Gospel: John 20: 1-9
First Reading: Acts 10: 34, 37-43
With the benefit of two thousand years of hindsight, we can forget just what a shock the first Easter was to the disciples. We are inclined to think that somewhere deep down, they knew it was going to happen really - and that Good Friday and Holy Saturday were just a slight wobble in their belief in Jesus.
This is dangerous thinking - because, by putting a rosy glow on the events of those days, we lose sight of the incredible power of what happened in the early dawn of Sunday.
Jesus lived life in all its fullness - and lived death in all its fullness. He entered the human world of joy and beauty - and he entered fully the world of suffering and death.
The disciples who stood at the foot of the cross and received his body into their arms were under no illusions about the reality of his death. As the tomb was sealed, the men never expected to see him again - and the women only expected to return to finish anointing the body.
It was the end of the world.
So, even when the news began to filter through that Jesus was risen, it had a huge amount of despair and disbelief to get through. How many appearances did Jesus have to make before he had convinced the disciples that he was alive?
How much work did he have to do with them to transform them from a group of people paralysed by fear - into a group who could stand before Jews, Romans and Greeks and say with conviction that Jesus had died - was risen - and that they were witnesses to that fact?
And yet - from the moment that a distraught Mary of Magdala came to the gathered disciples to tell them that someone had committed that final indignity - stealing the body from the grave - the work of showing the disciples what resurrection meant had begun.
It was completely unexpected - nothing that Jesus had said had prepared them for it. How could it? Although the disciples had witnessed Jesus raising people from the dead - still, nothing in their experience could have prepared them for the reality of The Resurrection.
So, why is this important for us?
There are some people who seem to live lives filled with sunshine - who seem untroubled by the problems and pains of life. For most of us, life is very different. We face the suffering and deaths in the our family - we encounter times of pain and difficulty - the world seems bleak. At such times, it is hard to be an “Easter” person - to believe that Jesus rose from the dead and all shall be well.
When we remember the experience of the first disciples, we have something to hang our feelings of loss and despair on. We remember that they too lived out a period of darkness and disillusion - and that, even the appearances of the Risen Jesus, seemed to be only glimpses of the Truth.
Easter is a glorious feast - the point where death gives way to life. But for the first disciples - and for us - Easter does not arrive as a blinding flash... rather it feels like a series of glimpses until one day we know it to be true... and are willing to stake our life - on the earth and the one hereafter on it.
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