Weekly Introduction to the Readings of the Revised Common Lectionary (Easter)

Isaiah 65:17-25

Isaiah 65 is part of what scholars refer to as “Third Isaiah.”  It appears not to be written in the latter part of the 8th century (First Isaiah) nor during the exile (Second Isaiah) but after the exilic community has returned to Judea in the later part of the 6th and first part of the 5th century.  The community that returned was faced with seemingly insurmountable problems.  The city of Jerusalem lay in shambles.  The walls were torn down.  The temple was destroyed.  The returning exiles had no protection, no cultic center, and no organization and leadership.  On top of that they still chafed under the rule of the Persian Satraps.  The morale of the people was understandably low.

The creative scribes writing in Isaiah’s tradition took it upon themselves to encourage the returning exiles with words about God’s ability to do something “new” even when the city lie dead.  According to Isaiah 65 God could resurrect the city, “I am about to
create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress” (Isaiah 65:18-19).

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

This is the only time I can recall in the lectionary when the Psalm lection stays the same for two weeks in a row.  In all three years of the lectionary rotation Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday always use Psalm 118 as the Psalm of response.  Last week we mentioned all the ways that the Psalm fit the occasion of Palm Sunday.  We can do the same thing here for Easter.  Consider the following…

“The Lord…has become my salvation.” (vs. 14)
“I shall not die, I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.” (vs. 17)
“He did not give me over to death.” (vs. 18)
“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (vs. 24)

1 Corinthians 15:19-26

Apparently in Corinth there were some who were teaching that there is no resurrection of the dead.  Paul counters that teaching in our NT Epistle lection.  Paul sees proof in the coming resurrection in that Jesus was resurrected from the dead.  Jesus was the “first fruits” of all that will follow.  The two events are so linked for Paul that if there is no resurrection from the dead at the end of time then Christ himself was not resurrected.  Paul sees this as the heart of the gospel message, and says if Christ was not raised form the dead “then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain.” Interestingly Paul asserts that if Christ was not raised from the dead then we are still under the power and bondage of sin.  Since sin leads to death then if Christ remained dead he did not defeat death or sin.
Luke 24:1-12

Our gospel lection from Luke records the discovery of the empty tomb by Mary the mother of James, Joanna, Mary Magdalene and the “other women” that were with them.  At the tomb the women are addressed by two men in “dazzling clothes” who ask them why they “are looking for the living among the dead?”  The men in dazzling clothes then remind
the women of Jesus’ own words about his death and resurrection.  The women return to tell the other (male) disciples who dismiss the womens’ report as an “idle tale.”  The one exception to this response is Peter who immediately runs to the tomb to investigate it for himself.  Finding the tomb empty our gospel lection ends with Peter leaving the scene “amazed at what had happened.”

Celebration of Worship

Easter is hope!  Easter is Joy!  Easter is mission!  The message of the resurrected Lord is always “go tell others.”  Go tell others that sin and death are defeated.  Go tell others that God has done something “new.”  Go tell others that Jerusalem can be rebuilt again.  Go tell others that the stone that was rejected has now become the chief corner stone.  As Paul reminds us if Christians do not have the message of Easter then Christians have nothing to say at all.  As you prepare your hearts, minds, prayers, and hymns for Sunday consider the
Christ who is the “first fruits” of the coming resurrection.  Consider the absurdity of the “idle tale” that you tell!  In spite of the absurdity consider the hope it inspires.  Consider the need of some to get up and investigate this claim for themselves.  Consider walking to
the parking lot afters services “amazed at what had happened.”

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