Easter Sunday

Lectionary 1st Reading Psalm 2nd Reading Gospel
Anglican lectionary
Acts 10: 34 - 43
118: 1 - 2, 14 - 24
1 Corinthians 15: 1 - 11
John 20: 1 - 18
Catholic lectionary:
1 Corinthians 5: 6 - 8
Mark 16: 1 - 7
First Reading – Acts 10: 34 -43

Acts 10 is a special passage as it is the first explanation of the Gospel to the Gentiles.

The book of Acts can be seen as the telling of the story of Acts 1:8 in which Jesus tells the disciples that they will receive the Holy Spirit from on high and they will be witnesses to Jesus in Jerusalem, all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

From this point we then have the wonderful events of Pentecost and then the expansion of Acts 1:8. So, chapters 1-7 show the Gospel going to the Jews and Acts 8 is the intermediate part with the Samaritans. Then in Acts 9, we have the conversion of Saul/Paul, ‘the apostle to the Gentiles’, and from then we see the Gospel moving out to the Gentiles and spreading out.

Acts 10 then, with its declaration of the story of Jesus to the Gentiles, demonstrates the radical ethnic inclusivity of the Gospel. This is such an important message for us in today’s world where we see huge divisions and conflicts between races and tribes. Easter Sunday is a day for us to proclaim that Jesus died and was raised to new life for all people no matter what their ethnicity, and it is a day for us to commit ourselves to living that out in our own lives.

Remember that the Gospel simply means ‘good news’. We are to be good news and to share the good news with all people – the good news is that no one is excluded.

Psalm – 118: 1-2, 14-24

This fabulous psalm gives us reason to rejoice and celebrate this Easter Sunday!

We celebrate the mightiness of our God and the strength of God’s ‘right hand’. God is not a feeble god – our God is one in whom we can put our trust and rely on. And yet he is also a God who loves us. God is not just a strong mighty warrior to be feared: God is also a God who is close to us.

This is a theme we see throughout the Scriptures – if you wanted to go wider you could draw on Job 38/39 where we have the power of God in creation and then the intimacy of God bending down to watch the doe give birth to her fawn. It is something to be celebrated that God is both powerful and loving.

Verse 24 links to Jesus and, in Matthew 21:24 we see Jesus using this verse to refer to himself (and you can also see this verse referred to in Mark 12, Luke 20, Acts 4, 1 Pt 2). He is the one who is rejected and crucified, but now God has raised him from the dead and made him the ‘cornerstone’, the key and foundational stone. The cornerstone was the big stone placed first in a building from which everything else was built. Jesus is indeed the foundation of the Church who holds all things together (as we read in Colossians 1).

Verse 17: because of what God has done, we don’t die but we live and proclaim what God has done for us – let us be bold in that!

The word ‘glad’ in English is a bit mild but in Hebrew, it is about real rejoicing and exuberant celebration. 

Second Reading– 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Paul has been writing about the Corinthian church – rather than telling them off and also giving them instructions about what a healthy, spirit-filled church should look like. He has been focusing on this life, on spiritual gifts and worship and the different ministries of the church.

But he goes from that naturally to thinking about the future in chapter 15 as he talks both about the resurrection and then about the implications of the resurrection for how we live our lives today (verse 12 onwards). Our lives today are resurrection lives and it matters how we live them – we are not just sitting around waiting for the future, but we have new life now, and we are to bring and live out that new life to our communities and the natural world!

Paul’s emphasis in this passage is on grace and how he has experienced the grace of God so radically in his own life, as he was the ‘worst of sinners’ and deserved nothing from God, but God called him and made him a ‘new creation’, as he writes early in 1 Corinthians.

Gospel – John 20: 1 – 18

This is such a beautiful description of the resurrection.

It is of course a powerful affirmation of the role of women in the church and in the ministry of Jesus; that Peter may have run ahead first to the tomb, but it is to Mary Magdalene that the angels and then Jesus himself appeared.

This is important in the context of those times in which a woman’s witness was not considered valid, but Mary becomes the first witness of Jesus’ resurrection (verse 18) and this can be linked with Acts 10 and the ethnic inclusivity of the Gospel. Again, all people are included and are part of God’s kingdom.

Jesus speaks so tenderly to Mary and this can reflect the love of God that Psalm 118 celebrates.

It is fascinating that Jesus isn’t raised straight to the ascension, but is raised to a new life in this life initially before ascending to God the Father. Jesus’ post-resurrection body is definitely different to our current bodies and yet is also decidedly physical: this is no ghost that is floating around appearing to people. Although in this passage Mary cannot touch him, later of course Thomas does put his fingers on Jesus’ body.

Scholars sometimes draw parallels between the continuity and discontinuity of Jesus’ post-resurrection body and the continuity and discontinuity of the renewed/transformed/new heavens and earth, and that there will be a physicality there too.

Our preaching of the Gospel tends to be Pauline in which we base our understanding on the atonement, justification and forgiveness of sins. This is not wrong of course, but John doesn’t bring out these things: he focuses on there being new life in Christ. This is a dimension that can be helpful to draw out in our times in our witnessing to Jesus.


It’s Easter Sunday – a wonderful day for celebration!

You might like to draw out three reasons to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ today, that come from the passages we have been looking at:

1. The Inclusivity of the Gospel

As we have seen, today’s passages highlight both the racial and gender inclusiveness of Jesus’ ministry. The Kingdom is open to all people regardless of any of the boundaries we put on people today, and the resurrection is a confirmation of that.

Racial justice is a ‘hot topic’ currently but it is not only a secular agenda; it is something that goes to the heart of what Jesus came to accomplish. We must be anti-racist in our lives, whatever our geographical location and whatever ethnicity or tribe we come from.

Similarly, there are no gender barriers to receiving life in Jesus. The traditional divide between women and men has been broken and the resurrection shows that women are equally included. (Note: depending on your views and church context you may or may not want to extend this out to wider issues of sexuality.)

We live in such a divided society in which we put up barriers, take sides and act in hostile ways towards others. The New Testament writers knew nothing about social media but they still knew how easy it is to create camps and to exclude those who think differently.

This Easter Sunday we can show a different way: a way of love and welcome, and one in which we fight prejudice.

2. The assuredness of new life

It is wonderful news that in Jesus we have a new life. As John says earlier in his Gospel, we can have ‘life to the full’. Easter Sunday is a celebration of the new life that Jesus’ resurrection has brought for us. If God can raise Jesus from the dead then he can do the same for us too – and not only in ‘the life to come’, but we can have that now.

At times we tend to be hesitant and not want to be too confident about what we have in Christ, but our readings today give us that confidence to say, ‘Yes, I have new life in Christ, I am a new person because of what God has done in Jesus’.

Sometimes our focus on the forgiveness of sins does not resonate with people in today’s cultures as being sinful is not something that features particularly in modern ways of thinking. That does not mean we move away from that entirely, but we can also talk about the offer of new life that is there for everyone and the wonder of knowing the God of all creation.

This new life gives us a different focus for life: it lifts our eyes beyond our everyday concerns of life and family and calls us to be involved in God’s mission of bringing new life to all people and indeed to the whole creation. New life calls us to a new purpose in that life!

3. The physicality of the resurrection

All the Gospel and New Testament writers are adamant that God did not raise Jesus to a new disembodied life, like a ghost or angel, but to a very physical, embodied life. The resurrection is such a clear affirmation of the physical world and of the importance of our bodies.

We reject a Christianity that ignores the material world and teaches us to ‘subdue’ our bodies and not look after ourselves. Instead, we welcome our faith that is good news for all creation and that embraces a bodily faith that sees how we treat and use our bodies as part of our discipleship. That extends to how we treat other people’s bodies too – we are to care for people’s physical needs as well as caring for the physical world.

The Gospel is wonderfully integrated, bringing together our relationship with God with our relationship with others, with the wider natural world and with ourselves.

It is this very physicality and assuredness of the resurrection that gives us the basis for our own faith. Jesus was not left in the cold tomb but was raised to new life, and so that gives us confidence in God and our salvation.


For more on the physicality of Jesus’ body and how its continuity and discontinuity relate to the (re)newed heavens and earth, see chapter 4 of R. Valerio, Saying Yes to Life, and chapters 4-5 of D. Bookless, Planetwise.

For more anti-racism church resources see https://www.tearfund.org/-/media/tearfund/files/get-involved/resource-object/2020/08/blm-guide.pdf

I love that Mary mistakes Jesus for a gardener in the passage from John! There is so much that can be drawn out here around Jesus being the new Adam and thereby the new gardener, and our role to garden and take care of the earth. This quote from GK Chesterton, in his book, The Everlasting Man, is a beautiful one that you might like to use:

‘On the third day, the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways, they realised the new wonder; but even they hardly realised that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener, God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn.


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Dr. Ruth Valerio

Dr. Ruth Valerio

Dr. Ruth Valerio is Global Advocacy and Influencing Director at Tearfund. 

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