Easter Sunday this year falls on 21st April. Because it can be a nuisance the way the date varies from year to year some might argue that we should no longer be governed by an outdated ecclesiastical clock. Easter should have a fixed date. Maybe! But maybe the uncertainty each year captures something of the spirit of Easter: the spirit of mystery.
Yes, it is all a mystery – and at different levels.
The Gospels do not show us a group of disciples who were in a receptive frame of mind to believe – so how come they did believe (even if some doubted)? After the crucifixion, they were in hiding, frightened and scattered. Then suddenly, they came out of hiding and were totally different: excited, joyful. By Pentecost they were confident, with one firm message: “You crucified Jesus, but God raised him up!”
How did they know this? Because of direct personal experience. Some of them had visited the tomb of Jesus: it was empty. Others claimed to have seen and touched the risen Lord. Were they really all hallucinating?
Were they lying? Jesus had died a humiliating death as a criminal. Perhaps they wanted to rescue His good name. So did they pretend they had seen Him?
But why invent a story for which you would be beaten and imprisoned and perhaps killed? People will die for ideas and causes which they believe in passionately. But not for things they have made up. We might suffer for our convictions, we will not suffer for our inventions.
Maybe somehow Jesus had not really died and was secretly being helped to recover somewhere? But if the disciples had been hiding Jesus, they would have kept very low-key, and out of the way, so that the authorities would not come after Him again. You wouldn’t be telling the world he was still alive!!!
Part of the mystery is the way millions, in fact billions, of people in every generation since have shared an inescapable sense of the presence as the Risen Lord.
Sometimes this mysterious experience of meeting Jesus is gentle and piece-meal. Sometimes it is dramatic and life-changing. Either way it is not just an interesting detective story! Somehow there is a vital, present day reality. It brings wonderful comfort, assuring us of the central Christian truths: death is dead; Jesus is alive; God is love.
Have a joyful – and a challenging – Easter. Celebrate the mystery! Philip