Life is a roller-coaster.
Life can be an emotional roller-coaster, with its ups and downs, changes in pace, and direction, happiness and terror all mixed up. I am not an adrenaline junkie, Alton Towers is not my idea of a trip out, and the thought of going on Nemesis scares me to death. I am told it's brilliant... Imagine that - people choose to be scared.
Think of the disciples and the Easter story. The week had started so well Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey, the crowds had hailed Jesus shouting Hosanna to the Son of David they welcomed him as a king, they laid palm branches and their cloaks in front of him. The celebratory meal fell flat, their Passover had very quickly turned from the celebration of the Exodus from Egypt all those years ago, to the confusion of the Last Supper.
Jesus washed their feet, the disciples didn't yet understand him, though they had spent so much time with him. More confusion as Jesus shared his body and his blood in the bread and the wine. Seeds of doubt and uncertainty as he shared the knowledge that he was about to be betrayed. The misery of his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, betrayed by a kiss from his friend. Peter and the disciple Jesus loved had the courage to witness the trial, but even Peter denied him three times, and the crowd had quickly turned on him called for Barabbas to be released, rather than Jesus. Were they bribed by the chief priests? Bought like Judas Iscariot?
Fear, terror, anxiety, disappointment, spread among his disciples, their expectations unmet, hopes dashed, dreams vaporised.His death on the cross, and his burial in the tomb - not quite how the disciples had planned to spend the day of preparation for the most holy Sabbath in the Jewish year. But the women remained faithful, they knew what had to be done and they went to the garden tomb to do it. Mark tells us about that first Easter morning, at the end of his Gospel:
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
This is the backdrop to the resurrection. Only with hindsight do we know the rest of the story, the hidden meaning of the Last Supper, the servant ministry of Christ, the prophecies of Isaiah fulfilled, Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene, to Peter and the other disciples. Only with hindsight do we know the joy of the resurrection, how different it must have been then for terror and amazement had seized them. But today is a day for rejoicing, a day to be happy, a holy day, a holiday, a day to forget the pain, the suffering and to reinterpret the past, to understand the day of the crucifixion as Good Friday, to see the empty tomb as the evidence of the resurrection of our Lord, and to see in his life and death a pattern for Christians to follow.
Holy Week was an emotional roller-coaster for the disciples with its ups and downs, changes in pace, and direction, happiness and terror all mixed up.What a week to live, and what a week to die and come back to life.
Hallelujah Christ is Risen!
He is risen indeed, hallelujah.
The Easter story tells us a deep truth about life: life with all it's ups and downs, joys and sorrows is hard to understand at the time; only in retrospect with the benefit of hindsight can we understand the significance of things.
The disciples didn't grasp the necessity of the crucifixion. They did not understand why he washed their feet, nor why he shared bread and wine with them, nor why the stone had been rolled away and the tomb was empty on that first Easter morning. Only afterwards did the disciples finally get the drift of what had been going on and what Jesus had been doing.
God is at work in the Church, and in the world, but we can be slow to recognise him. Sometimes only a while later do we look back and have that eureka moment when we discover truth and understand the past.Small trivial events or conversations can have life-changing effects.
We don't know how what we say and do affects others. Hidden consequences are as common as visible obvious or even intended consequences. Making moral judgements solely on the basis of likely consequences is as flawed as making them on someone's intention with no regard to the intention. 'We may not know, we cannot tell...' goes the hymn, and awareness of our ignorance is a necessary precursor to learning and change.
As we celebrate the Easter message, we rejoice that Jesus is alive, that the tomb is empty, the grave clothes set aside, and Jesus was walking and talking among his friends he had come back to life again, and he does so today, not through physical presence, but through the sending of his Holy Spirit to set us free from our sins and all that imprisons us. The Spirit of Christ helps us recognise those attitudes and behaviours which limit and prevent us from growing in the Christian faith, those things which we have identified as we prepared for Easter throughout Lent..