Maybe, at least in part, this might take us a bit closer to the experiences of the first Easter. We know how that story worked out and we know how it did not end with the death of a good man upon a cross. Yet it took the disciples of Jesus some time to recognise that this was so. All they knew at first was that they had suffered a terrible loss. For some of them, Simon Peter included, their self-image seemed to have been shattered. They had to pick up the pieces, bit by bit and start over again. The world around them seemed to keep on as normal but for them nothing felt the same any more.
We can capture something of Mary Magdalene’s distraught tone as she reported to the Beloved Disciple how the body of Jesus had been taken away. He and Simon Peter ran to the tomb and Peter went inside. There was no sighting of the risen Jesus at that point in time and yet St John’s gospel leads us to believe that something shifted in the consciousness of the disciples: “Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.”
At this time we look out upon a changed landscape. It is not difficult to experience fear or sadness as we hear the news and look at the statistics. We don’t really know when this will end. Throughout Holy Week the liturgy and Scripture readings have invited us to enter into the experience of dereliction as we survey the Cross on which Jesus gave up his life. But that same liturgy and those same readings do not leave us there. They are our guide in an unfamiliar situation as we seek to find our bearings and to recognise signs of hope and new life.
For Christians the empty tomb with the stone rolled away and a visit from a group of bewildered disciples is where it all began. For the first disciples, to borrow the words from one of the prefaces used at the Eucharist, “life is changed, not ended.” Nothing would be the same. This was because the Lord of life could not be held captive in a tomb. That life emerged once again and gradually this became known to the disciples in their daily circumstances and encounters.
There was a peace and a joy at work here which gradually drove out fear and gloom. God really can bring life out of death. The power of the Resurrection breaks the bonds of sin and tears apart the chains of death. That new life which we experience through faith in Christ is like a light in the darkness, which, as St John reminds us in the preface to his gospel, the darkness could not overcome.
The darkness will not overcome us either. Even now, in these troubling circumstances which we face, there is always a reason for hope. The life of God, revealed in Jesus, is stronger than death. By our sharing through faith in the life of Christ, we too are partakers of his risen life. The love of God overcomes everything that might drive us apart. For this reason, even in difficult circumstances we can rejoice.
Alleluia, Christ is Risen. He is Risen indeed, alleluia! Happy Easter.