Easter Day Family Communion - John 20:24-31
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(Slide 1) Now I wonder if anyone can help me, because I have three Easter eggs here which Iím very keen to share, and inside the Easter eggs are clues to help us understand what Easter is all about. 1st volunteer with egg- rabbit. (Slide 2). 2nd volunteer with egg- chick. (Slide 3) 3rd volunteer with egg- chocolates. (Slide 4) Now can anyone see a problem with what all these things tell us about Easter. Something is missing isnít it? Because actually with all the chocolates and bunnies and chicks and hot cross buns we eat and enjoy, we miss the most important part of Easter. And that is Jesus Christ. (Slide 5) So this morning I want us to cast our minds back to that very first Easter, and weíre going to meet some people who saw what happened. And they will help us to understand why Easter is actually fantastic news!
(Slide 6) So letís remind ourselves of the story. And the story of Easter begins on Thursday night, when Jesus was with his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. (Slide 7) Jesus had just had a final meal with his disciples and heíd told them that he was going to be betrayed by a close friend and that he would die on the cross. But Jesus needs to ask God for strength to go through with such a terrible thing. And if there was any way that Jesus could avoid having to suffer, then maybe God would do that. But it was not to be, because this was Godís plan to save people like you and me. (Slide 8) But then when Jesus had finished praying, one of his close friends, a man called Judas, came and brought a whole group of soldiers with him. It was Judas who betrayed Jesus. Can you imagine one of your best friends lying to you and handing you over to the police. And Judas did it just for money. A few pounds, not much at all. So Judas kissed Jesus on the cheek to show the soldiers that this was their man. And so Jesus was arrested and led away. (Slide 9) Well Jesus was taken to the most powerful man in Israel at the time, a man called Pilate. And Pilate had the power to kill people. So he asked Jesus again and again why people were accusing him. Had Jesus done something wrong? But Jesus wouldnít answer. He just stood there in silence not saying a word. And after trying to talk to Jesus, Pilate said that he could find no reason to kill Jesus. Jesus had done nothing wrong. He was totally innocent. So all the things people were saying against Jesus were untrue. So what should Pilate have done? He should have let Jesus go! But Pilate was afraid of what his boss the Roman Emperor would think, so he asked the people what they wanted to do with Jesus. (Slide 10) And do you remember what they shouted? Crucify him! Crucify him! In other words, the people wanted Jesus to die on the cross. They wanted to get rid of him. They wanted to kill Jesus! And Pilate being a weak man, gave in to what the people wanted. He washed his hands, which was a way of saying that he was not to blame for Jesusí death. And he handed Jesus over to the soldiers to be crucified.
(Slide 11) Now before the soldiers put Jesus on the cross, they dressed him in a red coat and put a crown of thorns on his head, because they wanted to make fun of him. And they treated him very badly by hitting him and spitting on him. (Slide 12) And then, they took Jesus to the top of a hill and put him on the cross, along with two robbers who were crucified either side of Jesus. (Slide 13) And there Jesus stayed for three hours, before he died. After that Jesus was taken down from the cross and buried in a tomb. Now we might have thought that was the end of the story. But itís not. (Slide 14) Because on the Sunday morning, two of Jesusí friends went to his tomb. They were going to put perfume on Jesusí body, but instead they made an amazing discovery. They found that Jesus was not in the tomb at all. (Slide 15) Heíd gone. And they were very upset. Maybe robbers had stolen his body, because people did that sort of thing in those days. Maybe someone else had moved Jesus to another tomb? What was going on? The women were very upset as you could imagine!
(Slide 16) But just as they were about to run off and get some help, someone came up to them. And who was it? It was Jesus. He was alive. It was amazing. Surely it couldnít be true but it was. Jesus himself was standing right in front of them, as alive as you and me. And the women rushed off to tell Jesusí friends that he was alive. Well a little later on, Jesusí disciples were all together in the same room where theyíd met for tea on the Thursday night with Jesus. And they were afraid. Some of them had said they had seen Jesus alive, but it was all very confusing. But then something amazing happened. (Slide 17) Guess who should come into the room but Jesus himself! He appeared right there before them. Now if that was me, Iíd have been terrified. And Iíd want proof it really was Jesus and I wasnít having a dream. But Jesus showed them his wounds where heíd been on the cross, the scars on his hands and feet and in his side. It really was him! And they were so happy!
But there was one man who was not there that night. One friend of Jesus who was away that night. And his name was Thomas. (Slide 18) And when all his friends told him that theyíd seen Jesus, he didnít believe them. And I donít blame him do you? Would you have believed them? And so Thomas said to them: "Unless I see Jesus with my own eyes and put my hands on his wounds, then I wonít believe it!" (Slide 19) But a week later, all of Jesusí disciples were again gathered in the same room, and this time Thomas was with them. And again, Jesus appeared to them. And this time, Jesus went right up to Thomas and said to him: "Thomas, put your hands in my wounds. It really is me. Why wonít you believe it! Iím alive!" (Slide 20) And when Thomas realised it really was Jesus he was absolutely amazed! So amazed he probably fell off his chair. And do you know what he then did? (Slide 21) He said to Jesus: "My Lord and my God!" Thomas realised that Jesus really was who he said he was. He was God himself and he had come back to life!
Now that is the fantastic story of Easter. And I guess many of us will know the facts. (Slide 22) But I want us to spend just a few moments thinking about what it means for us today. Because Easter is not just a great story. Itís a true story which has a great impact on us today. And we can see from the story about Thomas that Easter means two things:
1) Easter means Jesus is the King
(Slide 23) First, Easter means that Jesus is the King. Now thatís actually what Thomas meant when he said to Jesus, "My Lord and my God." He realised that Jesus was so much more than an ordinary man. He was actually the King of kings. You see because Jesus rose from the dead, it means that he has defeated everything, including death itself. Nothing can get the better of Jesus. (Slide 24) It means he is King over the whole world, including you and me. And that means the only right response to this King is to admit he is the boss and start living our lives with Jesus as the King.
But it also means that for those of us who are Christians, then Easter is still wonderful news. Because it reminds us that we should not be afraid of anything or worry too much about anything. (Slide 25) Because we know that Jesus is King. He is in charge of our lives and has everything in control. Now of course, that doesnít mean everything will be easy, but it does mean we can trust him. So what are we afraid of? (Animation a) Maybe the future? Jesus is King. (Animation b) Maybe bad health? Jesus is King. (Animation c) It maybe some big worry that no-one else knows about, something that is really weighing us down. Jesus is King! (Animation d) Maybe death itself? Jesus is King! In everything Jesus is King. And each one of us needs to be reminded of that today, because that is one of the great joys of Easter Sunday. Jesus is the King. And we can trust him in all things.
2) Easter means Jesus offers new life
(Slide 26) But secondly Easter means Jesus offers new life. Do you see what John says in verses 30-31: "Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ and that by believing you might have life in his name." And itís because Jesus rose from the dead that we can have new life. Now what does that mean? Well it means first and foremost that we can have forgiveness of sins and a friendship with God. It means that we can know God personally, and that is a life which begins now and lasts for ever. And actually forgiveness is what we need most, because we are all people who have offended God and gone our own way. But through Jesus we can be put right.
Now to help us understand this greatest gift, Iím going to ask my assistant Heather to come and help me. And I have here a bowl of water which represents my and your life. And it looks perfect and clean doesnít it? But the trouble is, itís not! Itís actually dirty, because of all the wrong things we do each day. (Pipette of iodine in to water!) We donít love God as we should, and we donít love others as we should! And our problem is that no matter what we do, we can never make ourselves clean and perfect before God again. And we try all sorts of things. Sometimes we try going to church (iodine) but that doesnít work. Sometimes we try praying (iodine) but that doesnít work. Sometimes we try being good (iodine) but that doesnít work. Sometimes we give to charity (iodine) but that doesnít work. All these things are good things, but they cannot bring us forgiveness and they cannot get us to heaven. No what we need is a new heart. We need to be forgiven and washed clean. And that is precisely what Jesus does for us on the cross. So what happens for the person who trusts in Jesus? (Bleach in water) They are totally forgiven and washed clean!
And the resurrection proves that all of Jesusí work on the cross is true. He has defeated death and sin and is alive. And so it means that we too can be forgiven and have a fresh start with our God and King. And Easter Day is a great day for many of us to be reminded of that wonderful truth. Surely there is nothing better to sing about and praise God for than forgiveness of sins and new life with God. But for some of us, we might never have asked God for forgiveness. We might not have had the new start we keep talking about. Well why not start again today. Today would be a wonderful day to say thank you to God for his greatest gift and to begin to live his way.
(Slide 27) Iíve put a prayer up on the screen that I suggest all of us can pray together, if you would like to. It says thank you to God for this wonderful good news of Easter and it asks for help to live Godís way. So if you would like to, let us say this prayer together now as we finish.
Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your son Jesus into the world to die for us. Thank you that you raised him from the dead and that he is alive again as the King over the whole world. Help me to accept his offer of new life and forgiveness and help me to live with Jesus as my King. Amen
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