Tuesday, April 02, 2002

THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER EASTER -- Reflection upon the Collect, Epistle and Gospel in the classic BCP

On this Day, the Church actively celebrates the appearance of the Resurrected Lord Jesus. He has returned from the realms of the dead and his descent into hell, to where he went after his glorious victory on the Cross over Satan and sin.

The living Lord Jesus who comes to his disciples in the garden, on the road and in the closed room on Easter Day is the one and the same Person who died on the Cross; but, his body has been marvellously changed. It is now an immortalised, spiritualised, supernaturalised body of glory that is suited to heaven above, but which has the facility to accommodate to earthly conditions.

Thus he comes and goes at will during the forty days until he makes his last Resurrection appearance on what we call The Ascension Day. He comes and goes at will because he comes from heaven to where he was exalted when the Father by the Holy Ghost raised him from the dead. This exaltation will be dramatically enacted on the fortieth day as he ascends into the Shekinah, the divine cloud of glory.

An ancient name for the first Sunday after Easter is "Dominica in Albis" ["the Lord's Day in White"] because the newly baptized (on Easter Eve) wear their white robes for the last time. It is also referred to as "Low Sunday" because the ceremonial and solemnities are of a lower degree than on Easter Day itself.

The EPISTLE is 1 John 5:4-12. Here Jesus is proclaimed as the Son of God who was victorious on his cross over Satan and evil and sin. After his victory and his cry "It is finished", there flowed from his side water and blood (John 19:34) which have been associated with the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist in Christian tradition. Later as the Resurrected Jesus, the Lord Christ breathed the Spirit of God upon his disciples (see today's Gospel) thus giving the Spirit to the Church. By the Holy Spirit sinners who believe on the Son of God are regenerated (born from above) and adopted as the children of God and given the gift of eternal life. So the Spirit, the water and the blood testify to the arrival of the new covenant and salvation from God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ in and by the Holy Spirit. And the baptized person who has the Son (by faith and spiritual union) has life, eternal life.

The GOSPEL is John 19:19-23. It refers to an event on Easter Day in the evening when from nowhere (more correctly from heaven) the Lord Jesus, now alive for evermore, appeared to the disciples in the closed room where they were hiding. He brought them PEACE, the peace of God which is the Salvation of God, wholeness and healing. He showed them his hands in which were the scars caused by the nails and his side where was the scar caused by the spear. He did so to help their unbelief and to speed their coming to faith in him as the resurrected Lord Jesus.

The body of Jesus that the disciples see is obviously the body that was nailed to the cross but it is a body with new properties. It is a body that will never grow old or decay or be affected by disease and pain. It is a body that belongs to the age to come and to heaven and so is not subject to the laws of nature governing bodies of mortal men. It is a resurrection body, an immortal and glorious body!

Having brought the disciples to faith in himself as the Resurrected Lord Jesus, he then hands over to them, in the symbolic act of breathing upon them, the Spirit, the very same Spirit from the Father, who had guided and empowered his own Messianic ministry. With the Spirit he also gives them his authority to forgive sins in his name. Here the Christian Church and the Christian mission is established, that of preaching repentance and the forgiveness of sins to the world.

This commission will be repeated again (see Matthew 28:18ff. & Mark
16:14-18) before the Lord Jesus ceases his Resurrection appearances and remains in heaven as the King of kings and Lord of lords.

But from Easter Day the new covenant of grace is in place, the Church of God is in being and the Mission to the world is begun.

The COLLECT was created in 1549 for the new "The Book of the Common Prayer" as the second Collect for Easter Day. In 1662 it was moved to its present position. It is based upon theses texts - John 3:16; Romans 4:25 & 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 - and well illustrates the Pauline theme that "faith works by love" and that those justified by faith are to live justly. Disciples of the Resurrected Lord Jesus are to live as those in whom is new life.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon, Easter Week, 2002

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