What do you feel when I say the word ‘Easter’? Excited? Joyful? Overwhelmed? Relieved?
According to the stories in the gospels the answers the disciples would have given are … puzzled? Terrified? Perplexed? Unbelieving?
In a funny way I can’t help but feel that’s good news. I suspect that many people in church know that they are supposed to feel happy and joyful at Easter, but in their heart of hearts there’s a little niggle – perhaps even more than a niggle. A little voice which repeats, “Really? Are you really sure about all this? Isn’t it all a bit strange? How can Jesus rising again help my illness, save my marriage, pay the mortgage, make me a better person?”
If those little niggles hit you at Easter, then it would appear you’re in good company. Read, for example, the resurrection account in Luke 24:1-12 and you’ll find three scared women, a bunch of grumpy and terrified disciples and a confused Peter.
Because what happened on that very first Easter morning was completely unexpected. The challenge of Easter is the challenge to hold yourself (your hopes, dreams and expectations – your whole life) open to the God who does the unexpected. To begin to believe that God can do the life-transforming things that we cannot imagine in our wildest dreams. As Paul puts it, God ‘is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine’ (Eph 3:20) and the power with which he does this is the same power that he used to raise Jesus from the dead (Eph 1:19-20).
So the Easter story isn’t just about Jesus. It’s about you and me – about confused and afraid people who show up, not understanding but unable to let go. It’s about people who find that the stone has been rolled away and the tomb is empty, when they thought it was impossible. Easter is about opening our eyes to a world full of strange new possibilities and being open to God’s future.
But, of course, Easter is also about Jesus. To understand Easter we must being to understand what Jesus was telling his disciples all along – that it was necessary for him to go through what he did. That it was necessary for him to take the sin, shame and death of this world upon himself at the cross. Easter isn’t just a random miracle. As if God is saying. “Look what amazing things I can do!” No, Easter is much more specific than that. Death has done the worst that it can possibly do, and now the new creation can begin at last.
Many in church today reach Easter with a sigh of relief – “Now Easter’s over and done with we can put our feet up and relax!” But, if you stop and think about it, Easter is the ultimate beginning. Easter is the start of a whole new story.
No wonder we’re easily confused by Easter. No wonder the disciples were too. It doesn’t fit into our understanding of the world. Instead to explodes it and creates a new one – God’s new one.
As the former General Secretary of the United Nations Dag Hammarskjold once prayed: “For all that has been, THANKS. For all that shall be, YES!”
God bless you all,