“I was dead, but now I am alive forever”. Revelation 1:18
We begin our Christmas Carol service each year with words from Kings College, Cambridge. As we listen to the Christmas story told, we pray, “in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass”.
For a few moments on this Easter morning, let’s go again in our hearts and minds even unto Jerusalem and see this thing that has come to pass. Let’s join with the women as they walk to the garden, let’s hear what they hear, see what they see, sense what they sense.
Sadness is the first thing we feel. Can we imagine their sadness? If we have lost someone very close to us, someone very dear, we know what a great weight must have been in their hearts. Sometimes it is only when we are alone, only when there is nothing else to distract us that we appreciate the full power of sadness.
Fear is the next thing we feel. Living here in Ireland, we are safe, but fear is what many people around the world feel every day. Jerusalem is a violent place. Jesus has been brutally killed. Going to his grave, you don’t know what danger you might face. What about the story about there being guards on the tomb? What if there is trouble? What if you are accused of being involved with this troublemaker? What if you are questioned? What answer will you give?
So let’s step out into the street. Pull a shawl tight around our faces and hold a cloak around our shoulders.
It’s cold. As soon as we step out of the air, the cold hits us. Looking up, the sky is clear. We feel the chill in the air, let’s breathe in some of that night air, as our eyes adjust to the light.
The cold is worse because we are very tired. Sleep had been impossible, we had sat with our friends, mostly in silence, even when we tried to sleep, it wouldn’t come. All that fills the mind is the horrific images from Friday; a scene that will never ever be forgotten. Now we feel the physical effects, our body is weary and we ache as we set off down the street.
Hunger makes us even worse. There is an emptiness in the pit of our stomach, but we couldn’t face eating. We can’t really face anything, we are just going through the motions of daily life.
Now we must concentrate on the street. There is a moon, but no light in the narrow streets. We feel the street beneath our feet, it is rough and uneven. There are stones upon which we might trip, holes in which we might turn an ankle. Every step has to be taken with care. We must concentrate.
As we walk, we listen to the sounds of a sleeping city. Hundreds of thousands of people there for the Passover. Listen now, as we walk down the street. People are waking in some of the houses, there are the sounds of animals. Sometimes we hear footsteps, and maybe voices.
Let’s tread warily though, let’s almost creep through these streets because we don’t want to meet anyone, we don’t want anyone to ask who we are or where we are going. Let’s be very, very quiet as we go on this walk. There is suspicion and there is danger.
We’re going through little back streets, it’s easy to walk down the dark side to hide in the shadows and the doorways.
But we have to get to the garden. The garden is near a bigger house. Bigger houses mean more space and wider streets. It’s easier to be seen. We move very carefully.
We have been so filled with other thoughts, so sad, and upset that we have forgotten something. We have forgotten about stone across grave. What are we going to do? Who will move it?
It is too late now to go back. One more thing to add to our unhappiness. At last we are here. This is the place. This is where they brought him on Friday, now where is the tomb?
And now something happens that our words can’t explain. There is dazzling light, light so bright that we have not seen it before. There is a presence, and the grave is open and it’s empty.
Now everything comes in upon us; all the emotion and the pain and the tears and it’s all too much. Where is Jesus?
Then Jesus is there.
Jesus is alive.
Can we imagine it?
This is what Easter is about. It’s not about words; it’s not about music; it’s not about liturgies; it’s not about all the things we do. This is what the church is about; it’s not about all the things that we think, not about buildings or clergy or books or all the other things that come to mind.
It’s all about this one moment, about meeting with this one man. This man who was dead, but who is now alive.
“I was dead, but now I am alive forever”