But let’s go back a moment to the gospel reading from John. At the centre of this story is a Jesus-shaped hole. All that the disciples first knew is that he was not there: there was no sign of his body and the stone had been rolled away from the tomb. There was an empty space except for the linen cloths which lay on the ground.
Despite all this emptiness and absence, we are told that the disciple who first went into the tomb “saw and he believed.” Something about that scene must have triggered his memory, otherwise all he would have seen would have been that empty space.
How we see things often depends on our state of mind. In the darkness and emptiness of a tomb, the disciple saw the beginning of a story of faith brought to its fulfilment. It might seem to us a strange way to announce that Jesus was alive. Perhaps we might think that if we had been Jesus, one of our first actions might have been to creep up on the chief priest and frighten him out of his wits. Or maybe we might go up to the disciples who deserted him and say: “I told you so!”
This is not the way Jesus chose. His disciples begin to see him once again, but in the least expected ways. “Seeing” is a word that rings through all the resurrection stories. But ever since then we have been asked to believe without the evidence of our own eyes. Believing in these distant events can be difficult. Believing in the difference it has made can be hard too, whether we look at the world, or the church, or at our own lives.
Where there should be faith, there can sometimes be an empty space, rather like the scene that confronted those first disciples. On Good Friday, I was listening to a meditation on the radio, where a priest was describing the experience of her son taking his own life. She spoke of the emptiness, the “gone-ness” that she felt when she saw his familiar possessions in the house. He was not there and there would always be a space. But she also spoke about how she had been able to connect with some of his friends and to offer them something of the care and support that she could no longer give to her son. Nothing could replace him and the scars would remain, but there was life once again.
In every word of forgiveness, in every good action that is done in someone’s memory, we see a sign that points us towards the resurrection. Good Friday is still a reality, but Easter did not happen despite Good Friday – it happens because of it. Through the Cross comes life. As Christians, our faith calls us to do what St Paul encourages us to do in the letter to the Colossians: to seek the things that are above, even as we live our lives in this world.
As we look at our world we can see plenty of empty spaces and absences. We see the terrible losses people are still suffering in Ukraine. Perhaps we are reminded of our own losses too. There is no easy way to explain these things away. But in the darkness and emptiness, people of faith and of goodwill are reminding us that Christ is risen. They do this not by just saying the words, but by living lives of forgiveness, of compassion and of hope.
As we look at the empty spaces in our own lives, we have a choice. We either focus on the loss and on the ending, or we see the signs of a new beginning. Sadness and loss will always be a part of human life, but what we see makes all the difference. The hope that arises in our hearts is the fruit of the Resurrection of Our Lord. Jesus is inviting us to choose life. When that light of Christ enters our lives then the world looks different and we ourselves are changed.
Christ is risen because love is stronger than death. The powers of darkness have done their worst, but the love of God has overcome them all. In the risen life of Jesus, we too are raised to life. We can look to the time when all tears shall be wiped away and when everything that is good and beautiful in the lives we live shall be brought to perfection. Jesus lives, and we live in him, now and for ever.