When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
“The greatest day in history, death is beaten, You have rescued me. Sing it out, Jesus is alive…” So, Tim Hughes’ contemporary worship song. Our (Western) calendar hinges on the birth of Jesus: the move from BC to AD, or BCE to CE for academics and secularists is centred on that event, even though we don’t know exactly when Jesus was born.
But the Resurrection surely ought to be far more important and the subject of much greater rejoicing. In raising Jesus from the Tomb, our Heavenly Father declared that our last enemy, death, has been destroyed (see 1 Corinthians 15:26). In the events of Easter, God redefined what it means to be fully human. We need have no fear of death.
What a very different experience for the two Marys and Salome, though! Read verse 8 again. There is nothing of the joyous celebration that I trust you will share in today. Their emotions must already have been in a whirl, just as we experience when someone close to us dies. To find the tomb opened must have further distressed them. Then to be confronted with this “young man, dressed in a white robe” who told them that Jesus was actually alive now – after they had seen the horror of the manner of His death…well, I can begin to imagine the utter confusion and panic they started to feel.
Have we made, through familiarity, the Easter story too tame? I’m sure that’s what we’ve done with Good Friday. But how much do we connect with the story of that first Easter? What happened was so amazing, so revolutionary, that life will never be the same again. Our life should never be the same again. Allow God to speak to you afresh this year, to show you the magnitude of the change brought about as the means to our eternal life was provided. And rejoice that God loves you so much that He gave His only begotten Son, so that all who believe in Him may not perish but have everlasting life.
Life-giving, transforming God, shake us awake this Easter Day. Help us to see afresh through Your eyes the huge price that You have paid for our sake, to change us, to bring us a life truly worth living. By Your Holy Spirit, make us the people we need to be. Teach us to be always thankful, and help us put that lesson into action. Transform us from the timid, the confused, the frightened, into a Church renewed and ever ready to be Your witnesses to the ends of the earth – even in our own homes and communities. Make us bold in sharing this amazing Good News of Christ crucified AND risen. We ask this for the sake of Your Son, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus, who reigns with You, Father, and the Holy Spirit, one God forever, to whom be all glory and praise. Amen.
The Rev’d Steve Faber is the Moderator of the West Midlands Synod.