I love Easter. It comes at the time of year when spring is in the air. Days are getting visibly longer, leaves are returning to the trees and flowers are starting to bloom. After the gloomy dark days of winter we begin to anticipate the warmth of the summer and the opportunity to spend time outdoors and enjoy all that this beautiful world offers. Yet for all those benefits the overriding reason I love Easter is because that is the time when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.
The historical Resurrection of Jesus is pivotal for Christian belief. Following Jesus’ death by crucifixion his disciples were left frightened and dispirited. Leaderless and devoid of hope they were incapable of building on the foundations that Jesus had laid through his earthly ministry. The best plan that they could come up with was to return to their old lives and trades, many of them as quite ordinary fishermen. They lacked the financial, educational or religious influence to be able to turn Jesus into a martyr whom people would rally to. The embryonic movement Jesus had founded would have fizzled out in a short time without him.
The Jewish religious leaders knew this. They also knew that Jesus had claimed that he would rise from the dead. So, for the second time, they sought the support of the roman authorities to ensure that Jesus stayed dead and buried. A huge stone was rolled across the entrance to the tomb and a team of soldiers assigned to guard it in case the disciples attempted to steal the body and spread a rumour that Jesus was alive again. Indeed as some of the women made their way early on Sunday morning they were troubled as to how they would be able to embalm Jesus’ body with the oils that they carried. Yet when they arrived they discovered that the soldiers had fled, the tomb was empty and they were met by angels who proclaimed that Jesus had Risen!
Over the following few weeks the disciples had numerous encounters with the Risen Jesus, some of which are recorded for us in the New Testament. Paul however gives us a tantalising snippet of information when, writing to the church in Corinth, he declares that Christ appeared to more than 500 people at one time. More than that, he asserts that many of them were still alive and so could be called upon as eyewitnesses to the fact.
Over the years many people, believers and unbelievers alike, have acknowledged that Christ’s Resurrection is the lynch pin of Christian faith. The truth or otherwise of the statement ‘He is Risen’ underpins every other doctrinal claim. One of the most famous is Frank Morrison, a sceptic, who set out to disprove the resurrection and show it to be a myth. However, as he sifted through the evidence he became convinced that Jesus’ Resurrection is an historical fact. His book, “Who Moved the Stone”, systematically demonstrates that the only credible explanation for the empty tomb is that Jesus is risen.
Let me invite you to come and join us as we celebrate this wonderful truth this Easter and joyfully proclaim “He is Risen!”