john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Easter: a time of surprises

    Childwall School Year 8 assembly 6/2/2008

    Luke 24.13-35

    Easter: a time of surprises

    Easter = always in spring time - when we're surprised to see all of a sudden new flowers coming out of the ground and opening up - (did you notice how the daffodils came out last weekend just in time for us to pick them for Mother's Day?). In springtime, at Eastertime, plants that seem to be dead come to life again, birds and animals which seem to have gone away forever start to come back (hence bunnies and eggs) ...perhaps it shouldn't surprise us, but it often does...

    The Christian story of Easter is the story of a great surprise - a surprise which turns sadness into joy

    Sadness because...?
    [Jesus was executed by the government for stirring up trouble]
    [Jesus who had been preaching 'the good news' of God's love for all people - was killed]

    And joy because...?

    Let me tell you a story about the joy:

    The Sunday after Jesus had been executed in Jerusalem two of his friends were walking to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles away. They were deep in conversation, going over all the things that had happened that weekend.

    In the middle of their talk and questions, Jesus came up and walked along with them. But for some reason they didn't recognize who he was. He said to them, "What's this you're talking about so intently as you walk along?"

    Then one of them, his name was Cleopas, said, "Are you the only person in Jerusalem who hasn't heard what's happened over the last few days?"

    And Jesus, who they still didn't recognise, said, "What has happened?"

    They said, "The things that happened to Jesus, from Nazareth. He was a man of God, a prophet, dynamic in everything he did and said, blessed by God and all the people.

    "Then our high priests and leaders betrayed him, got him sentenced to death, and crucified him. And we had our hopes up that he was the One, the One who could save our people. This happened three days ago.

    "But now some of our women have completely confused us. Early this morning they were at Jesus's tomb and they couldn't find his body. They came back telling us that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. Some of our other friends went off to the tomb to check and found it empty just as the women said, but they didn't see Jesus."

    Then Jesus - who the two men still didn't recognise - said to them, "Are you stupid or something? Why can't you just believe all that the prophets said? Don't you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?" Then he started going through the whole story of God, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that talked about him.

    Eventually the three men came to the edge of the village where they were headed. Jesus acted as if he were going on but they said: "Why don't you stay and have some supper with us. It's getting late, time to eat."

    So he went in with them. And here is what happened: here's the surprise.

    He sat down at the table with them. Then he took the bread, said a blessing over it and broke it and gave it to them. At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognized him. And then he disappeared.

    After that they couldn't stop talking about what had happened. "Didn't we feel on fire as he spoke with us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us?"

    And they got straight up and went on their way back to Jerusalem. They found all their friends gathered together, and they wer all talking away saying: "It's really happened! The Master has been raised up - Simon saw him!" Then Cleopas and his friend went over everything that happened on the road and how they'd recognized Jesus when he broke the bread.

    The Christian story of Easter is the story of a great surprise - a surprise which turns sadness into joy.

    Because Jesus, the Son of God who brings good news to all of us, was dead but is alive again.

    Many Christians have a favourite quote from the Bible, and it is this, from John's gospel:

    "God so loved the world that the gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him should not die but have everlasting life."

    This is the even bigger surprise about the Easter story: it says that anyone who wants to live the Jesus way will live forever - just like the plants in springtime that seem to be dead but come to life again. If you hear anyone using the phrase being born again, that 's really what it means.

    And every time Christians have communion together - and break the bread and share it out with each other, they remember the story of Jesus and Cleopas and his friend and the surprise they had when they realised that this man who they loved so much and who loved them, had come back to life.

    And we give thanks for what that means for us, today.

    Emmaus story adapted from The Message version of Luke 24.13-35