One of the things I like about the Easter story is the disciples’ reaction to it. They were tough fisherman for the most part. They were not going to be caught out by a sentimental, made up story that Jesus was alive. One of them, Thomas, has acquired the reputation of being a sceptic, but, in truth, all the disciples showed a distinct lack of faith. In St Luke’s account, when the women first came and told them that they had seen Jesus alive, they said it was nonsense.
So if you have a problem believing in the resurrection then join the club! Even after Jesus appeared to the disciples in person – and we don’t have that luxury, Matthew reports that – some still doubted.
And yet the disciples and the early Church were all sure of one thing – that the resurrection of Jesus was the single most important reason for following him. They staked everything on the resurrection. Up against the wall, St. Peter said “God has raised Jesus to life and we are all witnesses”.
The resurrection was not a belief that grew up from within the Church; born out of a wish fulfilment, a desire to keep a fantasy going. It was a belief around which the church grew up. It was the epicentre of the Christian faith.
Paul said that if Jesus was not raised from the dead, then the Christian faith was pointless and futile. Why? Because the Christian faith assumes a dynamic faith with a living person; with someone who was dead and is now alive. Only through rising from the dead does Jesus gives validity to his claims, the promise of the after life and the authority to forgive sins. In Romans, Paul says “by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus was declared with power to be the Son of God”.
So the most important question in the world is – did Jesus rise from the dead? All of us need to settle that question – Did it really happen? – If we are to receive by faith all that Jesus has for our lives today.
Easter day is much more than a yearly reminder to us that the resurrection actually happened.
Personally speaking, I have been convinced by all the arguments. The danger is that, like Christmas, it can rather lose its power to impress, to impact on our daily lives.
We settled our belief in the resurrection a long time ago. We have faith. So what!
And the key to living every day with Easter is to understand that Easter day is about more than just agreeing with certain facts about what happened to the physical body of Jesus.
The fact of the resurrection is important not just for itself, but because it points to beyond itself – to God who was responsible for it.
The resurrection tells us something about God. That here is a God that can make the impossible possible; who can reverse the irreversible; who can bring hope where there is no hope.
Easter is such a huge event in our world, and we have scaled it down to fit our minds – Easter bunnies and chocolate eggs, and to discussion about the chaos on the transport systems at this time of the year.
But Easter, if it is taken seriously, will transform your life NOW.
Look. Either Jesus rose from the dead or he didn’t. If he didn’t then the whole Christian thing is a waste of time and pointless. If he did, then what does that tell us about God? Well it tells us that Jesus is alive today and we can know Him in our everyday lives. It tells us that he is a God who can overcome death, sure, but more than that, if it is true, it means that God is a God, presumably, who can take care of every situation in our lives, this side of the grave too! He can be trusted with our jobs, even when they aren’t working out. He can be trusted with our relationships, even when they are going pear shaped. He can be trusted with old age and He can be trusted with death itself.
In John 20:1-19, John tells us very specifically that Easter is the first day of the week – Early on the first day of the week, and – on the evening of that first day of the week.
Now John, more than any other was one who was careful with his words. He doesn’t waste a word. When he says something like this – twice – then he does so for a reason.
What is he trying to say? It isn’t just that Easter falls on a Sunday. What he wants us to understand is that Easter day is the first day of God’s NEW creation.
Easter morning was the birthday of God’s new world. On the 6th day of the week, Friday, God finished all his work. “Testalesti” – the great shout – it is finished! On the 7th day, Saturday, he rested.
Early on the morning of Sunday, Mary goes to the tomb in the half light and sees the tomb empty and sees Jesus and mistakes Him for a gardener. This is the new creation. This is Jesus, the gardener ready to prepare a new life, new possibilities for life.
Then that evening of the first day of the week “when the doors were shut for fear” Jesus came and stood amongst the disciples and said to them” Peace be with you”
In other words – your old world has gone; you might have been afraid in the old world last week, but there is no need to fear in this new week.
Hopes, dreams and longings are now all possible.
A new order has burst in, and with this comes a new commission – the great commission – therefore Go and make disciples of all nations – he said – following Jesus in the power of the Spirit, to bring to our world the same new possibilities.
So what hopeless situation do you face? Where do you need a fresh possibility to break into your life? Easter day is precisely the day to take away any sense of hopelessness. The day to be reminded of the unlimited possibilities of God. The Cross and the resurrection are exactly the place to take away any sense of hopelessness. To be reminded that Christian hope is invested in an improbable outcome.
The crowd at the crucifixion challenged Jesus to come down from the Cross. None of them imagined what he would actually do. To die and then come through death into a new life.
The resurrection is the hope and the transformation of the nitty gritty things in our every day lives now.
God has not yet abolished suffering, set backs, and Satan. But he has begun to.
So the shadows of our lives are bathed in the new light of the resurrection, in hope.
In the new light the marriage looks different, the children look different, the job looks different, the exams look different, the planet looks different, life and death look different. With God there are no hopeless situations. There are only people who have grown hopeless. A trouble is only a trouble if there is no way out. With God there is always light at the end of the tunnel.
There is hope in the resurrection.
On that day everything changed for the disciples. In a way nothing changed. Rome still occupied Palestine. The religious authorities were still after them. Evil still reigned outside.
But in another sense everything had changed. The risen Jesus stood amongst them. It slowly dawned on them that if God could do that – I wonder what else he could do.
So to close; there are two ways to look at life – to focus on the wars, the unhappiness and the sheer despair of all we see around us – from that view Easter is like a fairy tale, an annual escapism.
The other way is to take Easter as the starting point for real life. If you believe in Easter in that way, and you let Easter soak through into your thinking, feeling, worrying life, then every day becomes a joy, a hope.
Lord, thank you that our faith is not a blind leap but a reasonable step based on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Thank you for the power of this message to transform lives. Thank you that just as Jesus was raised from the dead so too those who die in Christ will be raised to a new life.New Testament, Acts 17:22–18:8
The images used in this post were obtained from Wiki Commons: