Collect and Readings for The Second Sunday of Easter – Exodus 14.10-end, 15.20-21, Psalm 16, 1 Peter 1.3- 9, Acts 2.14a, 22-32, John 20.19-end
The Prayer for today
Almighty Father, you have given your only Son to die for our sins and to rise again for our justification: grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness that we may always serve you in pureness of living and truth; through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
In these Easter readings we have a rather intriguing perspective, since we hear first from the post- Holy Spirit days and then go back to the events close to the Resurrection in the Gospel reading. It has the effect of sharpening our senses, making us more aware of the changes in this group of disciples. Peter is confident and speaks out in authority to the listening crowd. He seems to have got his act together and has obviously been reflecting deeply on the way Jesus has fulfilled the prophecies of Scripture in quite and extraordinary and largely unexpected way. He has been able to see how his Jewish heritage is wonderfully enriched and given fresh meaning, and he cannot wait to share these insights with his fellow Israelites, so that they, too, can experience the liberation of living the new life.
His enthusiasm and confidence continue in the reading from 1 Peter, where he encourages those having to endure very real and terrifying suffering for their faith. Only someone who had also suffered would be able to make such assertions with any credibility, and Peter speaks from the heart. He knows what it feels like to be scared of standing up for what you believe in; he knows what it feels like to fail miserably after good intentions, when you try to do things in your own strength. And he also knows that even the most timid of us can cope with anything when we are living the risen life in the power of Jesus Christ.
The Gospel shoots us back to a very anxious group of people, terrified of the Jewish authorities even though they are ( apart from Thomas at this stage) actually convinced that Jesus is alive. Although they know he is risen, they have not yet accessed the power of that risen life, and have at present the boldness of mashed potato.
What Jesus does is to assure them by his visible and tangible presence. There is a wonderful sense of normality in his greeting. When someone we love has died, and our life seems thrown up in the air and is falling slowly in pieces around us, what we crave is for things to be back to normal again. Jesus understands this, and provides his friends with the reassuring presence they need. Then he breathes into them, as Adam was breathed into at the creation. This breath is what gives the disciples the power of new life, and with it comes the conferring of authority, whose hidden side is responsibility. Like Jesus they are sent out, as the word ‘apostle’ proclaims, to tell the good news with confidence in the living spirit of Jesus.
Thomas was also scared. He was scared, like many of us, of being taken for a ride – of belief being only wishful fulfilment. Thomas was going to stick to honest recognition of where he stood until he had definite proof. When he is offered it, he finds he no longer needs it; the sight of Jesus is quite enough. Suddenly prophetic, Jesus acknowledges the faith of all those, including us, who do not have the benefit of visual and tactile sightings of Jesus, and yet are still able to believe in him and share his risen life.
Some things to reflect on:
• How do you think you might have felt if you had been there that evening when Jesus appeared in the room? Does Jesus appear among us today?
• Is there any way we can be sure that someone is speaking with God-given authority, rather than personal aggrandisement?
Rev’d Fiona Robinson