Summary: Jesus is Risen! Is that Good News? Well ... if you had been promising yourself that you were never going to get yourself into trouble with the Roman occupation forces again...
Following Jesus is an adventure. It’s not always a barrel of laughs, but it’s always an adventure.
Angel has been known to muse over where her life might be now, had she not married me, and so ’married into the church’ (so to speak). We’ve reflected numerous times on how she might have had a high-powered job, money, a nice car and house and better-groomed children had she taken up one of the many other options that lay open to her as a teenager. Still, she always tends to finish such ponderings on a note of consolation: ‘well … it’s never been boring!’
I was having the same thought after our mid-week BBQ this week.
We said goodbye to a dear mate from the Fight Club this week - former British County boxing champion and all-round nice guy, Steve Connolly. It should have been a quiet BBQ with Steve and his family and the boys and girls of the Fight Club, and it would have been, were it not for the appearance of a rather imposing local woman, who walked to the top of our driveway and started screaming at some of our young people at the top of her voice.
I think she was trying to break the record for the greatest number of times you can use the ‘F’ word without taking a breath. Admittedly, she’d had someone break in to her house, and so had every right to be upset. Even so, we did feel that our driveway was not the ideal place to work through her concerns.
I approached her and pointed out to her that she was on my property and that she hadn’t been invited. She responded very cleverly, by taking three steps backwards, so that she was technically in the area of the church building, and then continued!
I thought, after it was all over, ‘well, it never gets boring here!’, and it doesn’t! Following Jesus, in my experience, is an adventure - a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows with very little resting time in between. It’s exciting, but I wouldn’t say always ‘fun’.
Now, maybe that sounds like I’m just making an excuse for not being in more exuberant spirits on this, the most joyful of days, Easter Day!
Certainly Easter is the most significant of all festivals of the Christian Church, and why shouldn‘t it be, for today we celebrate the resurrection of Christ from the dead, and if ever there was a reason to be joyful, surely this is it, is it not?
One would think, surely, that today - the day of the resurrection - would be the happiest of all days in the Christian year, and yet what fascinated me this Easter, as I sat down to prepare a sermon on our Bible passage dealing with the resurrection, is the complete lack of joy displayed by any of the actual characters in the st
"On the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body." (Luke 24:1-3)
The ‘they’ referred to here, we are later told, were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and some other unidentified women. These appear to be the same group of women who had stood by Jesus as He died on the cross. So far as we can work out, these women were indeed the only disciples, with the exception of John, who had stood with Jesus as He died.
They come across to us as faithful, caring, and courageous to the end. Even so, they don’t appear to have had any more clues about what Jesus was on about than did their male counterparts, for they travel to the tomb with no expectation of anything beyond doing some final embalming of the body.
They came looking for closure. I think that‘s clear enough.
I know that‘s not the term they would have used, but I think you know what I mean. We all strive to find closure on painful events in our lives so that we can move on. These women had travelled with Jesus, eaten, listened and laughed with Jesus. They’d shared the hopes of the other disciples as to where it was all leading, and they had stood with Jesus after all those hopes had been shattered!
It had been a roller-coaster ride, and now they sought closure. And what better way to find closure than to give this final honour to the lifeless body of Jesus - massaging the corpse of the person they once loved with burial ointments.
I still remember vividly when we buried young Avia Taetuli - a lovely young member of our Youth Centre community, who died in a football game one weekend. It was one of the only Samoan funerals I’ve ever been to, and the most powerful thing I remember was how, after all the words of the priest had been said and done, the men gathered around the grave, and we took up spades and started shovelling in the dirt while we all mourned and sang.