For many people today Easter equals chocolate eggs, spring flowers, fluffy chicks and Easter bunnies, and, for the older generation, Easter bonnets. No wonder it can be a holiday with no relevance for everyday living.
But the original story is full of impact, addressing all the major concerns of human existence. It is set against a background of darkness and despair, the interweaving of injustice, political expediency, human brutality and searing pain; it involves a little band of devoted followers, bewildered, frightened and devastated by the destruction of all that they had hoped for. The Easter drama unfolds in a garden in the shadow of a terrible place of execution. Do not sentimentalize it into a garden in the early morning fragrance and freshness of spring; have the courage to face the harsh reality of the story, for it is only by penetrating through that that we can discover its true meaning and power.
The Gospel-story takes us through te plots against Jesus, to his betrayal, arrest, conviction on trumped up charges, to his flogging and eventual crucifixion at a safe distance outside the City of Jerusalem. Those who wanted to silence him thought that the disturbing challenge of his penetrating insight would be heard no more. Then at dawn on that momentous Sunday morning something happened, something utterly new and undreamt of. No-one can describe the event itself, for no-one saw it. But the grieving women and the fearful disciples who went to the garden to pay their last devotions to their dead Friend came back aglow with a new confidence and an unshakeable conviction that Jesus was not dead but alive – the tomb was empty, the graveclothes cast aside, and they had seen him, talked with him, walked with him, and later on had even eaten with him.
"On the third day God raised up Jesus" became the message that those once frightened and disillusioned people carried to the ends of the world. They died cruel deaths rather than deny its truth, and millions of people have come to believe them down the ages. That garden speaks of the power of God to reverse the effects of human wickedness, to right injustice, and to bring new hope out of our sadness and despair, and above all the story of that garden on Easter morning assures us that God is Lord even over death itself, and for all of us there is life - HIS life – on the further side of the grave.
For many people today the modern world is a graveyard, a place where power, politics, the rat race and human greed, vice and oppression destroy hope. From the graveyard outside Jerusalem nearly two thousand years ago rings out the triumphant assertion that these are conquered powers and that God in Christ has won the final victory over them all. Easter brings a promise of new life and unquenchable hope for all of us – perhaps the spring flowers and the chicks and bunnies are weak symbols of this, perhaps even the chocolate points us to the pleasure of the real Easter, but they are feeble signposts to the most tremendous and inspiring reality the world has ever known. May the real Easter bring you joy and lift you above your fears and sorrows to the new hope which is God's gift to all of us in our risen Saviour. MALCOLM
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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.