On Easter Sunday we celebrate the most important day of the year. We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. We celebrate the fact that someone who really died, really came alive again.
For the women who had stood beneath the cross there was no doubt that Jesushad died. They heard his last words above the jeering of the crowds; they had witnessed his agony and then his death. They helped Joseph of Arimathea get Jesus' lifeless body down from the cross and carry it to a tomb. They caught their last glimpse of the one they loved as the stone was rolled over the entrance of the grave.
When these same women went to the tomb early on Sunday morning it's no wonder that they were puzzled at first when they found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. This puzzlement turned to fear as they saw two men with the brightest of bright clothing standing in the tomb. "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen" (Luke 24:5).
Easter illuminates the dark shadow of death; it brings a new light on death and its impact on our lives. There will always be death in this world, but as the angel tells the women in Jesus' empty tomb, he also says to us, "Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here." (Mark 16:6). The message tells us that even in the cruellest times, there is hope.
When I use the word 'hope' I am talking about a certainty, something definite and true. Easter gives us a definite and certain future beyond the grave. Death does not have the last say over our eternal future because Jesus removed the power of death to harm us when he died and then rose again from the dead. Death is not the end, but the beginning of a glorious new life in heaven.
At Easter we celebrate a victory. It was an alarming victory but not one that we should be alarmed about. Christ has won the victory for us over the grave and assures us that death cannot and will not hold us down. The book of Revelation reminds us (Rev. 21:4) of this: he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more.' This is the Easter hope!
As Charles Wesley – one of the founders of Methodism – succinctly wrote (Singing the Faith, 294):
All you that seek the Lord who died,
your God for sinners crucified,
now, not let all your grief be o'er!
Believe, and you shall weep no more.
Alleluia. Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Rev. John G Hughes