Easter Day

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Readings

Acts 10:34-43 
Colossians 3:1-4 
John 20:1-18

Text

Hello, this is Martin Gorick, the bishop of Dudley. Happy Easter. Alleluia! Christ is risen!

Do we believe that? Do we live our lives with the risen Jesus – live our lives knowing that God is real and that his love conquers all? Or do we think, “Well, maybe. What if the disciples made it up, or what if it's just tradition?” And we just go along with it too. “Okay, Jesus was a good teacher, and died a tragic death. What if all this resurrection stuff just got added on later?”

St Paul is clear. If Christ is not risen from the dead, then we of all people are most to be pitied he says.” (1 Cor 15:19) However useful the church might be, if Jesus is not alive and in our midst then it is useless – a waste of time to belong to the church. It's based only on a lie.

St Paul was right. None of us are Christians just through tradition or habit; we are here as seekers after truth and the truth will set us free. So in the midst of coronavirus and the horrors of COVID-19, can we still believe that Jesus rose from the dead? Can it still make sense today?

Well, some say Jesus didn't really die on the cross at all. He was just in a coma and must have come back to life in the tomb. No, this was a Roman execution. They were professionals – breaking the legs of those on each side of Jesus, piercing his side with a spear to ensure he really was dead. Some say the soldiers stole the body from the tomb. Why would they do that, and why not produce it as soon as all this talk of resurrection began?

Some say the disciples just saw things or heard voices as bereaved people sometimes do. But they don't usually go into all the world, telling people about it as those first disciples did. Some critics say the disciples made up the resurrection stories to save face. If you knew something was a lie would you be willing to face persecution as the disciples did? Would you even face death for your beliefs as they did – if you knew you had made it all up. I don't think so.

We have the fact of the empty tomb, and the fact that the disciples went from hiding themselves away in fear and sadness, to confidently proclaiming that Jesus was dead but now is risen. The empty tomb brought transformed lives.

And then the resurrection stories themselves have a quirky style to them that speaks to me of their truth. Today's reading from John’s gospel, for example. No first-century person wanting to make up a proof story would write one where a woman was the first witness of the resurrection. A woman in those days couldn't be a witness in law, let alone a woman with a doubtful past like Mary Magdalene.

Yet today we hear the beautiful story of Mary being the first person in the world to meet the risen Jesus, in a garden. Mary was to be the first witness of the resurrection – the Apostle to the Apostles. You couldn't make it up, and nor did St John. His gospel bears witness to the truth and the truth will set us free.

Christian faith today faces many challenges, but at the heart of our faith is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and I for one am convinced that it makes best sense of the facts as we know them. The fact of the empty tomb. The fact of lives turned around. The fact of the resurrection stories that ring with truth.

Last year, I was in Jerusalem. Very early on the Sunday morning, I was able to enter into the Holy Sepulchre revered for centuries as the site of Jesus’s tomb and resurrection. I'd waited so long to be there, and I had just a few seconds to myself in that holy space. I didn't know what to expect.

Words came clearly to me: “He is not here; he is risen.” The risen Lord Jesus is not confined to a tomb, or to a city or a country. He’s not the property of any religion, people or place.

The living Jesus is here with us now. Beyond this place too – ready to meet us when we least expect him. Alleluia! Christ is risen.

For Reflection

One or two questions for you – to reflect on:

  • How do we know that Jesus is alive?
  • What difference does the resurrection make to our faith and to our life?


Page last updated: 4th May 2020 1:57 PM
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