every one according as his work shall be.” (Revelation 22:12; also 3:11; 22:7)
“He that testifies these things says, ‘Surely I come quickly.” Amen. Even so, come LORD Jesus.”
At His first appearing to the believer Mary, He whispered her name.
Someday soon, He will shout out each of our names as He appears
To take us home.
May the joy of this hope be yours throughout the coming year and beyond.
Even so, come LORD Jesus!
Let us begin by singing Chris Tomlin’s TABLE OF THE LORD
- I will feast at the table of the Lord. X2
I won’t hunger anymore, at His table.
- Come all you weary; come and find, His yoke is easy; His burden light.
He is able; He will restore. At the table of the Lord.
- There is peace at the table of the Lord. X2
I won’t worry anymore, at His table.
- There is healing at the table of the Lord. X2
I won’t suffer, anymore at His table.
Bridge: I know He has a place for me. Oh, what joy will fill my heart.
With the saints around the mercy seat of God.
- I’m invited to the table of the Lord. X2
He says, ‘come just as you are,” to His table.
Read Luke 22:7-19 to yourself as we prepare for communion.
Communion prayer 1
Father God we thank you for this opportunity to gather in Spirit about your communion table. We confess our sins both known and unknown to You now as we prepare our heart to be worthy in Your presence. Sanctify each of us and continue to mold us into the image of Your Son. Grant us Your peace in Jesus’ name Amen.
Bread of Fellowship prayer 2
Oh God, our Father, we lift our hearts and offer thanks to you as we remember the One who was with you from the beginning, through whom all things were made, whose life is the light of the world, and who became flesh and lived among us as Jesus the Christ. We thank you, our God. Amen
Reading Luke 22:19
“And He took bread and gave thanks, and broke it, saying,
‘This is my body which is given for you:
Do this in remembrance of me.’”
Let us eat the bread and remember.
Reading Luke 22:20
“In the same way, after supper he took the cup saying,
‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood;
Do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’
For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup,
You proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
Let us drink and remember.
Wine of Fellowship prayer 3
For His teaching and example, For His love, we thank you, our God.
For His victory on the cross, We thank you, our God.
For the hope that comes through His resurrection, We thank you, our God.
Reading together 1Cor. 10:16
“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?
Post Communion Prayer 4
For the promise that in Him all things will be made new. We thank You.
Holy Spirit, be with us, that by the taking of the bread and cup set apart for remembrance, Christ may dwell in us by faith, that we may know Him, whom to know is life eternal.
Thanks be to God for the broken body
And the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ –
What a Saviour!
May the peace of the resurrected Christ be yours this day and into the coming days.
May your ears and eyes be ever listening and looking up for:
Your redemption that is drawing near.
May you live-out his resurrected life in every detail of your daily lives,
As we await His appearing once more. Go in peace – Amen.