EASTER 4 22 April 21

By Brian Reader

Acts 4.5-12; Ps 23; 1 John 3.16-end; John10.11-18

Good Morning to you all. Although this the fourth Sunday of Easter,
I promise I won’t mention anything about chocolate eggs, or Easter bunnies!

Today should also be St. Mark’s Day but because the Church considers his day to be less important than the message for Easter 4, his festival day is moved to tomorrow. To me this seems unfair, so I will be mentioning St. Mark later in the sermon.

I wonder if any of you have noticed that all the readings after Easter have included a passage from Acts which describes the work of Jesus’ followers after the Resurrection.

At first, today’s reading may seem a little out of context unless you also know something about what went on before.

At the start of the chapter we can read how a lame man came to be cured by Peter and John in the temple. They then explained what had happened and spoke to the people about the risen Christ. The priests, the chief of the Temple police, and the Sadducees then arrived and they were extremely annoyed that they were preaching to the people and proclaiming that ’the resurrection of the dead’ had begun to happen through Jesus.

So they arrested them and put them into prison. So that explains why they were under arrest, and why the Chief Priest thought it necessary to go mob handed the next day to interrogate the disciples.

Why was the high priest so angry? You would have thought that it would be great news to know that God was alive and well and was providing a wonderful rescue operation for all through his chosen Messiah?  But, NO, not if you were one of the people who had rejected and condemned that Messiah. And certainly not if you were in charge of the central institution that administered God’s law, God’s justice and the life of God’s people.

To understand all this we need to get inside what these people believed on the one hand and what the news of Jesus’ resurrection actually meant on the other. In a similar way we will see how this relates to the world today.

As we know from other passages, the Sadducees were Jewish aristocrats, including the high priest and his family, who wielded great power in Jerusalem and among the Jewish people. They guarded the Temple, the most holy place in Judaism.  There the system of animal sacrifice had been practised for a thousand years and it was where the one true God had promised to meet with His people. In so doing the priests exercised great power economically, socially and politically.


The Roman governor would normally do business with and through the high priest and his entourage. They could get things done, or stop things happening; and that is why they strongly disapproved of the idea of ‘resurrection’.

So why doesn’t the Gospel message make such an impact today? Well today, the Gospel story is old news. It has been discussed, debated and denigrated for at least the last 200 years in the Western world. People have laughed at ‘resurrection’, whether that of Jesus or that of anyone else. But resurrection always was a radical, dangerous doctrine, an attack on the status quo and a threat to existing power structures.

Because Resurrection, is the belief which declares that the living God is going to put everything right once and for all, He is going to ‘restore all things’, to turn the world the right way up at last. And those who are in power, within the world the way it is, are quite right to suspect that, if God suddenly does such a marvellous, drastic thing, they can no longer expect that they will stay in power in this new world that God is going to make.


Resurrection, whichever way you looked at it, was not what the authorities wanted to hear about. So what made the authorities angry wasn’t just Peter’s announcement that God had raised Jesus from the dead. It was, as Luke puts it, a much larger thing: that Peter was preaching the resurrection of the dead, and also announcing this revolutionary doctrine ‘In Jesus’.

In other words, Peter was saying not only that Jesus himself had been raised, but that this was the start and the sign of God’s eventual restoration of everything.


This may have been bad news for the chief priests and the Sadducees, however it was exactly what plenty of others wanted to hear. (About this time, St. Luke, recorded in The Acts of the Apostles that a further 5,000 came to faith on the spot).

But the really sinister thing about this section is the further question the authorities ask. ‘What name did you use to do this? This reminds us of the accusations that were hurled at Jesus himself: was he, after all, in league with Beelzebub? Was Jesus – and were the disciples, – the kind of people that they had been warned about in Deuteronomy, telling people to guard against false prophets leading them astray from the one true God.


Jesus answered that question by reference to the Holy Spirit, at work in and through him to launch God’s kingdom project. So Peter, himself filled with the holy spirit, announces boldly that the ‘name’ in question is that of Jesus, the Messiah, from Nazareth’.

The last verse also reminds us: –


         There is Salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.

Referring now to St. Mark who was the writer of the earliest Gospel and the first Bishop of Alexandria in Egypt, and we use his Gospel as the main source of our Gospel reading this year.

St. Mark is mentioned as John Mark in Acts, and simply as “Mark” in the epistles St. Paul and St. Peter.

He accompanied St. Peter on his journey to Rome, and it is said he wrote his Gospel at the urgent request of the faithful of Rome, who were anxious to have an enduring record of what St Peter had taught them by word of mouth.

The Gospel is simple and direct, and, it is the primary source of information about the ministry of Jesus, parts of which can be found in the Gospels of Mathew and Luke. As St. Mark may never have heard our Lord, he does not exactly follow the order of events in his narrative. He follows the order in which he heard them from St. Peter, who adapted his preaching to the requirements of his hearers, without following the exact order of the discourses or actions of Jesus.


St. Mark, however, took care to write nothing except what was strictly true, as he heard it from the lips of St Peter, and he committed all to writing under the inspiration and impulse of the Holy Ghost. There is however a problem as there appears to be a missing column or a page at the end of the Gospel regarding the resurrection and the events which followed.


It is obvious that two later writers have added text to try and fill this gap in order to give the Gospel a conclusion.

This absence of Mark’s resurrection story could be the reason why his day is not celebrated on a Sunday in this post Easter period. Mark was not one of the twelve close apostles of Jesus, but he did leave a short but gripping account of the life, and death of Jesus Christ which represents the heart of the Christian story and the truth of our faith.

I will finish by reading the collect for St. Mark’s Day.

Almighty God,
who enlightened your holy Church
through the inspired witness of your evangelist Saint Mark:
grant that we, being firmly grounded
in the truth of the gospel,
may be faithful to its teaching both in word and deed;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, AMEN

Mark, the famous winged Lion, is for everyone the symbol of Venice. The link between St. Mark and Venice comes from an ancient legend, according to which the Evangelist Mark, during his journey from Aquileia to Rome, found a storm and he took refugee in a small island of the lagoon.

Journey through Lent by Helen Buchanan

Christ is Risen

How wonderful this sounds today – as joyful as it was on that first Sunday morning. Imagine going to the tomb expecting to find a cold corpse and instead to find a living Jesus! This was the biggest miracle of them all!

Mary must have felt ecstatic and couldn’t wait to tell the Disciples. It’s interesting how Mary had not hidden away like the Disciples and was prepared to go and anoint Christ’s body without any fear for her own safety.

There Mary found that God had touched Jesus and he had burst through the limitations of his earthly body, revealing himself as the Risen Christ , the Saviour of the world. How magnificent and how thrilling it must have been!

Today, Christians everywhere can repeat with thanks and praise, those profound words of Job:

“I know that my Saviour lives and at the end, He will stand on this earth.”

Job 19. 25-27

Nicky Gumbel, wrote in his 2004 book “Questions of Life”how the Good News of Christianity is that God loves us and will never leave us in the mess we make of our lives. God came to earth, in the person of His Son, to die instead of us, not as well as us. And by doing this, Jesus breaks the barrier of death and restores our relationship with God. The bridge is open and we are welcome to cross it ! We have our part to play too by following Jesus and putting him first in our lives. Then, when our earthly life is done, are we free to cross the bridge Christ’s sacrifice created, so we can live forever with the Lord.

Day 38 Journey through Lent by Helen Buchanan

Holy Saturday

The Disciples ran away in fear from the Garden of Gethsemane, all except Peter. They went to a safe place and waited together, too frightened to leave. They were devastated by the authorities finally catching up with Jesus and appalled to know Judas had betrayed them all.

The other followers of Jesus must have been stunned by what had happened when the news spread of Jesus arrest. Some people had seen Jesus as a wise teacher but others hoped he would be the rebel leader who would rise up and free them from a life under Roman rule.

The eleven Disciples, hiding together behind locked doors, were filled with the fear they would be arrested next. They would have cried and mourned the loss of Jesus and suffered the intolerable pain and numbness bereaved people feel. But they also feared about themselves as self preservation took hold. The Disciples stayed hidden from Thursday night to Sunday and only came out when Mary came to tell them the good news of Jesus coming back to life.

Jesus’ enemies were no doubt celebrating and gloating after what they believed was a successful execution. But little did they realise the incredible significance of this execution because they had never bothered to listen to Jesus’ words. The crucifixion was only the beginning not the end.

“(Jesus) said ‘we’re going to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die. Then they will hand him over to the Romans to be mocked, flogged with a whip and crucified. But on the third day he will be raised from the dead.”

Matthew 20. 17-19

Day 37 Journey through Lent by Helen Buchanan

The Longest Night

If you ever suffer a night of anguish and pain, be comforted by knowing that Jesus has been there too. It is always night time our worries and anxieties come to the surface, especially for those living alone.

Once arrested on the Thursday evening Jesus spent the rest of the night on trial. When Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor, could find no reason to sentence Jesus to death, he relied on an unruly crowd to do it for him instead.

 “The soldiers to the Governor took Jesus to the Governor’s palace and called the brigade together for some fun. They stripped him and dressed him in a red toga. They plaited a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a stick in his right hand for a sceptre. They knelt before him in mockery: Bravo, King of the Jews. Then they spat on him and hit him on the head with a stick. When they had had their fun they took off the toga and put his own clothes back on him. Then they proceeded out to the crucifixion.

Matthew 27. 27-32

When we revisit the crucifixion every year, the pure horror and cruelty of the very act digs deeper into our souls. Jesus not only gave his life for ‘me’; he did so in the most horrific, degrading and barbaric way. Cliff Richard recently said he finds Easter hard because of having to recall the barbaric way Christ died. He says by contrast he feels the birth of Christ should be celebrated not just at Christmas, but every day of the year as God had come to dwell amongst us.

Finally, just before Jesus died he whispered “It is finished.” Jesus was not talking here about the act of execution but meant Jesus had completed his earthly duties and the sacrifice was met.

This was not a cry of defeat but a cry of triumph and achievement. Those very last words are what we should focus on, even though we know the best was yet to come. The bridge was about to be restored once again! Out of all the other faiths, Jesus is the only religious leader to be executed and give his life for others.

Day 36 Journey through Lent by Helen Buchanan

The Smell of Fear

The Feast of the Passover was the most important feast day of all for the Jewish people and everyone wanted to go to the Holy City to celebrate it. The Jewish authorities wanted to arrest Jesus before the feast to avoid civil unrest and it was Judas Iscariot who made this possible in the Garden of Gethsemane.

The very human Jesus was full of fear and anguish over his coming execution. This was evident when Jesus spoke to Peter –

“The sorrow in my heart is so great that it almost crushes me. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Matthew 26. 36-38

How very human it is not to want to be alone when being faced with something daunting and Jesus struggled to accept what lay before him. So he prayed relentlessly for hours, trying to find the spiritual strength to be able to face execution. He saw the Disciples asleep nearby , no doubt affected by the wine drank earlier and Jesus felt desperately alone and fearful. At some point Jesus had a spiritual crisis asking God

“ If it is possible take this cup of suffering from me”.

But after talking with his Father in Heaven, Jesus had a change of heart and no longer asked to be spared. Jesus knew he must be prepared to bear the burden of our sin with his own body and he accepts his fate upon the cross .

We must never underestimate how hard it was for the very human Jesus to accept God’s will must be done. Jesus really suffered mentally that night in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was only 33 years old and no one wants to die with the best years of your life still ahead of you. Jesus truly feared the physical pain and torture he was soon to be facing. But sometime that night Jesus found the courage to be the obedient son and surrender himself to God’s will.

Day 35 Journey through Lent by Helen Buchanan

The Final Straw

After keeping well out of the way from the authorities by hiding in Bethany, Jesus faces a grim realisation. He realises he is being separated from being with the people He loved. He realises he can no longer play hide and seek with his persecutors. The time had finally come to step out and fully identify himself as the one true Messiah the people had been waiting for.

Jesus could have done this in many ways but he chose a simple one, to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. He then preached openly knowing he would have to face the full wrath of the Jewish authorities . So when Jesus openly criticises the Pharisees, calling them hypocrites, Jesus’ authority is questioned. Meanwhile Judas Iscariot strikes a bargain with the Jewish leaders to tip them off when Jesus is alone. As a reward he received 30 silver coins. Judas had been the Treasurer of the group for 3 years but he was a political rebel and wanted the Romans out of his country. This was probably Judas motive for doing this.

The net is now closing in on Jesus and he knows it. So Jesus arranges for his disciples to meet him in an upper room. The Last Supper is the final meal Jesus shares with the twelve. At this meal, Jesus predicts that one of them present will betray him and he predicts that Peter will deny even knowing him before the evening is out. But how did Jesus know this? What part of Jesus, human and divine, could know what would happen at the meal and after? Not even the Disciples knew what Jesus was talking about because Jesus had evaded the enemy for so long.

On that night Jesus, very deliberately, takes the bread and wine and shares it with his disciples saying:

“This is my body which is given for you.”

And then he gives them a cup of wine saying:

“Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood which seals the Covenant between God and his people.”

But the significance of this moment was not understood by the Disciples until after the Christ’s death. After this they left the upper room and went to the Mount of Olives, all except Judas Iscariot who had gone to tip off the elders. The net was closing in on Jesus and his time on earth was coming to an end.

Day 34 Journey through Lent by Helen Buchanan

Knowing Jesus

We know more about Jesus than we probably realise, particularly his human self. Physically, he was of Middle-Eastern origin so would have had dark hair and olive skin. Prior to becoming a teacher, he would have been clean-shaven, as was the tradition, then once he started preaching, he would have grown a beard as Rabbi’s do. His height would have been typical of a man of that time between 5’6 – 5’8 maximum.

Personality wise, Jesus was a good judge of character picking his 12 disciples mostly from his friends. Jesus showed great knowledge and wisdom when faced with the intimidation of the Pharisees and Sadducees. He was a natural storyteller and would have been quite entertaining to be able to command a crowd of 5000’s attention. Jesus was a natural storyteller.

Jesus was a man who was prepared to stand up for his principles even being prepared to overturn the money changers tables at great personal risk. But in doing so he also showed he was capable of channelling anger in a controlled and focused way. A lesson for us all.

Jesus was immensely brave and courageous when he endured death by crucifixion. He showed physical endurance not only when tempted in the desert but when he coped with unspeakable acts of torture and a brutal death. Jesus was able to do this because of his immense love for us and for his Father in Heaven. Jesus found physical strength in love.

Jesus never owned his own home or collected possessions even though he was courted by many rich followers. Instead, he relied on friends to support him and never worried where his next meal will come from, placing all his trust in God. Jesus gave his whole life for us and now asks us to do the same for him. Some things we do are better late than never.

Day 33 Journey through Lent by Helen Buchanan

Do you Believe in Miracles?

Jesus’ divine self had supernatural powers demonstrated in the good works he performed. These extraordinary acts of kindness came in the form of miracles and there are plenty recorded in the Gospels. Jesus’ divinity shone relentlessly from him and his miracles proclaimed Jesus’ authority in Heaven, and on earth.

Do miracles happen today? There can be no doubt they do but some doubt they do, putting it down to science.

In 1990, my 10 year old son fell critically ill with a mysterious virus which confounded the doctors and specialists who cared for him. He spent weeks in intensive care on a life support machine and I was told to prepare for the worse. Darkness overwhelmed all my family. My 3 year old daughter also fell ill with the same virus, spending four days in hospital, in isolation, but easily recovered. Life was grim and the doctors could offer little hope to us. Weeks past, his school friends recorded a tape to play to my son, his friends in our road collected money for a gold cross and had it blessed, everybody prayed relentlessly and time stood still. There seemed to be nothing but grim news from the doctors every day and it was hard to keep up hope week after week.

I tried to cope by just focusing on the now, living in the moment, not thinking about what might be, or dwelling on what had been, easier said than done. I often prayed loud and angry prayers during my frank appeals to God for help. In the end I resulted to bargaining with God or trying to “ Take my life not Brendan’s” I begged desperately. I thank God my son lived but it caused partial sightedness, mild cerebral palsy, gall stones and 3 years to get over it. At times the physical aftermath of illness was very painful and it had a deep and lasting effect on my son’s life and ours.

One day, at his Neurologist appointment, the doctor admitted he remained baffled by my son’s recovery, adding that it was nothing short of a miracle. The word “miracle” was repeated again by the Ophthalmologist and then the Child Development Specialist too. But it came as no surprise to me, I already knew it was a miracle when I saw my sons recovery confounding the nurses faces as my son came out of a coma. Yes, miracles do happen, and I have been blessed and privileged to have it happen to my son.

“Father, not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22. 42

Day 32 Journey through Lent by Helen Buchanan

Being Humble

“The greatest treason is to do the right deed for the wrong reason”. Murder in the Cathedral by TS Eliot. These words are taken from the short play “Murder in the Cathedral” written by T S Eliot in 1935. The play is based on the martyrdom of Thomas Becket and his friendship with Henry II that led to his downfall. The words so clearly say that to be a hypocrite is ultimately to betray oneself.

Shakespeare said something similar about how important it was to be a sincere person when he wrote, “To thine own self be true” (Hamlet).

As followers of Jesus, we must remember that God wants us to be humble in all we do. Jesus does not want us publicising our good deeds so we get credit from others. We shouldn’t be advertising our positive actions to make a good impression on others. The Lord knows what we are doing and for the reason, the Lord is the only person who matters in these things.

Sometimes however, a good deed does become public knowledge because it needs to be to attract extra support. For example, if you are being sponsored to run a marathon. When this happens we need to remember to remain humble in our achievements and keep the charitable cause at the centre of our minds so that it informs our actions and our words. As Jesus reminds us –

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever becomes humble, like this child, is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 18. 3-4