Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed.
Do you believe that? Do we really?
Live our lives knowing that God is real and that his love conquers all? That the price is paid, that we are free and that God’s love is stronger than death, even our own death?
Or do we think, well maybe… maybe the disciples made it up, maybe its because we can’t face the reality of death and need a way out, maybe its just years of tradition and we just kind of go along with it too. Jesus taught lots of good things and died a tragic death, but maybe all this Resurrection stuff just got added on later?
But, as St Paul said, ‘If Christ is not risen from the dead then we Christians are of all people most to be pitied.’ Whatever the value of the church to society, it would be based on a falsehood, at best a mistake, at worst a lie. St Paul was right. None of us are here just because of tradition or habit, we’re here today because in one way or another we seek after truth, the truth that will set us free.
So in the 21st century can we believe that Jesus rose from the dead? Can it still make sense?
Some say he never really died on the cross. He was just in a coma and came back to life in the coolness of the tomb. But this was a Roman execution. They were professionals, breaking the legs of those on each side of Jesus, piercing his side with a spear to ensure he really was dead. We can be sure they knew he was dead before releasing his body.
Some say the soldiers stole the body from the tomb. But why? And why not produce it as soon as all the talk of resurrection began?
Some say that in their grief the disciples just saw things, or heard voices. Bereaved people often do, but they don’t go into all the world telling people about it!
Perhaps his friends made up the stories then, to save face, to show their families they’d not just followed another Messianic loser. But if you knew something to be a lie, would you spend your whole life proclaiming it? Would you be willing to face persecution and your own death, as the disciples did, for the sake of something you knew to be a falsehood?
And the resurrection stories themselves have a quirky style to them that speaks to me of their truth. Today’s gospel for example. No 1st century Jewish writer wanting to produce a proof story, would write one where a woman was made the first witness of the resurrection, and a woman with a doubtful past at that, Mary Magdalene. It would be crazy! Women at that time couldn’t even act as witnesses in court, only men could.
And yet today we hear this remarkable story of the woman who was lost, becoming the first person to find the Risen Lord. You couldn’t make it up!
Over 500 had seen the risen Jesus in the end, says St Paul, many of whom were still alive. If you don’t believe me, he says, go and ask them!
So, at the heart of our faith is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and I for one am convinced that it makes best sense of the facts as we know them.
- The fact of the empty tomb.
- The fact of lives turned around.
- The fact of the resurrection stories that ring with truth.
A few years ago I was lucky enough to be in Jerusalem, and very early on the Sunday morning was able to enter into the Holy Sepulchre revered for centuries as the site of Jesus tomb and resurrection. I’d waited so long to be there, and I had just a few seconds to myself in that holy space. I didn’t know what to expect, but as I waited in the semi darkness some words came clearly into my mind, ‘He is not here…. He is Risen.’
The Risen Lord Jesus is no longer confined to a tomb. Or a city or a country. He is not confined to a religion, or a people or a place. He is here with us now, and beyond this place too, ready to meet you when you least expect him. Now we know:
- that God is love, and that love is forever
- that death is not the end, for Jesus or for us
- and we can share that Risen life of Jesus, now and in all eternity in lives transformed by His life at work within us.
Alleluia. Christ is Risen!
He is Risen indeed. Alleluia!
- Have Christians lost confidence in their own resurrection life after death? St Paul knew this was a vital part of his Christian faith. Read more of his writing in 1 Corinthians 15, verses 12-26, and then go on to verses 35-58.
- The encounter between Mary Magdalene and the Risen Jesus in John 20.11-18 is surprising, tender and moving. You could spend time dwelling in the word, reading the passage slowly one or twice, and then entering it in your imagination. The darkness and coolness at first, the half light of dawn as the sun and the warmth of a new day approach. What can you hear? Who do you notice? What do they say to you? What might you say to them?