'Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene. And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. (Mk. 16.10)
Last week we thought about the first Easter Day, a day of fearful sorrow and grief, only very slowly giving way to the realisation that something very remarkable had taken place. That verse from Mark shows the context in which the Easter Gospel was first proclaimed, one of mourning and sorrow in the face of the death of Jesus.
The Gospel of the Resurrection is God's answer to death, the sign that he has conquered. It is natural to grieve, not always easy to understand or make sense of the loss of those dear to us. Easter gives us hope. We can explore that hope as we look at today's Gospel from St. John.
- The doors locked for fear. After the crucifixion the disciples we terribly afraid and for good reason. As followers of Jesus who had been executed as a common criminal they were at great risk of suffering a similar fate, judicial or otherwise. Their fear ran deeper. They did not only fear for their lives. Theirs' was a fear rooted in horror and in the loss of all that they held most dear.
- Jesus stood among them and said 'Peace be with you'. Into the midst of all that fear came the Risen Jesus, within the locked doors. Frightened people like to hide behind locked doors. Frightened people in America responded to the terrorist threat, post September 11th by building strong rooms in their homes, to keep out the evil and the bad. The trouble is that the good, friends, loved ones are excluded too. Jesus is not. He comes with words of deep peace. His peace can be known in the midst of conflict and it also restores deeply damaged relationships.
- He showed them his hands and his side. The risen Christ still bears the marks of the cross. His suffering is not forgotten. It remains all too real. It is however transformed, overcome, defeated.
- Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Fear gives way to joy at the presence of Christ. His wounds authenticate and enable recognition.
- As the Father has sent me, so I send you. The disciples loose their fear and are filled with joy. However Easter peoples are not meant to stay locked away in joyful holy huddles. Jesus repeats his words of peace but this time adds words of commission, 'as the Father has sent me so I send you'. It is impossible not to share deep joy, it always bursts out
- He breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.' Jesus gives the disciples the power for their mission. They cannot do it their own strength. The task of forgiveness and absolution is the work of the Holy Spirit. For St. John this is the 'Pentecost moment'.
- Doubt is less the opposite of faith, more another aspect of human response to God. The harsh realities of life make faith difficult and doubt all too easy. Thomas' doubt is to be expected. It is not unreasonable. We can identify with it.
- 'My Lord and my God' Thomas is granted his desire to see the Risen Christ and to touch the wounds. Jesus appears a third time with the words of peace. Peace to replace fear with joy, peace to send out, peace to dispel doubt. Thomas' response is remarkable. It is one of worship. 'My Lord and my God'. Here St. John reveals his only deeply thought through belief about the nature of Christ, one who is to be worshipped as God!
- Finally what of us? We are blessed because we believe without having seen. We have come to believe because the faith has been handed on to us and because we have experienced the risen Christ at work in our lives. We have come to believe not least because of the powerful testimony of St. John. In joy, in peace, empowered by the Spirit we are sent out to tell others of God's forgiveness and to worship Jesus, our Lord and our God. Amen
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Last updated 19/04/04 15:00:00 Author: David Shepherd