Revd Helen Writes …
There were no witnesses to the Resurrection. No one saw it happen. The most astonishing, unexplainable, momentous event in history happened silently and unseen. When the women arrived – Jesus had gone – and the tomb was empty. It is difficult for us to try and understand the depths of emotion those first followers of Jesus must have felt. We are so used to the stories. We hear them every year, all our lives. They are not a surprise. On Maundy Thursday and Good Friday we concentrate our thoughts on the betrayal, arrest, torture and death of Jesus. But, all the time, we are perfectly aware that the joy of Easter Sunday will shortly follow.
Of course it wasn’t like that for the first Christians. They didn’t know what was coming. They had absolutely no idea. They had watched a real, live human being whom they knew well and loved and respected, being ill-treated and then nailed, alive, to a cross and left hanging there in agony until he died. And then, in deep shock and traumatised by the violence they had seen done, they found the poor body of their friend had disappeared from the tomb! And then they found he was alive but they knew they had seen him die!
What must they have felt like then? Confused? Astonished? Bewildered? Terrified? More than words can tell – It is mind-blowing. No wonder they described the empty tomb in such detail. That was the bit they could grasp. That was the centre of their total astonishment. The writer of the Gospel of John even describes the grave clothes and the strange fact that they were not disturbed or disarranged. They were just as they would have been except that Jesus was not inside them any more. Just as the swaddling clothes of his birth were a sign of his arrival, so now the grave clothes were a sign of his departure.
The early church soon began to place less importance on the empty tomb and more on the news they wanted to spread. Christ was risen – he wasn’t in the tomb and the message they went out to preach was not the Gospel of the empty tomb, but the Gospel of the risen Lord.
Indeed in the very earliest account we have, St. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, doesn’t mention the empty tomb at all. Writing before any of the gospels, Paul simply lists the Resurrection experiences and is clearly more interested, as it were, in the butterfly not the cocoon. Why seek the living among the dead?
St. Teresa wrote “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours, yours are the eyes through which is to look out Christ’s compassion to the world, yours are the feet through which he is to go about doing good, yours are the hands with which he is to bless people now”.
And people are looking for Christ today, although perhaps sometimes without knowing that they are looking for him specifically. They may call it the search for meaning and fulfilment in their lives. They may be looking for a love they have not known, for hope for the future or for peace in their hearts.
We can’t know how or when anyone will find the risen Jesus. But we must always hold the knowledge that it could be through any of us and that any one of us may one day be invaluable to someone else and be just the link they need to make their own relationship with the Jesus.
May this resurrection hope fire our hearts with joy, deepen our faith with hope and lead to fresh confidence in our lives this Easter. He is risen indeed. Alleluia.