When Jesus’ disciples discovered that their Lord had risen from the dead you could’ve knocked them over with a feather.
13 April 2017
Bishop Trevor Willmott’s Easter message
Astonished by Christ
Shock. Amazement. Disbelief. Fear. When Jesus’ disciples discovered that their Lord had risen from the dead you could’ve knocked them over with a feather. They went to Jesus’ grave to observe the rituals of their grief - to anoint Christ’s body, to do what was required of them - not because that would make anything better, it was simply what you did in such situations. Yet they found themselves confronted with an empty tomb and heavenly messengers declaring the words that changed everything: “He is not here. He is risen.”
I think it’s a tragedy that we’ve become so comfortable with the Easter story that it somehow fails to surprise us anymore. We’ve heard the story too many times, we know the ending - and over time the resurrection becomes something we sit easily with, something that seems to make sense - our fairy tale ‘happy ever after.’ That’s how the story always ends…right? We fail to stand amazed at the empty tomb. We shrug off Christ’s death as if it were mere inconvenience - play-acting, rather than a concrete ending.
Dead people simply do not come back to life. No matter how hard we hope and wish it were otherwise, it doesn’t happen today and it didn’t happen back in first century Palestine. There’s nothing more final than death - or so we tend to think. The resurrection is a scandal, a contradiction of the way we know the world works. And yet there Christ is: standing before his friends, speaking, eating, showing them his battle scars. A living, breathing contradiction.
Jesus changes everything. Forget what you thought you knew about life and death.
Believing in the resurrection is not just a form of optimism - an ‘it’ll be alright in the end.’ It’s deeper and broader and far more demanding than that. The story of Jesus rising from the tomb should stop us dead in our tracks. We must unlearn our weariness with the narrative and hear it for what it truly is. We must follow our feet and stand astonished with the disciples at the empty tomb, for truly, there is no such thing as a ‘lost cause’ in God’s kingdom, nothing is beyond redemption. This sounds like an audacious claim because, frankly, that’s precisely what it is.
The resurrection is anything but humdrum.
Nor is resurrection just about putting things back to how they were before. Jesus endured torture and death before he could come out the other side, and his resurrected body bore the scars and the weight of that reality. His resurrection didn’t ‘undo’ death as though it had never happened - he was revived, restored, but also somehow changed. So it is when we experience a dramatic turnaround in our own lives - the healed body does not forget its illness; the mother reunited with her child does not forget the pain of separation. Instead of superficially ‘fixing’ what was broken, resurrection demands nothing less than transformation: transformation of body, of spirit, of relationship.
Resurrection isn’t just God’s business – it’s ours too, if we choose to follow him. An invitation to follow Jesus is an invitation to take up one’s cross, to walk the dark and difficult road to where, apparently, it all ends. But it’s also an invitation to share in Christ’s resurrection life and body. The Church is often referred to as ‘the body of Christ’ in the world today. If we are to take this designation seriously, we must act like the body of Christ - like those who have endured pain and suffering in the service of others, but who have also experienced God’s resurrection, the transformation of our own lives. Such transformation is never a purely personal affair - it must be for the greater good, the wider community: transformed people naturally offer transformation to others. We are called to nothing less than this: to live lives transformed by God’s audacious love so that those around us may know resurrection, transformation and hope.
God of lost causes and no hopers,
fix in our hearts the scandal of the resurrection.
Astonish us with your power and love,
so that we may be challenged anew to live transformed lives
for the sake of your Kingdom.