Keyword Search

  • Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company
    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

Easter Day, Cycle A

More than on any other day during the Church Year, our Easter Day message must be subjective and personal. The message that we share on Easter is not an objective, impersonal report of a historical incident or philosophical concept. Instead, it is a vitally important statement of our faith. The heart of our message must be “I believe!” More specifically, it must be “I believe that God raised Jesus from being dead and I believe that God will raise me and will raise you from being dead!” No Easter message is adequate unless it includes this personal statement of faith. It is not sufficient to say that others believe, or even that we believe. We must say “I believe!” This is the Easter message people have come to hear. It is the message that attracts them on Easter Day and that attracts them also on every other day that it is proclaimed.

Our personal statement of faith, “I believe!” should be followed by the invitation “I invite you also to believe that God raised Jesus from being dead and that God will also raise you and me from the dead!” This invitation must be explicit. It must be direct. It is with this invitation and the response to it that God produced the Christian Church and has maintained it over the centuries. Without this invitation and the response to it the Christian Church will wither and die.

Our statement of faith and our invitation to believe should then be followed by parenesis, guidelines about how to life in response to this proclamation. People who believe will want to live in ways appropriate to their belief. The texts selected for our use on Easter Day provide the resources we need as we follow through with our expressions of faith.

Acts 10:34-43
As we increasingly become aware of the religious, economic, and political situation in the Roman Empire during the first century of the common era, we continue to increase our appreciation to God for the skills of the inspired Lukan playwright. The drama in Acts 10:34-43 is not only an indication of the spread of the developing Church beyond people who have a Jewish background to people who have a background that is other than Jewish; it amazingly depicts a Roman military officer embracing the faith of the oppressed early Christians. The Lukan playwright has provided for us a scene in which a high-ranking officer among the Roman oppressors is being baptized in the name of Jesus, a man who had been crucified by the cruel, oppressive Romans and is now immortal and all powerful as the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ!

While doing this, the Lukan playwright may have included very skillfully within this scene a daring, subtle cryptogram directed against the Roman Emperor within Peter’s speech in the home of the Roman officer Cornelius in Acts 10:38-39. The Lukan playwright depicts Peter as describing the Jesus of history as having gone from place to place doing good among his people and healing all who were being oppressed by “The Devil.” “The Devil” here may subtly have been intended by the Lukan playwright to be a reference to Caesar and his minions, a code that would have been readily understood by followers of Jesus during the latter decades of the first century (especially during the last seven years of the reign of the oppressive Emperor Domitian, 90-96 CE), but so subtle that Roman officials who might read this document would think that “The Devil” here was merely theological jargon.

Jeremiah 31:1-6
Jeremiah 31:1-6 is provided here for use by congregations and their leaders who desire to have as the First Lesson on Easter Day a text from the Older Testament. Jeremiah 31:1-6 is an excellent choice for this, since it proclaims the resurrection and restoration of the people and of the nation of Israel, while at the same time is a link to the theme of going up to Jerusalem to worship the Lord God that we have in the Psalm 118 selection to be used on this Easter Day. Therefore, on this Easter Day, within the context of the announcement of God’s resurrection and restoration of the people and of the nation of Israel, we have the announcement of God’s resurrection and restoration of Jesus now as the Risen Christ, making all things new.

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
This Psalm 118 exhortation to give thanks to the Lord, this proclamation of God’s mercy, this celebration of the gracious act of God in restoring life to the psalmist is very appropriate for use in a Christian Easter Day worship service. The psalm should be sung or spoken with gladness, for it ties us to other people of God in antiquity (the Israelites), and to other people of God now (the Jews), within this Christian Easter Day celebration in which we express our faith in God and rejoice in God’s redeeming power and love in raising Jesus and us from the dead.

Colossians 3:1-4
With its words, “Therefore, if you have been ‘raised from the dead’ with Christ, you should seek the things that are above,” in 3:1 this text comes rather close to the Gnostic Christian teaching that for the person who believes in Jesus the resurrection of that person has already occurred. What the inspired writer of Colossians 3:1-4 intended, apparently, was that those who are “in Christ” have already been delivered from the authority of the powers on this earth (the Roman State, Caesar, and Roman Civil Religion whose advocates make ultimate claims) and have been established in God’s kingdom by baptism in the name of Jesus and by faith in the Risen Christ, who is “the image of God who is invisible, the firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15). Along with Colossians 3:1-4 and 1:15 we should consider 1:13-14, “For God has rescued us from the authority of darkness and has moved us into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins” (The New Testament: A New Translation and Redaction, Lima, Ohio: Fairway Press, 2001).

John 20:1-18
It would be entirely appropriate to emphasize within our Easter proclamation this year that the first witnesses to the empty tomb and the first proclamation of the Easter message according to all Four Gospels were women, and that Mary Magdalene is prominent in all four accounts. The fact that it is written in Luke 8:2 and in Mark 16:9 that Jesus had cast out seven demons that had been in Mary Magdalene may be an indication in the form of a cryptogram that Jesus and his closest followers had rescued Mary from being held in bondage as a sex slave to seven off-duty Roman soldiers who were the “demons” who had “possessed” her. For more about exorcism stories as anti-Roman cryptograms, see Richard A. Horsley, In the Shadow of Empire: Reclaiming the Bible as a History of Faithful Resistance (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2008); Jesus and Empire: The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003); and Norman A. Beck, Anti-Roman Cryptograms in the New Testament: Hidden Transcripts of Hope and Liberation, Revised Edition (New York: Peter Lang, 2010; as well as the movie script “Jesus, the Man,” Revised Edition [Texas Lutheran University, 2010]).

At any rate, it is ironic that even though our Gospel accounts clearly indicate that it was Mary Magdalene and other women who were the first to proclaim the Easter message, large and powerful Christian denominations and their leaders choose to make a literalistic, uncritical interpretation of texts such as 1 Timothy 2:11-15 their standard in denying women equal leadership opportunities within the Church, or accept the leadership of women only very reluctantly, while ignoring the implications of the proclamation of the Easter message by women in all of the Four Gospels.

In John 20:14-18 it is written that Mary Magdalene saw the resurrected Jesus and clung to him. The writer of 20:17 did not write that Mary Magdalene did not touch the Risen Christ. The use of the negative particle with the Greek present imperative form haptou in John 20:17 indicates that her action of touching the Risen Christ could not continue, not that it should not begin. If the intention had been to indicate that the action of Mary Magdalene touching Jesus should not begin, the negative particle with the Greek aorist subjunctive would have been used. Therefore, the expression in 20:17 should be translated into English carefully as “Do not cling to me any longer. For I must return now to my Father,” not as “Do not touch me!” When Mary Magdalene could no longer cling to Jesus, the writer of John 20:14-18 said that she went to a group of male disciples of Jesus to make her glorious Easter expression of faith, “I have seen the Lord!” Mary’s expression of faith is the prime model for our own expression of faith on this Easter Day.

Matthew 28:1-10
We can easily see that, compared to its antecedent in Mark 16:1-8, the account in Matthew 28:1-10 was embellished by the Matthean redactors to make it considerably more dramatic. The sensory effects of the mighty earthquake, the change from the young man in white in Mark to an angel in white in Matthew, being able to see the angel roll the stone from the entrance of the tomb and sit on it, the Roman guards becoming so impotent that they were like dead men all add very effectively to the drama. We wonder why Christmas pageants featuring children or adults with manger scenes are so popular, while we rarely see Easter scenes depicting the drama of Matthew 28:1-10. Is there any reason why we should not have children and/or adults depicting the drama of Matthew 28:1-10 in our churches this year, playing the roles of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, the angel, and the Roman soldiers? We may not be able to stage an earthquake of mammoth proportions, but we could do the earthquake with electronic sound effects. Why are we not taking advantage of the memorable benefits of presenting the Easter message dramatically in this way this year?

Leave a Reply

  • Get Your FREE 30-day Trial Subscription to SermonSuite NOW!
    Chris Keating
    The Double-Dog Dare Days of August
    August’s lazy, hazy dog days quickly became a deadly double-dog dare contest between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un, the supreme leader of North Korea. Both nations have been at odds with each other for nearly 70 years. During his working golf vacation in New Jersey last week, President Trump responded to North Korea’s rhetorical sword-rattling by launching a verbal preemptive strike of his own.
         Call it the Bedminster bombast, or the putt that rocked Pyongyang. But the duel between the two countries is more than fodder for late-night comedians. It’s a deadly standoff with history-changing repercussions.
         There is no vacation from matters of national security, or the orations of war. Indeed, much of the war of words between Washington and North Korea seems to confirm Jesus’ counsel in Matthew: “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” The contrasts between these barbed exchanges and the biblical understanding of peacemaking offers an intriguing opportunity to hear Jesus’ words in a world filled with double-dog (and even triple-dog) dares....more
    Feeding The 5,000
    The assigned Gospel text for this week skips over a couple of sections in Matthew's story. Matthew 14:34-36 cites Jesus' journey to Gennesaret. The crowds of people recognized him immediately and all of the sick came to him for healing. Just a touch of Jesus' garment brought healing to many. The crowd in Gennesaret recognized Jesus. They came to him in their need....more
    Wayne Brouwer
    Religious balkanization
    One dimension of religious life we have in common across faith traditions and denominational lines is the incessant divisiveness that split our seemingly monolithic communities into dozens of similar yet tenaciously varied subgroups. A Jewish professor of psychology said of his tradition, "If there are ten Jewish males in a city we create a synagogue. If there are eleven Jewish males we start thinking about creating a competing synagogue."...more
    C. David McKirachan
    Jesus Is Coming, Look Busy
    Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
    I had a parishioner who would walk out of the sanctuary if he saw a djembe (African drum) out in front to be used in worship.  I asked him about it, in a wonderfully pastoral manner, and he told me that things like that didn’t belong in worship.  I said that it was in the bible to praise God with pipes and drums (I think it is).  He told me he didn’t care what the Bible said, he knew where that thing came from and he wouldn’t have it.  I asked him why things from Africa would bother him.  He told me that he knew I was liberal but that didn’t mean he had to be.  I agreed with him but cautioned him that racism was probably one of the worst examples of evil in our world and I thought he should consider what Christ would think of that.  He asked me who paid my salary, Christ or good Americans....more
    Janice Scott
    No Strings Attached
    In today's gospel reading, Jesus seemed reluctant to heal the Canaanite woman's daughter. He told her that he wasn't sent to help foreigners, but only his own people, the Chosen Race. The words sound unnecessarily harsh, but perhaps this is an interpretation unique to Matthew, for this story only appears in Matthew's gospel, which was written for Jews....more
    Arley K. Fadness
    Great Faith
    Object: Hula Hoop or circle made out of ribbon, twine or rope
    What an amazing morning to come to church today. I am so glad to see you and talk to you about a wonderful story from the bible. Let me begin by showing you this circle. Now let's get into this circle. (Physically, all move into the circle) It's fun for us all to be together in this circle. We don't want anyone to be left out. To be left out is to be sad. To be kept out is even more sad and painful....more

Authors of
Lectionary Scripture Notes
Norman A. Beck is the Poehlmann Professor of Theology and Classical Languages and the Chairman of the Department of Theology, Philosophy, and Classical Languages at Texas Lutheran University
Dr. Norman A. Beck
Mark Ellingsen is professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Dr. Mark Ellingsen