Revd Jonathon's Easter Reflection
4th April 2018
The uncomfortable truth of Easter.
As Easter approaches, I wonder if I were to ask you how the Easter story makes you feel what would you say?
Don't know? Bemused? Joyful? Indifferent? Unbelieving? Don't care? If you recognise any of these feelings you are not alone because in fact many of these sorts of feelings can be found in how the disciples felt during the first Easter.
The first Easter is in fact a picture of confusion, misunderstanding, shock and unbelief.
The women who discover the empty tomb are shocked. Where on earth is Jesus' body? Mary thinks Jesus' body has been stolen. And when the angels appear to the women they are terrified. And who can blame them? There is also quite a bit of rushing about. People trying to work out what has happened. Peter sees the linen wrappings and can't work out what it's all about. The disciples didn't understand the scriptures. They also didn’t understand what Jesus had been saying to them. The angels question Mary, and she still doesn't know what's going on. Then she thinks Jesus is the gardener. Then, it seems, she reaches out to cling to him, and he tells her she mustn't. Then there is Thomas. He won’t believe until he actually sees and touches Jesus’ body. You could hardly get more confusion, shock and unbelief into a couple of paragraphs in the Gospel accounts if you tried.
And that's precisely the point because at the centre of Easter is a deeply uncomfortable truth claim. Did Jesus actually come back from the dead? This is the question which confronts us at Easter. This is the question which underpins the whole of Christianity.
And the answer either has to be yes or no. There is no way we can opt for something in the middle. The Gospel accounts don't give us that option.
For myself and for other Christians this claim is - however uncomfortable or implausible or unbelievable we find it - true. And it changes everything. Rowan Williams called it the 'second big bang.' He was trying to point to the enormity of the resurrection as a moment in history and to it being a burst of divine energy and new life into the world. Easter faith says to the world that death, evil and suffering is not the end of the story because Jesus's body came back to life after the cross. Life prevails over death and all that it stands for.
We are of course surrounded by 'uncomfortable truths.' As I write I think about recent terrorist attacks, the war in Syria, the continuing refugee crisis and poverty in the UK. The list goes on. But – and it’s a vital ‘But’ - in the midst of tragedy and suffering signs of new life, love and hope can be seen and experienced. The response and care of the emergency services, people gathering in public spaces to hold vigils and demonstrations, the call to unity and love rather than division and hate. The call to put down arms. The work of aid agencies. The charitable work of Trinity School. You and me not giving up but doing what we can to help others throughout the year. However hopeless the situation might seem. This is the Easter story playing out in our modern times. This is Easter faith…in action.
What uncomfortable truth is in your life and how might Easter faith help you to see or wait for signs of new life and hope? Like those first disciples we may be 'waiting' and 'wondering' in the period between the cross and the resurrection. Like those first disciples if you are feeling confused or uncertain or scared or are rushing about trying to work out what is going on you are in good company. What we musn't do is ignore the uncomfortable truths. To do that would be to walk past the empty tomb and to miss out on a God of surprises. A God who is seen and experienced in the middle of tragedy and suffering and in the middle of our confusion, fear and unbelief. A God who hasn’t abandoned us. A God who appears, speaks and acts when Good Friday seems to be going on forever. A God who through the resurrection unleased a power into the world which is unparalleled. Now that has to be good news. To put it mildly.