The Easter message of Jesus rising from the dead is simply the greatest message of hope there has ever been.
Nothing else in this world can ever provide a hope like that. A hope that can be shared by everyone.
And this world could certainly do with some hope right now. With the Covid 19 Pandemic and the suffering and fear which that is causing.
But it’s not just because of Covid 19 that we need hope. It was still a world of suffering, pain and fear, of hunger, disease and war, for decades before the outbreak.
The Resurrection of Jesus changes everything. It changes our whole understanding of life. The worst that the world can do to anybody has been overcome. All that is wrong in the world can ultimately be defeated, in the same way as Jesus defeated death.
The reason that the Resurrection changes everything is that it really happened.
Arguments to the contrary just don’t stack up. Jesus’ tomb was empty. Had the body been stolen, sceptics may ask? If by the disciples then they would have known they had done that and would not have been prepared to go on to their own martyrdom on the basis of what they knew to be a myth. If stolen by the authorities then they would have produced it straight away to scotch the rumours that Jesus had risen. And Jesus had really died on the cross. Impossible not to have done, after crucifixion and a spear in the side – the Roman soldiers knew what they were doing.
And then there are the appearances of Jesus. In the garden near the tomb, in the upper room, on the walk to Emmaus, by the sea in Galilee, on a mountain top and to more than 500 people at once. Again sceptics may argue these were imagination or hallucination. Hardly the case though; after Jesus’ death the disciples were frightened for the future, something real and tangible must have happened to turn them into world changing apostles. Anyway hallucinations tend to be one person experiences.
Paul was transformed. Into people prepared to lay down their lives for the sake of Jesus. They would not have done this if they had suspected the Resurrection not to have been real.
Something remarkable must have happened to sustain the existence and growth of the Church. Without the resurrection we would just have had another failed messiah. Instead, within 300 years, the whole Roman Empire had fallen under Christianity.
In the same way the Resurrection can change us today, so that we may also go on to change the world.
When He rose from the dead Jesus was in a form which not all of His followers instantly recognised when they met Him. Although we will never know quite what that new form was. Importantly Easter brings a newness of life after the acts of darkness which led to Jesus’ death.
That Resurrection means Jesus is victorious over everything which is wrong in the world. If we need any help thinking about that just let’s look at the Good Friday events that led up to His death. So many aspects of the wrong side of human nature were displayed.
Betrayal, seeking personal gain at the expense of someone else’s life (Judas). Denial (Peter). False accusation. Deceit. Setting someone up (the religious leaders). Mockery, torment, humiliation, violence for the sake of violence (the soldiers and onlookers). Fear. Cowardice. Weakness. Failure to do duty. Knowing what is right but doing wrong. Abuse of power. (Pilate). Murder (the soldiers obeying orders). People using and blaming others for their own ends (the religious authorities). All of these aspects of human nature put Jesus to death. That same human nature, which today causes and allows war and the suffering that goes with it. A human nature which killed Jesus.
Or rather didn’t kill Him.
Because on the third day He rose again. The darkness of human nature which had sent Him to the cross had failed. He had beaten it.
And there is a similar darkness about the world today.
The focus of that darkness right now is the Covid 19 Pandemic. But this will end eventually. Like Jesus dying and not rising until the third day, resulting in a period of hopelessness for His followers in the short time in between, Covid 19 represents a similar period of darkness for the world. And the world will emerge from that darkness, a parallel to Jesus rising from the tomb.
But will we emerge from this with the newness of life which Jesus did from His tomb? Can humanity, through this dreadful experience, be like Jesus changed into something new? In the Pandemic the emphasis of governments everywhere has been on saving life. This must be the first time that the world has focused so intensely on the saving of life.
That contrasts so much with the notion of conflict between nations, which inherently accepts that loss of human life is part of the price to pay.
So what can we do when the Pandemic comes to an end to ensure that theme of saving of life carries on?
Maybe world leaders will change their mode of operation, there has for example already been talk of the environmental benefits of lockdown in terms of reduced pollution and how that might be carried on. This experience might just give us that opportunity for real peacemaking, our voices listened to as environmental campaigners are already being listened to.
The Resurrection shows how wrongs can be defeated and new life begin as a result.
After His Resurrection Jesus did not go on to die again. He is still alive, living in the world through the Holy Spirit. That Holy Spirit can empower us His followers in working for a better, peaceful world, a world free of war, as it inspired His first followers as His witnesses.
We as peacemakers can always be bringing that Easter message of hope to what so often may seem a Good Friday world.
That assurance of Easter is the greatest hope of all.
Geoff Smith is a Reader in the Church in Wales and lives in Cardiff. He believes there is so much that the Anglican Church and other Christian Churches can do to help resolve conflicts in the world, both at national and local level. There are many ways in which, motivated by our following of Jesus Christ, we can use our influence and support peace initiatives everywhere. The tragedy and horror of armed conflict has been seen in the past and is still being seen all too often everywhere. As Christians I feel it is our duty to try to do all we can to prevent such events
Disclaimer: This blog is intended to provide a space for people associated with APF to express their own personal views and opinions in order to promote discussion of issues relating to peacemaking and pacifism. It is not necessarily a place where the official views of APF are expressed. The views expressed in this blog are the personal views of Geoff Smith.