He is risen! Hallelujah!
He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me (Mt 28:1-10).God died on Friday, and the world ended. Yesterday, He was lying in His tomb; all hope and promise of the coming kingdom buried with Him. Today, He is risen: God has irrupted into the present, and now we look forward to the eschatological fulfilment in the transformation of the world order, the ultimate redemption of the believer, and the final judgement.
No matter how hostile, antithetical or 'secularised' the world becomes, nothing will change this immutable truth. Jesus is alive. The resurrection of Christ is the "first fruits" of the full harvest - the resurrection of all believers. The risen Lord is the "firstborn from among the dead". The power of sin has been conquered, but the consequence - physical death - remains, awaiting a future consummation. The Spirit is a "guarantee" of our ultimate redemption.
The resurrection of Christ split history in two; it divided BC from AD. It isn't politic to say so in this age of religious equality, but Moses, Mohammed, Buddha and guru Nanak are all dead and in their tombs. Only Jesus is alive. Of course, to the superior intellects and enlightened ones, this is but a fairytale, a fantasy, an hallucination, a delusion.
But if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and our faith is in vain. The Christian faith stands or falls with Christ's resurrection. His death on the cross is historical fact brought about by man. His resurrection is an eschatological event brought about by God. Just as God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and gave them the Promised Land, so He delivered mankind from sin and death that we might have eternal life. The blood of the first Passover which spared Israel’s firstborn foreshadows the second Passover and the Lamb who died that we might be born again.
To have mourned at the cross, despaired at the death, wept at the graveside, and then to have met the Risen Christ must have been an inexpressible joy. That joy is now ours. And yet the world is still shrouded in night: we suffer, grieve and feel unbearable pain. As the Archbishop of Canterbury reminds us today in his Easter sermon:
"With Mary there are so many that weep. In Syria mothers cry for their children and husbands. In Ukraine neighbours cry because the future is precarious and dangerous. In Rwanda tears are still shed each day as the horror of genocide is remembered. In this country, even as the economy improves there is weeping in broken families, in people ashamed to seek help from food banks, or frightened by debt. Asylum seekers weep with loneliness and missing far away families. Mary continues to weep across the world.He is risen! Hallelujah!
"But listen, hear the announcement... The one who was dead, is now alive! The one whose body had been a corpse, lying motionless in the grave, inert, lifeless, lying flat on the stone ledge of the borrowed tomb – he now stands before Mary, speaking her name. This day he speaks everybody’s name to engage them with the news that he is alive...
"Someone wrote recently ‘Joy might be a greater scandal than evil, suffering or death’. This is what I have been moved by in Christian communities around the world who face the most devastating of conditions. Their certainty that Jesus is alive enables them to face all horrors with joy. Not happiness, but joy. Joy can exist alongside mental illness, depression, bereavement, fear, because the joy of Christ comes from knowing that nothing and no one less than God has the last word.
"I remember sitting in a room with the Bishop who had come over from Pakistan soon after the attack in September on a church in Peshawar. I asked how Christians were coping with the fear that such attacks brought, and wondered if there had been anyone in church the week following the attack. ‘Oh yes’ the bishop replied, ‘there were three times as many people the next week’. Such action is made possible only by the resurrection. The persecuted church flourishes because of the resurrection. I think of women who I met earlier this year who have survived unspeakable sexual violence, yet who lift their arms in prayer and praise to God. I think of teenagers I met in Luton who have hope and joy, in lives that were dominated by self hatred and harm. This has only been made possible because Jesus is alive.
"The announcement that Jesus is alive changes everything; not simplistically or even instantly do circumstances and situations change. But it changes us. It gives us hope where we were in despair, faith where we were lost, light where we were in darkness, joy where we were entirely in sorrow."
His Grace wishes all of his readers and communicants a blessed Easter.