We are still facing really challenging times, and at times hope can seem far away. At this time in the church's year we are moving through Lent towards Good Friday and eventually Easter. On Good Friday, which this year falls on 15th April, Christians remember Jesus' death on a cross. The cross was a Roman instrument of torture, used to punish and deter criminals. It led to an agonising and very public death. The death of Jesus is recorded in all four Gospels. It is also written about by Roman historians Tacitus and Suetonius, and Josephus, a contemporary Jewish historian. Jesus' enemies thought they had got rid of him. But then something truly astonishing happened.
On the first Easter morning, the women who were followers of Jesus got up very early to go to the tomb and anoint his body ready for burial. They had been unable to do this on the Sabbath, the Jewish Holy Day, so it was 'very early on Sunday morning' that they arrived at the tomb. The women are described by the Gospel writers as being 'distressed', 'afraid', 'perplexed' and 'terrified' when they find that Jesus' body has gone. Their plan to come and anoint Jesus, to pay their last respects, has gone terribly wrong. They fear that someone has stolen the body in an act of desecration. Why are they so surprised? Because no one was expecting Jesus to rise from the dead.
When the women go to tell the other disciples what has happened, they are not believed. Luke says the Apostles think it is 'an idle tale' and that the women are talking nonsense. It is not surprising that people are sceptical. After all, this kind of resurrection had never before happened in the history of the world. In his Resurrection, Jesus came alive never to die again. God had done something completely new by bringing his Son back from death to new life which would go on for ever. That is why Easter Day is the most joyful day in the Christian calendar.
Through the good news of Easter, we too can have hope. The intuition deep in our hearts that life has a meaning and fulfilment which death will not be able to frustrate is assured through the death and resurrection of Jesus. For he promises his followers a share in that eternal life. It is central to the Christian faith.
As the truth about what had happened to Jesus dawned on his first disciples, they were overjoyed. Through their hope and faith in Jesus, they were empowered to face all kinds of daunting obstacles. Their lives were completely changed. God still has the power to change lives. He wants us to follow him into new things and new ways of being.
God desires us to have a relationship with him which is not dulled by familiarity but constantly refreshed and renewed. Jesus compared it to life giving streams of water welling up. Through prayer and worship and in our daily lives, we can find places of refreshment and renewal in our relationship with God in Christ. Easter is a timely reminder that God can do new things in and through us. He longs to bring us to know his love more fully and to experience his hope in our lives.
Wishing you a happy Easter
Joy (Vicar of Eaton Bray with Edlesborough)
About the Vicar's Letter
The Vicar's Letter has been appearing in the villages Focus magazine since August 2002.
The Rev. Peter Graham also used to publish The Vicar's Letter in the parish magazine of 1964. Please see the Vicar's Letter area for these.