Summary: A short talk (plus a song I wrote in 1987) for the Easter School Assembly at St John's School Billericay, Essex, UK.
Now I don’t want you to think that I’m hooked on the X-Factor; but … I was thinking this morning about the welcome that the singing contestants get when they go back to visit their Secondary school. Stacey Solomon visited King Solomon High School in Ilford, and when she went on a shopping trip to lakeside In October last year the shopping centre came to a standstill because of the crowds wanting to see her. Olly Murrs returned to Notley High School; and the eventual winner Joe McElderry visited Harton Technology College in South Shields where once again the crowds of pupils cheered and shouted at the arrival of their hero.
If I said to you that as a special treat for this Easter assembly I have arranged for a special guest to be here, and they are waiting outside that door right now, slightly nervous, but excited, I wonder who you would want it to be. Who would you cheer and applaud?
This Sunday at Christ Church we will be celebrating an event that has become known as ‘Palm Sunday’. We will be recalling the day when Jesus sat upon a donkey and rode into the city of Jerusalem to the shouts and adoration of the crowd. We call it Palm Sunday because as Jesus arrived his fans were waving branches from palm trees. They were delighted to see him.
The popularity of some people can rise and fall very quickly. Thirteen years ago Tony Blair and the Labour party were very popular in the run up to the 1997 General Election. They are nowhere near as popular today as we prepare for another election.
Within 5 days of his arrival in Jerusalem to rapturous applause, Jesus – the Son of God - had been arrested on false charges, found guilty of nothing in particular, and crucified by the Religious Leaders and the Romans who saw him as a threat to their power.
With Jesus dead and buried his friends went into a deep depression for two days. Their grief was overwhelming; but when they visited his tomb on the Sunday morning to anoint his body with spices and perfumes they found that the large stone at the entrance to the tomb had been rolled away. The grave-clothes in which Jesus had been wrapped lay undisturbed in the tomb a bit like a chrysalis – but the body of Jesus was not there. Confused and dazed they did not understand what could be happening but in the Garden, in a locked room, and out on the open road Jesus appeared to his friends. He was alive!
Jesus’ friends just could not stop telling others about their joy. Jesus had died but they had seen him alive again and it was a message that they began to proclaim in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth. Jesus smashed the barrier of death, and as a Christian I believe Jesus offers us all hope for now, and the future, and for after we die too.
I would like to sing you a song I wrote 23 years back in 1987. In 1993 I performed it with my band at Winchester cathedral and Mr Bailey has very kindly put together a band for us today. It's a song all about the Easter joy of the disciples of Jesus back then, and the joy of being a follower of Jesus today.