Some thoughts from Chris Brown
There is something that often seems to be forgotten about the first Easter day. That is the confusion.
I think, maybe, we have become so used to hearing the story as people turn up at the empty tomb, believe Jesus has risen from the dead and go away rejoicing and singing hymns that we miss the reality of what actually happened. The reality of that day is very different if you read the accounts.
The first thing we might notice is that the accounts all tell a slightly different story. This has excited those who need an excuse not to believe but they have always made far too much of those differences. We all should understand that there is usually a difference in eyewitness accounts – indeed if they were all the same we would be suspicious that there was some deception taking place (I can only imagine the claims that would be made if the gospels all told the exact same story). However, apart from lending credibility, it tells us just how confused the disciples have become (I include the women when I talk about the disciples, by the way, we should not miss the point they were the first witnesses both of the empty tomb and of the risen Jesus). They don’t all arrive at the tomb and go away believing Jesus has risen. Some of the disciples now see what Jesus has meant and for them it is enough but for most it isn’t.
Then there are the various meetings with the risen Christ. Some have a little trouble recognising Jesus (to my mind not a strange thing when you have seen someone executed and then see them again – if I saw my mum walking around Bridgwater, she died a few years ago, then I would not believe it was her even if she looked and acted exactly the same). However, this inability to recognise Jesus leaves some of them with all kinds of questions.
Then there are those who have not seen the risen Jesus yet but everyone is telling them they have seen him. Thomas, no doubt, trusted the other disciples completely and yet what could he make of their assertions that they had seen a risen Jesus? There is, I think, a bit of Thomas in all of us.
Let’s be honest here, dead people do not rise from the dead. We know that today and people knew it in Jesus’ day. When someone had been crucified the body was usually thrown on the local rubbish dump – if executed people had any chance of surviving or even reviving then they would not just dump the body. Ancient people might have lacked our understanding of modern medicine but they were not stupid – dead people are always dead. So when reports come out that someone has risen from the dead – they have trouble believing it, for many they find Easter day to be very confusing.
We live in a confusing time. None of us really knows how to act or what to do in this time. There is uncertainty every day. Many of the routines that we relied on have been upset. In some ways it is a time of restoration but in others stress and confusion. So what help is there in Easter this year.
Let’s go back to Thomas.
He finds himself face to face with the risen Jesus. His doubt is challenged and all his confusion is understood by Jesus. Jesus offers him reassurance but at this moment Thomas’ faith is enough and he declares Jesus Lord and God (he is the first to realise the truth of Jesus).
My message is to keep trusting God despite the confusion. It doesn’t mean your confusion doesn’t matter, just as Thomas’ confusion mattered to Jesus so our confusion matters to God. Take that confusion to God but let your faith offer you something more. Put your faith in the one who stilled the waters, the one who walks on water, the one who gives his life for us all, the God who have up heaven to live with us. Easter tells us that nothing, not even death is the end. Keep trusting God.