Entering into the meaning of Easter

Frances writes on the meaning of Easter :- For those of us who are over two thousand years from the resurrection it is easy to see why we might believe in Jesus as the Christ, the eternal Son of God for a variety of reasons. Not the least would be the fact that many of us are simply born into families of believers and take it all for granted. We might be attracted to the church for all sorts of reasons, our friends go there; we receive a lot of support and guidance and find the services congenial and the music uplifting. Many will be attracted by the great mix of people, both of different races and ages, and all in all, it seems a good place to be and furthermore, the church has a pretty good track record in helping the downtrodden.

 

We forget that for the first Christians, who had been followers of the human Jesus and had deserted him at his arrest and trial and had witnessed his terrible crucifixion, it was his return from the unthinkable – from death itself which was so miraculous and compelling. They, along with Jesus were the people of the resurrection. He came back from the dead, just as he had said he would and they witnessed to his real, bodily life among them again. Such a thing had never happened before and would never happen again.

 

For the writer of Luke/Acts (10:34.37-43) this was the critical point and the founding feature of their faith: Now we are those witnesses – we have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead – and he has ordered us to proclaim this to his people and to tell them that God has appointed him to judge everyone, alive or dead. In time there is no doubt that this event would be differently expressed, as for instance when we think of the great 4th and 5th century mosaics of Ravenna and the Byzantine world with their stunningly powerful Christ hanging over all in the apses of their churches as a great reminder of the power of God the creator and redeemer or we see it in reverse in the savagery of many medieval crucifixion scenes, but behind them all is this profound knowledge that this unique man came back from the dead.

 

Our reading from Colossians (3:1-4) emphasises the profound change wrought in the life of every believer by this knowledge and the faith it inspires: you have been brought back to true life with Christ…..when Christ is revealed – and he is your life – you too will be revealed in all your glory with him. The Christian is one who was not fully a human being prior to his/her recognition of the power of Christ revealed in the resurrection and now, that we have, our lives are lived in a totally new dimension, one moulded and shaped by Him. We are now human beings destined to share his eternal life, to become like him. Clearly the writer of Colossians be it Paul or one of his students was at pains to get the citizen Christians of Colossae to take on board the enormity of the change which had occurred in them by the power of the Holy Spirit when then took on Christ. Like many of us, perhaps they too tended to down play the  extent of the change and did not appreciate what it was to be ‘enchristed’, ‘for he is your life’, as significant as the air we breath; as the blood pulsing through our veins. Becoming a Christian is to take on the persona of Christ, to allow his being to fill and animate us every moment, and quite clearly for some, this became a living reality, as we see in the lives of the early martyrs.

 

But not all were called to die for the faith, and we know this was the case with St John, writer of the 4th gospel. (John 20:1-9). It appears he lived out his life into old age in Ephesus. So just how did he carry Christ , the risen and glorified Christ in his body every day of his life, since we know he was not killed for the faith? Perhaps the clue lies in that small phrase he saw and believed. It is the nature of his ‘seeing and believing’ that we need to explore. Other parts of his gospel speak of his closeness to the Lord, indicating that he had some real affinity with Our Lord’s teaching and was deeply attracted by his personality, as it appears Jesus may have been by his. There seems to have been some real meeting of minds and hearts here, which is perhaps why his gospel is so different from the synoptic accounts. John does not simply recount incidents in Jesus’ ministry and his teaching, though he does that, but it is the depth of his development of Jesus’ teaching on his relationship with God the Father and, central to that teaching the inclusion of us within that relationship which is so disturbing and deeply compelling. Reading john’s gospel is akin to participating in a very complicated dance or exploring a work of art of extraordinary complexity as John enters ever deeper into this great work of exploring who Jesus is and where we fit into this great art work with him. What john, the seer and believer does is invite us all to go on that great journey of daily exploration into the being of Jesus, the one the ‘Beloved disciple’ quite simply couldn’t get enough of and invites us to follow in his footsteps.

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