‘This is the day the Lord has made. Let us be glad and rejoice in it.’ Today, Easter Sunday is the first day of the new creation. Last night we heard the Genesis account of the first creation where God created the heavens and the earth and it was good. But now God is doing a new deed. Jesus has been raised to a new life, a new way of being, something that is beyond our understanding, that eye has not seen nor ear heard. It’s a whole new world where love, peace, joy and reconciliation flourish.
The resurrection of Jesus is the greatest news the world has ever heard. It proclaims the eternal love of God for all ages. God is love and his love encapsulates everything. God so loved the world that he gave his only son, not to condemn the world, but to save it. Out of love for all of us he sent his only son, who did not cling to his equality with God, but emptied himself to become one of us, to serve and befriend us and lead us back to the Father.
Furthermore we are all intimately involved in this. Jesus didn’t come down to us in some grandiose act of condescension only to leave us again a few years later with a simple Goodbye. His coming to redeem and save us is only part of the story. His main purpose was to lift us up and make of us a new creation so that we could participate in the family of God. At the Offertory of every mass the priest says as he pours a little water into the wine: ‘By the mystery of this water and wine may we share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity!’ Jesus shared in our humanity so that he could bring us up and enable us to partake in the family of God. Like the psalmist we can all truly wonder, ‘what are human beings that you spare a thought for them, or the child of Adam that you care for him?
It is interesting but perhaps not too surprising that the risen Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene. Here was someone totally dedicated to Jesus. She had followed him from Galilee all the way up to Jerusalem. She was there for his triumphant entry into the Holy City and then on Good Friday she was there at the foot of the cross. Even though she was still shocked when Jesus appeared to her she accepted him wholeheartedly with joy. Likewise with the apostles, they were overjoyed.
For the Sanhedrin, Judaism’s supreme ruling body, it was a different story. It was impossible for them to consider that Jesus could be the Messiah, and that he had really risen from the dead. To believe in him would demand a major change in the whole furniture of their belief-system; nothing less than a total reinterpretation of their Scripture and cherished traditions. In Acts when they summoned Peter and John before them they must have marveled at how these two uneducated Galileans stood there, insisting that the crucified Jesus was alive again, and now present for everyone as a living force for healing and renewal. Furthermore they were fearless and thought nothing of making this claim on peril of their lives. Yet for the Sanhedrin to believe them was impossible. Perhaps they had too much to lose.
Believing in the resurrection comes at a cost for us also. We need to let go of old habits, old ways of thinking etc. so as to allow the full force of the risen Christ to enter into and transform our lives. Like the Sanhedrin, this could be too much to ask for. There is always the temptation to cherish what we have rather than risk anything new or strange. One might say that the resurrection has rolled away more stones than the one blocking the tomb; it has also flung wide the doors to the future and gives us a glimpse of what lies beyond. The Sanhedrin, the disciples and we ourselves are asked to accept, in God’s most mysterious ways, that Jesus really is the Saviour, who throws light on all our lives and lets us reevaluate all that we previously thought we knew. Are we willing to allow the love of Jesus to cast its bright rays on our understanding, so that we shape our whole future in relation to him? If He has risen at the core of our existence, then our lives will be as transformed as were those of his disciples at the beginning.
Easter Sunday, 20 April 2014