Bishop Philip shares his Easter message
So what’s the fuss all about?
In particular, what’s the Easter fuss all about? We can all too easily lose sight of it, to be honest. Don’t get me wrong, I love the stuff that surrounds Easter these days. I love chocolate, for starters, and I love the signs of spring that appear all around us – the eggs, the chicks, the birds, the fresh green leaves.
But behind all that stuff, in the Christian celebration of Easter, something deeper and stranger is going on. There is, for instance, the issue of that inexplicably empty tomb. How did that happen, and where did the body go? And why so shortly afterwards did people become convinced that the one they had seen crucified and died was indeed alive?
In what was probably the first ever Christian sermon, St Peter stood up before a crowd of people in Jerusalem and said that ‘it was impossible for death to hold him in its power’. Jesus was in every sense too good for death, and so it could not hold on to him. That’s why the tomb was empty: death couldn’t keep a hold on him.
Of course that meant great change for Jesus. Personally I can’t quite imagine what being dead for a day and more and then rising again would have been like.
But the reason we celebrate Easter is that it’s not just a change for Jesus. It’s a change, potentially, for the whole world. Up to that point death had had its own way. But at the point of resurrection all that stopped. Death was defeated. The doors of heaven have been thrown open and we’re invited to step through them into a whole new way of being.
And all this is very personal. In one of the gospel stories we hear of Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus closest followers, who came to the tomb and found the stone rolled away – and had no idea what had happened to her Lord whom they had laid there. And she stands, lost and alone, weeping disconsolately outside the tomb.
And then Jesus comes to her, and he calls her by name. And in that moment her whole life is transformed. Tears of sorrow become tears of joy.
And I know how she felt. When I was a young man I felt like that, spiritually seeking and uncertain. But in a moment, when I knelt down, broken, upon the cold lino floor of the bathroom where I was living, I met the living Jesus and my life from that moment on was transformed.
And that, for me, is what the fuss is all about. And that’s what the fuss can be about for you too.