A former British Prime Minister, in an Easter message some years ago said “Easter is all about remembering the importance of change, responsibility, and doing the right thing for the good of our children.” This was a surprise to many Christians, who thought that Easter was all about Jesus Christ rising from the dead, having taken away our sins by his saving death on the cross.
But it is always a temptation to focus on ourselves and our actions. And it is certainly right that we should, as we began our journey to Easter by hearing, “Turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel.” But the heart of this, our greatest feast is recognising that the work has been done for us.
At the heart of sin is seeing human beings as things which can be used or made to fit our desires. And the natural expression of the culture of sin in which we live is the reality of death. In death the person you love is there one moment, and gone the next. Death removes the person and leaves only a body. All of us live with this as our ultimate horizon; in the end death will reduce us to things, objects in a world of objects. It is something I have faced this myself, experiencing the death of those whom I’ve loved very much. What are we left with when our loved ones die? Graves, pictures, and memories. Our only connection to the persons we have loved are things, places, thoughts, bits of paper. We all know, it isn’t enough.
The Resurrection of Jesus is God’s final word spoken in the face of death and sin. The women go to the tomb early in the morning to anoint the remains of the Jesus they have loved. And they find the tomb empty, with an angel seated where the body of Jesus had been: You seek Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He has been raised. He is not here.
Jesus has gone before them and will see them in Galilee. The old culture of sin has been ripped apart, from top to bottom. There are no remains of Jesus on which to focus; there are no things at all. Only the person, whom they will meet and worship and whose new life will be theirs.
The Resurrection is the resounding declaration by God that we are someone and never just something. From now on, to be a disciple of Jesus is to know that remains and memories are not all there is; to know in fact that those we love and, in the end, we ourselves are called to follow Christ where he has gone – to death and then through death to the fulfilment of who we are. Then we will have no need of things to remind us, because our tombs too will be empty.
Fr Chris Denham