The Riverside Parishes
THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND IN THE DIOCESE OF DURHAM
The real message of Easter
‘When you die, that’s it. Nothing. Out like a light.’ That’s what the man in the pub said, and his mates all nodded, though the one whose mother had died the week before wasn’t really quite so certain.
Still, we know what ‘dead’ means: dead leaves, dead batteries. . . and dead people. It’s all too easy to go from alive to dead, we’ve got serious doubts about the possibility of any return journeys.
Which is why Christians have an uphill task at Easter. It starts getting complicated when Christians insist that Jesus died but didn’t stay dead - in fact, that He’s alive now. That ‘return journey’ has happened, they say. That’s the problem about Easter. Christians persisting in what sounds like a ridiculous belief. The faith of Christians actually depends on the resurrection of Jesus, and always has done, right from the earliest days. After the crucifixion the body of Jesus was taken down from the cross by some of His friends and put in a rock tomb with a heavy stone. But after His death, His followers claimed that they had met Him, seen Him, talked with Him.
So certain was their belief that nothing could make them recant it. Not ridicule, not torture, not even death itself. They couldn’t do it because they were absolutely convinced that it had happened. Plenty of clever and powerful people at the time had a vested interest in proving them wrong. Yet they didn’t do it, because it couldn’t be done. Still today millions of people all over the world believe that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead. They include brilliant scientists and philosophers as well as plenty of ‘ordinary’ men and women of all ages. They believe it because they respect the witness of those first Christians, and because in many cases their own lives have been transformed by a relationship with Jesus - a relationship that wouldn’t make sense if He were dead!