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  • Fr Daniel

The Second Sunday of Easter

We sing along/listen to:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ureNzkjntLw


The prayers and readings can be found here:


Easter 2B Mass Sheet
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We sing along/listen to:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJjq4RFnLnk


‘With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all’. Words from the Acts of the Apostles.


Alleluia, Christ is Risen!

He is risen indeed, alleluia!


Our readings today, are unsurprisingly still centred on resurrection. Those words from Acts speak clearly of the apostles, the first followers of Jesus, proclaiming Christ’s resurrection. And the episode from the gospel, centred on ‘belief’, or rather the disbelief of Thomas, leaves us with those familiar words of Jesus:


‘blessed are those who believe who have not seen and yet have come to believe’.


That is the category we fall into: we do not have the benefit of going back in time and witnessing the episode that confirmed the resurrection of Jesus and led Thomas to say ‘my Lord and my God’. So, our faith is based, as Jesus says, not on what we see, but what we have come to believe, by the ‘testimony’ of the Church.


So what is the resurrection? Last week, we heard that resurrection brings new life, a life from free from sin and ultimate death. Resurrection brings eternal life, because Jesus has conquered death – he has led captivity captive.


But how do we, some two thousand years later, know that it’s true? How do we know it actually happened? Now, we recognise of course that it is a matter of faith, but what is the evidence for the resurrection?


The evidence for the resurrection is overwhelming. And I might add, it’s not evidence for some spiritualised, ambiguous rising that took place in the hearts and minds of the apostles, who were, no doubt, feeling a little guilty after abandoning Jesus. No: the evidence for the resurrection is evidence that points to a physical, fleshly, rising from the dead.


In order to believe, to truly believe, we need to know what the evidence really is. There are three pieces I’d like to mention today.


The first piece is the fact that Jesus died.


Now that may seem like an odd place to start; how can the death of Jesus prove his resurrection? Well, if Jesus didn’t actually die on Good Friday then the resurrection is logically, a myth. If he wasn’t dead, the claim that he was raised from the dead is obviously a false one. So did Jesus die? The American Medical Association, on weighing the evidence said yes absolutely, there is no doubt that he could’ve survived the brutality of Roman crucifixion.


The Romans were experts in death; they did not make mistakes. If we look at the evidence from the scriptures, which is based on eye witness accounts – which is the strongest and most reliable form of historical evidence, Jesus experienced a horrendous beating, then flesh ripping scourging, that’s before he had to carry his cross to Golgotha. The blood loss and sheer exhaustion alone would have been enough.


But it doesn’t’ end there – he was then pinned to the cross with nails between six and eight inches in length and left for hours before finally being impaled with a spear – to prove beyond doubt that he was dead. Jesus was dead no question.


Following his death, we are told that Jesus was buried – now this is important as dead bodies, even those of convicted criminals, were not allowed to be left on display, for that would break the Jewish Law. So we are told that Joseph of Arimathea buried the dead body of Jesus in his own tomb. Joseph was a member of the Jewish council, and he had asked Pontius Pilate’s permission to remove the body from the cross and to bury it, so, the burial place of Jesus would’ve been known crucially to both the Jews and the Romans alike.


The death and burial of Jesus is the first piece of evidence. And just to confirm the fact, it wasn’t just the early Church claiming this, non-Christian sources agree that Jesus really died; the Roman historian Tacitus and the Jewish historian Josephus both record that Jesus died by being hung on a tree (Talmud) and was then buried.


The second piece of evidence is the empty Tomb itself.


The tomb was empty. Last weekend, we heard two different accounts: the account from Mark, the women went to the tomb, and the stone was gone, the angel declaring that Jesus is risen. Then the gospel for Easter Day: the empty tomb, witnessed by John and Peter and then Mary Magdalene speaking with the risen Jesus.


It would’ve been frankly impossible, for the disciples to preach that Jesus had risen from the dead, if his dead body lay in the tomb, even more so given that the location of the tomb was known to both the Jewish and the Roman authorities. Pilate and the Sanhedrin knew were the tomb was, how easily could they have just checked? The disciples could not have believed it, preached it and most importantly have been willing to die for it if the corpse remained in the tomb. On that basis Christianity would be a lie. And yet, they did believe, they did preach it and the vast majority died for it. They would not have died for a lie, would you? They died for the truth of the resurrection.


The final piece of evidence comes from this very situation.


The disciples had said very clearly: Jesus is risen from the dead. From that moment on, and Matthew’s gospel records this, there was an anti-Christian message in Jerusalem: the Jewish authorities refuted the resurrection claim by saying that the disciples had stolen the body of Jesus. Think about that for a moment: they said disciples had the body… they had removed it… What does that imply? It implies that the body was missing in the first place! That must be because the tomb was empty – there is no rational explanation.


Three pieces of evidence that point to the resurrection of Jesus. Believing in the resurrection is the acid test of our faith – you either believe it or you don’t – but on that evidence alone, why would you not? Why would we still be here in this Church this morning if it were not true? Why would thousands of people be coming to faith across the world each day if it were a lie?


Jesus tells Thomas to believe, he invites us to believe this morning, and as we heard in the gospel, through that belief ‘have life in his name’.


Believe – and say with Thomas ‘my Lord and my God’.


Alleluia, Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed, alleluia!


We sing along/listen to:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zmj0pVN3DKg


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