Sermon by Rev Sydney Maitland for Sunday 15 April 2018.
I have spoken before about fake news, and the trouble we now have in sorting out what it true from what is true: distinguishing a reliable report from an opinion or speculation or a rumour
It is very much there as we contemplate the outcomes of the fate of the Skipral family and in our responses to the gassing of civilians in Ghouta in Syria.
The question that continues to be posed is: ‘What happened? How do we know? Which reports are we to believe and which sources of information are to be rejected?’
But in its way this is not a new problem and it applies very much to the resurrection of Jesus.
Detractors will maintain that Jesus was not the Son of God, He did not die on the cross and. in contradiction to this, His body was stolen away by His disciples.
To my mind these are excuses for not believing in the story of Jesus as a whole and of His resurrection in particular. If we can sideline the resurrection, then there is no atonement and no victory over death. We are therefore left to our own moral and spiritual devices and so anything goes.
Much of the gospel and New Testament is devoted to showing that the resurrection of Jesus was wholly real and that the alternative explanations do not hold water.
In other words, they are also devoted to asserting a version of events that matches what happened at the time and which also matches the faith of the church since then.
And when our New Testament books were finally compiled and agreed after many years of regular church use, culminating in the 4th century, post-apostolic texts were rejected, as were those claiming the names of the apostles but rejecting material aspects of their teaching.
But the question remained and remains: how are we to be sure? What are we to believe and what are we to hold to and proclaim? And this is where our lessons give us essential pointers.
First of all there is ihe gospel appearance of Jesus to the 11 disciples, and the lectionary suggests, their other followers and companions.
Here He spoke to them, inviting them to inspect His wounds. He ate some fish to demonstrate that He was not a ghost or a figment of their imaginations, an exercise in mass hysteria or suggestion.
Then, He continued to instruct th em in the scriptures. Just as He had done with the disciples on the road to Emmaus so Jesus did with the assembled disciples. What they had seen and heard must be corroborated with the scriptures, both the law and the prophets.
And so Jesus appealed to both their senses and experience and to their understanding and learning. They were to know Him in the resurrection both in the emotion and the memory, and in the mind aid its understanding.
But then there is the teaching of Peter who with John had just healed a lame man. Here also was to be an externally verifiable sign of something, and Peter was careful not to claim it for himself but to lay it at the feet of Jesus.
This was the Jesus who they had rejected and given over to death by crucifixion, and yet Peter was leaving the door open to them so that they may see; the evidence and come to faith for themselves.
They also would have remembered the terrible events of that Passover, and of the happenings after it.
Now they had the chance to ponder it anew, to see the evidence and to hear what the disciples of Jesus had to say about it.
Lesser men might have claimed it for themselves and sought to make a profit from it.
But Peter saw it in a wider context and having denied Jesus on that Thursday, he was not going to deny Him now. Rather Peter was going to affirm and proclaim Jesus as Lord:
Lord over death, the Lord who forgives, the Lord who given new life and new hope, specially to those who do not and indeed cannot deserve it.
Writing much later on, John continuec his theme that to belong to God was to find a tension with the world which would define for itself’what was true and what was not.
The world might determine that the resurrection of Jesus was in the category of fake news, proclaimed and maintained by the feeble, the misguided or the deluded.
It could not be for the educated, the rational or the sophisticated, and certainly not for the broad-minded or the liberally-attuned.
But Jesus had said that He personally was the Way, the Truth and the Light, and no-one would come to God the Father except through Him.
In Him was life and the life was the light of men.