By The Rev’d Preb Julian Ould
Easter Day has come and gone but has it made a difference?
In answer, it’s fair to say that each and every day that passes makes a difference. Everything that we do affects us in some way. But, thinking specifically of Easter, the answer is that it should have done.
To those first followers of Jesus their whole life was turned upside down. They knew they would never be the same again. When Jesus was arrested and executed by crucifixion, they had run away in fear. But in experiencing the risen Jesus they were swamped in confusion, for it was both wonderful and terrifying. Wonderful because, against all the odds, somehow Jesus was still alive, albeit clearly changed. And terrifying because, whilst he had filled their lives with happiness and new meaning, this also meant they were now bound to keep following – to do something, rather than slip back into the nonentity of their former lives which, whilst dull and in so many ways pointless, were at least safe.
Jesus’ disciples, through repeated appearances of Jesus, began to look at a much bigger picture of life. Up until the resurrection experience, they had looked to Jesus as the Messiah who would restore the fortunes of the Israelites. Jesus’ death had dashed this hope. But his resurrection made it a possibility again. Now they, the disciples, were in the spotlight: suddenly part of that restoration process. And how on earth were they going to do that? Each and every one of them had crumpled and run away when confronted by opposition. So how could they restore anything?
Slowly but surely, the bigger picture is revealed. They are shown that material restoration is pointless and limiting and won’t necessarily improve their lives. Jesus encourages them to build on the experience of joy and happiness that drew them to follow him in the first place. He guides them in the command to love one another as he has loved them, to see beyond the material and to experience a fullness of life that makes position and wealth seem very secondary. So much so that they turned from being the hopeless bunch that ran away. They became able to share what they had experienced, to draw others in, and to build a living Church of people on the foundation of Jesus, who was ever with them in their hearts.
However, that was 2000 years ago. It is nothing short of miraculous that the Christian Church has survived and grown through the ages (that in itself says something significant about it). But does sharing the Easter experience each year make a difference? Well, I believe it does!
For so many in the world, Easter is just another holiday – a time for rest and refreshment. For Christians it also provides an opportunity to take stock and to reflect. There is no question that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus affected the world in a way that no other figure in history has done before or since. But it is so much more than this, for it enables us to see life within this wider picture. It is so easy for all of us to get bogged down within the minutiae of our lives, with worries and concerns, with the pandemic, with the pressures (or lack) of work, with demands that are made upon us. And whilst we do have to live out our lives responsibly, we also need to get things in proportion and understand what really matters.
The first followers of Jesus finally grasped this balance and clearly found a happiness and contentment that transformed their lives. We refer to them as saints but they were just ordinary people like us and therefore people whom we can follow. In the Easter story, we are called to see the wider picture. We are called to grasp what really matters in life and to learn to love as Jesus loved and loves us. We are called to experience this happiness and in so doing find fulfilment and, in turn, by the way we live out our lives, to draw others – so that Easter will make a difference to them also.
May we all pause to reflect in these weeks of Eastertide and so allow Easter to make a difference to us.