Having returned from holiday on Good Friday I was dispatched on Holy Saturday to find some Cadbury’s Mini Eggs.
What I found were piles of Hot Cross Buns, in a variety of flavours, including cheese! Yet Easter eggs of any kind where nowhere to be seen. It is strange because Cadbury’s Creme Eggs usually go on sale promptly on Boxing Day, but Easter eggs are hard to find on the Easter weekend itself. What a mystery: we had not yet reached Easter Sunday, but I could not buy an Easter egg for love nor money.
There is a tendency in some churches to see Easter as done and dusted once we reach Easter Monday, but it is interesting to note that in the traditional church calendar the season of Easter is longer than Lent. The 50 days leading up to Pentecost set aside seven Sundays to reflect on what took place on the first Easter weekend.
There is value in lingering purposefully over the implications of those three astonishing words: “He is risen.”
Firstly, it is a time to weigh the evidence. On the first Sunday after Easter, we have a dedicated reading for the day in John 20:24–29. The story of Thomas reminds us of what is at stake in being certain that Jesus is alive from the dead. Thomas has seen and believed, so that based on his and the other disciples’ testimony we can believe and see the truth about the risen Jesus.
The book of Acts tells us that during the 40 day period between Easter Sunday and the Ascension of Jesus, the disciples had many opportunities to be sure that he had been raised from the dead: “After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave them many convincing proofs that he was alive.” (Acts 1:3)
Preachers need to be clear that the gospel is only good news if it is true news!
Secondly, it is a time to fully enter the celebration of the resurrection. The Easter story is too big to be confined to one weekend. It takes time to unpack the implications of this world transforming event. Ponder how Jesus reveals himself to John in exile on the island of Patmos. Imagine the feelings of isolation John would have felt in this constrained reduced life. At first John is awestruck by a tarrying vision of the unfiltered glory of Jesus that fills him with dread.
“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.”
The message that raised him to his feet and gave him hope was a message of resurrection.
“Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:17–18)
Week by week the church is encouraged to celebrate the reality of the resurrection because it is for us, as it was for John here, the game-changer that transforms our view of time.
“When Jesus rose from the dead, he came as the first instalment of the power of God, which will renew the world at the end of history.” (Tim Keller)
He is risen.
He is risen indeed.