Once more we have travelled the road through Lent; joined our Hallelujahs to those who lined the road to Jerusalem so long ago and relived the agony of Good Friday. Now we come to this day, when we remember the story of how a group of humble people finally realised what the message was that their beloved leader had been talking about and living out during those months of their close association with him. And now the spread of that message was up to them.
What an amazing life-changing story that is! It’s an old story. It’s one we’ve heard probably many times before and perhaps for that reason we might tend to think we‘ve heard it all. But as with so much in the Bible, we can think again and find something that will lead us into more dedicated discipleship.
I thought for a few minutes we might try to get inside the minds of the people who were closest to Jesus and try to understand how they felt in their time, which was very different to the one in which we live today. Cultural customs, religion and church leaders, politics and political leaders, their world view then, are a far cry from who we are and what we experience.
But let’s think first about the human emotion of grief. I guess most of us have experienced grief in our lives at some stage or another. It leaves us stunned, disbelieving, sometimes angry, empty, with a sense of helplessness. For a few minutes I want us to step into the shoes of the disciples and try to understand how it felt that day when the women came to tell them what had happened.
The disciples of Jesus had journeyed with him for many months, they had begun to know him well and slowly begun to understand what he was on about. Perhaps with all his clashes with the powers of the church and the rulers of the day they might have realised that there was probably only one ending to their friendship with him. But something might have been telling them that the authorities surely wouldn’t crucify him like so many other common criminals of their day. Surely, they wouldn’t dare, when he had so many followers, and so many lives had been changed by his compassion, love, care and passion for justice.
Now they had been faced with his cruel death. Imagine them in the depths of despair. Feeling weak and helpless, lost and disappointed, it was as if they were in a dark hole and could not see any light.
What were they to do without him? He had been their inspiration and their strength. Then slowly, slowly they began to remember some of the things he had said to them. They began to relive in their minds his work, his words and turn them over and over so that they would have a sense of not losing him. One commentator speaking of that first Easter Sunday said: “the intensity of one person’s presence in another person’s life is equalled only by the intensity of absence when that person is gone.“ Then came the moment when the women came rushing in to tell them the news about Jesus.
And from that moment on, the disciples knew that they were grasped by a love that would never let them go. And I suppose that slowly as they began to go back to work on the lake, where they had so often been with Jesus, their depression began to lift and they felt their spirits returning. After the devastating effect of grief they began to see that the cross was like a final act to open the eyes of the world to God’s love, a love not earned by keeping the law of God, but a love that was beyond the boundaries of righteousness, a love that demanded nothing in return.
Jesus had lived his life trying to demonstrate that it is in giving love away that we find love and in giving life away that we find life. As this realisation dawned on them the disciples must have felt resurrected, this was the dawn of Easter in human history when the disciples understood that although Jesus was no longer bodily with them they had a new message to deliver with new strength in the power of his memory and spirit. A message that has come down to us today. The message that the spirit of God whom we call love, lives and cannot be quenched, no matter what, when it is carried by faithful people in deed and word.
Perhaps on this Easter Day we can rejoice that the empty cross is a sign that God’s steadfast love endures. Surely the disciples must have rejoiced too. Gradually over the ensuing months as they grappled with their grief and came to the conclusion that they were loved despite all their doubts, fears and denials in word and action of Jesus’ new way, the clouds of grief, confusion and depression vanished from their minds. They experienced resurrection knowing that Jesus was part of the very essence of God and at that moment they knew that in some mysterious way Jesus was alive. Their lives were transformed, the depression lifted, they found new courage. They realized that they had to be agents of this message.
What we see happening in their lives, and in the lives of others who came after them, is proof that something amazing happened on Easter day. For us the question is: Does the presence of the Spirit of Christ mean that we become more Christ like, more open, more loving and carers for those on the margins of society? Jesus’ disciples from then till now were, and will be known, when they love as Jesus loved, when they feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, clothe the naked, comfort the distressed, give companionship to the rejected and the imprisoned.
All disciples are called to be agents of this life of Christ and be willing to give it away in love. The apostle Paul recalls his own experience of “meeting” Jesus the one whom he persecuted and tells of how the presence of Jesus in those post Easter days swept through the lives of so many.
And this has implications in our personal, community and church lives. Are we truly resurrection people? Are there still aspects of our lives both private and communal that deny the Jesus we say we follow? Grudges? Vengeful attitudes? Selfishness? Power seeking? Bigotry? The list is long, but still we are called to be all that we can be in the power of a mysterious, amazing and incredible spirit that can lead us into life that is truly meaningful and abundant.
Easter Day is a day to be glad and re-commit our lives to being the Jesus people we were meant to be. We are called to be Resurrection people living to bring life, love, compassion and justice to all as much as we can within our own lives whether we are young, old or somewhere in between no matter in what circumstances we find ourselves.