The day of resurrection! Earth, tell it out abroad. So begins an 8th century hymn and every year Christians across the globe do just that. This day is greeted with shouts of joy; he is risen, praise God.
How different from the first Easter: The Last Supper, arrest, crucifixion, burial – the end. As the day of resurrection dawned, Mary Magdalene, together with a few companions, entered the cemetery; there were no grounds for optimism. Jesus was dead and all that was left was to anoint his body before slipping quietly away. Imagine their horror on finding the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. No wonder a tearful Mary sobbed Where have you taken his body?
What happened next remains beyond human comprehension. Mary encounters Jesus, very much alive yet in some intangible way, different. Already we see a glimpse here that Jesus’ risen body is transformed. Following Mary’s report, two of the twelve visit the empty tomb but, seeing no one, go away puzzled. Then, as the day progresses Jesus appears again, and again; but only to close friends.
It is tempting to see the resurrection as a ‘lightbulb moment’: the disciples shouting the good news from the roof-tops; the risen Jesus in front of the very people who had condemned and executed him. We know, of course, it doesn’t happen like that. Jesus’ followers continue to struggle to get their minds round what is happening and Jesus only appears to those who already know him. Peter’s great Pentecost sermon (Acts 2) to the Jerusalem crowd is the exception, not the rule. Overall, news of the resurrection spreads slowly; understanding takes even longer.
Although Jesus’ resurrection is a unique historical event, set in a time and place, the resurrection constantly recurs. Today the church, in all its many forms, is the body of Christ. Like any body, we decay and die; from old age, neglect, violence. Yet Jesus’ resurrection goes on; often in people, places and communities where we least expect to find him.
Before his arrest Jesus said: In the world you will have many troubles. Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (John 16:33). This is The Day of Resurrection. We may not see it yet but the troubles of the world are overcome.
Rev Philip Payne
Easter Day 2022
The Notice Sheet for 17th April can be found here