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Bishop Richard's Weekly video Message - Transcript 02.05.2024

Video for May 2nd, 2024

Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s video.

We will all be familiar with the great Christian festivals and seasons of Christmas, Lent, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost. These are clearly important markers of parts of Jesus life that impact our salvation.  But I’ve often wondered about the ‘in between times’.  The Easter season lasts for 40 days until Ascension, and preachers sometimes struggle to think what new could be talked about. However, this period is an intriguing one whose timeline needs to be re-constructed from the various gospel accounts, cross references in Acts and some enigmatic remarks by Paul in first Corinthians. Piecing these things together has the feel of eyewitness testimony to an event so extraordinary that its hardly surprising that they differ both subtly and substantively.

The best synthesis is that early in the morning the women go to the tomb to complete the burial customs and find it empty and the stone rolled away. Luke’s account has the appearance of angels telling them that Jesus has risen but no actual appearance. On the basis of this reporting Peter runs to the tomb and finds the linen strips. Matthew has Jesus appearing to the women as they run from the tomb to where the disciples are holed up. John’s account is similar to Luke. It refers to Peter and John believing on the basis of the empty tomb alone, but as yet not understanding that Jesus had to rise from the dead, which begs the question what exactly they were believing.  Jesus doesn’t actually appear to Mary Magdalene until they have departed while she remains behind weeping. She then runs to tell the others she has seen the Lord. It is easier to harmonise the accounts later in the day. Jesus walks alongside two of his followers on the Emmaus road but they don’t recognise him until he breaks bread.  They immediately run back to Jerusalem to tell the others. However, they refer to the Lord appearing to Simon, but we can’t find that in any of the other accounts, although Paul reports this appearance also in 1 Corinthians 15: 5.  Straight after this, Jesus appears to them in the upper room.  Luke 24: 36 is referring to the same incident John records in John 20: 19.  We are reliant on John for further accounts of appearances. A week later Jesus comes to the same upper room for Thomas’ benefit, and some time later at the sea of Galilee to re-instate Peter.  Luke alludes to further appearances at the beginning of Acts talking of many convincing proofs that he was alive over the 40 day period. Paul refers to further incidents of teaching over 500 at one time, then a separate appearance to James, then again to all the apostles, and then his own encounter a number of years later on the road to Damascus.  Finally, there are a variety of accounts of a final commissioning and Jesus disappearance from his earthly ministry in the ascension.

So, what is going on in these stories and accounts? Clearly, there is a teaching element that is significant.  Jesus probably has to go over some of his key themes with the disciples again.  In the first instance, they didn’t really make sense, predicated as they were on the resurrection, which none of the disciples were anticipating.  So much of Jesus’ teaching only makes sense viewed backwards through the cross and resurrection event.  He had to re-enforce the coherence of the prophetic writings of the Old Testament with what they had seen and experienced.  Taken together this was a revolutionary new way of viewing the world that is the basis of our Christian world view; a view radically different from the secular model.

But perhaps the most important thing was Luke’s asserting in Acts 1 that he was giving many convincing proofs that he was alive.  Modern writers assign to the apostles a certain credulity. But they were no more anticipating Jesus rising than a modern person would.  If we were to experience the re appearance of a loved one after attending their funeral, we would need a lot of evidence to truly believe they had come back.  The disciples almost certainly doubted the evidence of their own eyes.  Jesus said – touch me, it really is me, not a ghost or a hallucination.  He ate with them, not just by the lake side, but on other occasions as well.  These meals were occasions for further teaching – a sort of proto Alpha course!  Faith is of course trust, but Jesus seeks to reassure us that it is trust in something that really happened.  We are not just left to our subjective spiritualities and feelings. In the resurrection the spiritual, eternal and the physical world intersect in a way that eternal realities come fully into view. When Jesus made the extraordinary claim that he was the way, the truth and the life and that no-one could come to the father but by him, it wasn’t the arrogant assertions of an uneducated up-country preacher.  He said it in the full knowledge of what to was to come that proved it conclusively to be true. 


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