Easter

Author: 
Fr Alec
Date: 
Saturday, April 15, 2017 - 8:00pm

The cross stood empty and alone on Golgotha, the place of the Skull, still bearing the scars and stains that told the hideous story of Jesus’ last hours. The memory was still fresh in the mind of his friends. The enforced rest of the Sabbath must have been a silent agony for them, leaving them with nothing but to think but what they had lost, and of the sterile emptiness that lay ahead.

Hastily they had stowed the body of Jesus in a borrowed tomb, with no time for anything more than a cursory nod to the traditional burial rites that he deserved. Tomorrow, early, they would go and do what was right. It was what they owed him. It was what they needed for themselves.

 

And so it is that Mary comes to the tomb, while it is still dark, and to her horror she finds the stone rolled away. Who has done this? What can it mean? Where can he be? The rest goes by breathlessly in a blur. She runs. Peter and John run to find out the truth. Can she be right? Is there some mistake? No. It’s just as she said. Away they go, bewildered and confused. Leaving Mary alone. Hollowed out and desolate. There is nothing for her now. No Jesus. Not even his body. No hope. There is nothing for her but to stand and weep.

 

How often have we felt like Mary did then? How often have we looked at our lives and felt that we have reached a dead end? That there is nowhere left to run to? That nothing can ever be the same again? That even in our grief we are denied the simple comforts that would make it bearable. How often have we stood and wept like a lost child?

 

It is then, peering into the darkness of the tomb, that she becomes aware that she is not alone. Like kindly strangers the angels ask

‘Woman, why are you weeping?’

Too numb to question their presence she answers with childlike innocence.

‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’

Behind her she hears the same question from another stranger.

‘Why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’

Still she doesn’t recognise him. Lost in her own grief, until recognition comes with her name. ‘Mary’ he says. And in being recognised, in being known, she comes to recognise, to know. ‘Rabboni’ she says, ‘My Rabbi! My Teacher!’

 

Was there ever a more tender and heart-breaking moment?

 

Often, when people speak about Easter, they do so as if the Resurrection is the happy ending to a sad story. As if the crucifixion of Jesus and the agony of the cross bears the heavy-lifting of God’s act of Salvation, and Jesus’ rising from the dead is simply the proof that God’s act of self-sacrifice was successful. But it is more, much more than this. He has not returned simply to offer consolation and reassurance.

“Do not hold on to me’, he says. He is not a comfort blanket to be held tight. The work of salvation, the renewal of humanity in the image of God begins now.

 

Because here, in this moment of recognition in the garden, God’s work of creation has begun again from the beginning. Christ, in the shattered, crucified body of his humanity, still bearing the wounds of his execution, has risen from the dead into a new life like a second Adam, extending to Mary, and to us all, the opportunity to begin again. Having taken upon himself our human nature, having suffered with us and for us the inevitable consequence of human sin, he has risen from the dead to show us the ecstatic truth of what it means to be human. ‘For as in Adam all die,’ says St Paul, ‘So also, in Christ, shall all be made alive.’

 

‘Rabboni!’ says Mary. It sounds to us like a mistake. Jesus is more than just a teacher now. If at any time he was moral guide, teaching us right from wrong, the resurrected Christ has surely surpassed that now! But if we stop to think, we remember that a rabbi in Jesus’ times was more than simply a teacher, he was a mentor, a model for life. The one with whom a disciple lived and whom she learned to imitate.

 

He is now the template for a renewed humanity. The first-born of a new creation. Baptised into Christ, and with death behind us, we, and all creation, can now lay hold on life in all its fullness. Life as it is meant to be lived. Life in intimate communion with our Creator.

 

Are we feeling weighed down and brought low by guilt or regret? The Risen Christ has set us free to begin again unburdened by the past.

 

Are we suffering the pain of loss and grief? The Risen Christ has brought us the promise of abundant life beyond the limits of our imagination.

 

Are we oppressed by the cruelty and tyranny of others? The Risen Christ is living testimony that violence and force cannot stand and have no place in the kingdom that is to come.

Are we shackled and bound by our wants and our compulsions and our temptations? The Risen Christ has raised us beyond their grip and given us a vision of a new freedom.

 

We live in dangerous and unsettling times, people are divided as never before, battle lines are being drawn, and we are surrounded by news of violence and the threat of destruction. But today, today in the light of the Resurrection we can look forward with hope and even confidence, because whatever the future may bring, we know that it cannot overwhelm us. Let the devil shriek and howl all he wants, Christ has conquered death and hell, and the old order is already passing away. Christ is Risen, and we are Risen with him. Alleluia!