2nd Sun­day of Easter - Sun­day 3 April 2016

Ex­o­dus 14:10-31, 15:20-21 Acts 5:27-32 Rev­e­la­tion 1:4-8

The Church of England - - REVIEWS / SUNDAY - Dr Lee Gatiss is the Di­rec­tor of Church So­ci­ety (www.church­so­ci­ety.org) and edi­tor of Pos­i­tively Angli­can: Build­ing on the Foun­da­tions and Trans­form­ing the Church.

The read­ings for this week re­mind us that the pow­er­ful res­ur­rec­tion plan of God is far greater than any­thing that mor­tals can dream up — and one day ev­ery­one will see that.

I have al­ways been amused by what the Is­raelites say in Ex­o­dus 14. Con­fronted with Pharaoh’s plan to re­verse their ex­o­dus af­ter the Passover, they for­get that God has a plan too. They are ter­ri­fied of Pharaoh who is puny com­pared to their God and they com­plain against Moses. “We should have stayed in Egypt!” they say. They have for­got­ten rather quickly how ter­ri­ble slav­ery was. When they were in it they couldn’t wait to es­cape. Fool­ishly of­ten we look back wist­fully at the past when things get tough in the present and we can­not see a way for­ward.

“Are there no graves in Egypt to bury us in?” the peo­ple ask — which is most ironic, since even today the one thing an­cient Egypt is fa­mous for is its graves.

The pyra­mids of the Pharaohs stand as an en­dur­ing tes­ti­mony to their death, while the peo­ple of God con­tinue to thrive and to flour­ish all over the world. In the face of what they think will be im­mi­nent death, God opens up the way to new life, for their safety and his glory.

Fi­nally they be­lieve and re­joice, though the fate of the Egyp­tians is pub­licly sealed.

So as Max­imus of Turin once put it, “the one who walks calmly in faith will not fear Egypt in pur­suit.”

Faced by the po­ten­tially life-threat­en­ing au­thor­ity of the high priest, the apos­tles in Acts 5 might have sim­i­larly been cowed into de­spon­dent fear and spir­i­tual panic. Re­mind­ing them that he had given “strict or­ders” that they were not to teach in Je­sus’ name, he con­fronts them with ev­i­dence of their de­ter­mined and brazen im­per­ti­nence. But far from be­ing silent, Peter and the oth­ers can­not help but calmly speak out (which es­tab­lish­ment fig­ures who have lost sight of truly spir­i­tual im­per­a­tives have al­ways con­sid­ered to be in­fan­tile and un­pro­duc­tive).

They must obey God, rather than any hu­man au­thor­ity — even that of the high priest — be­cause God has acted de­ci­sively in Je­sus through his death, res­ur­rec­tion, and ex­al­ta­tion. Those who re­pent and obey the true Leader and Saviour of Is­rael will re­ceive the Holy Spirit. The au­thor­i­ties will not be able to deny the un­pleas­ant ev­i­dence of their fail­ure to get with God’s pro­gramme.

The apos­tle John’s vision of the risen and as­cended Christ be­gins with a bless­ing of grace and peace from the one who has an eter­nal plan: he was, and is, and is to come. He has loved and freed his peo­ple by shed­ding his own blood, as the true Passover lamb, and faith­fully wit­nessed to the sovereign rule of God over this world and the next through his glo­ri­ous res­ur­rec­tion.

John tes­ti­fies that Je­sus will one day re­turn. And when he does, it will not be in a cor­ner. It will not be as a suf­fer­ing ser­vant. He will come to bring sal­va­tion for his peo­ple, but wail­ing and aching re­gret to those who re­ject him. “Ev­ery eye will see him, even those who pierced him” must be one of the most dev­as­tat­ing lines in Scrip­ture.

As Matthew Henry says, “He shall come, to the ter­ror of those who wound and cru­cify him by apos­tasy: he shall come, to the as­ton­ish­ment of the whole world of the un­godly.” Those who op­pose God and his plan to save his peo­ple will, at the end, be clearly and openly de­feated. Yet we are not to re­act with schaden­freude, but with re­pen­tance and so­bri­ety, trust­ing in the ul­ti­mate jus­tice and wis­dom of the one who is Al­pha and Omega.

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