On the first Easter Sunday morning the disciples who saw Jesus risen from the dead went running to tell the story. They had gone to mourn and Jesus met them that morning. It changed the lives of frightened and disillusioned men and women who went on to take the story to the ends of the known world. Its consequences have changed millions of individual lives, thousands of communities, it has shaped cultures and nations and it still does.
The contrast between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is the most dramatic in the human story. Good Friday started on what could have been the bleakest day in the history of the human race. On a hill outside the city wall, the powers of the day executed a man called Jesus. And the question still shouts “How an amazing man like Jesus could be killed?” Ordinary people loved him – his words and actions were utterly compelling, kind and compassionate, speaking to the fears and the hopes of everyone.
The Easter message dares to proclaim that it is here when darkness is at its deepest that we find light and hope. God took evil things, hatred, fear, violence and revenge, and he used those very things as the raw material from which to quarry our salvation. So the power of God is seen in symbols of weakness and vulnerability, in a manger and on a Cross. In these enduring symbols, we find power kept in check, power handed over, power utterly controlled by love.
In his bursting out of the tomb on Easter Day, God releases new energy into the world and initiates a programme of renewal. All over the world – even in the places closest to darkness and despair, Christians of every tradition will exhibit a remarkable degree of joy, hope and love. The universal cry will be “Hallelujah”. This is the very essence of how God meets us today, Jesus is present in our daily life, our relationships and in the joys and sorrows of the world.
Good Friday and Easter Day continue to be a dramatic contrast. In 2016 many countries continue to live with the grinding effects of austerity, young people growing up without work. In this country generosity can quickly be extinguished by a competition for declining resource. Conflicts in the wider world, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Syria and Iraq, famine in Zimbabwe, all have tragic humanitarian consequences.
The Christian Easter insists that God is not a god who is far off, but one who in Jesus draws very near. This joy, hope and love is a gift to any who will receive Him. These are not just personal experiences – they are gifts to change a world. I am so looking forward to being in Church on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Why don’t you join in some of the services at your local church this Easter? I promise you they will be an opportunity for God to meet with you and for us to proclaim that Christ is Risen Indeed! Hallelujah!
The Right Reverend David Williams, Bishop of Basingstoke