They went home.
Does that strike you as odd? What would you do at such a discovery? You’d think they’d have gone running into the streets screaming and shouting about it. You’d think, like Mary they’d have been desperate to tell someone of their discovery.
The thing is – suddenly everything had changed. The missing body. It could only mean one thing
The loneliness of Good Friday and the Saturday suddenly pulled into stark contrast.
What had happened?
Where was Jesus?
Could it be that what he said about returning to life was true. Could it be that they’d been wrong to assume it was all over.
COULD IT BE TRUE?
Today we ask the same question. Yet we are at a disadvantage to those disciples. Over the next 40 days they met with Jesus, they saw him, touched him, ate with him. And when he left them, they went into the world to share what they had seen, heard and experienced. And no one doubted their account because they too had seen the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection. At one point Jesus is seen after the crucifixion by up 5000 people.
Like those hours after finding the empty tomb they may not have all understood what had happened, what it meant. But they were witnessed to the resurrection. It’s not just the bible that doesn’t record objections to their witness of the risen Jesus – even historians of the time accept it as fact that this man Jesus did something incredible. (Julius Caesar)
Yet for us, who weren’t there it’s even harder to believe. Like the disciples we wonder how can it be true. In our rational world how can this be true. How can this story be real. Sure it requires a step of faith.
A little bit later in the same chapter of John’s gospel we encounter the disciple Thomas. He hears John and Peter talking about meeting with Jesus. He hears the other disciples who have been hiding out in a room in Jerusalem talk about how Jesus also appears to them that same evening. And he refuses to believe – he says that until he can ‘touch the wounds in Jesus’ hands and feet’ he cannot believe their fanciful tale. Then Jesus appears to him too. He suddenly no longer needs to touch Jesus’ wounds in order to believe.
We generally don’t have that luxury. Though the risen Jesus has appeared to a large number of people through the centuries – some of them famous saints, some of them people whose lives have been changed beyond comprehension by the encounter but whose names we’ll never know. – Most of us don’t get that certainty making spiritual encounter.
For most of us our journey of towards God – and be sure all of us, no matter what we believe are on a journey of faith – requires a step of faith, a step of trust in him, a step into the unknown. The book of Hebrews in the bible says:
“Faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see”
I can’t think of a better description. When I was a kid some of my favourite movies were the Indiana Jones films. There’s a scene in the third on I think it is, ‘The Last Crusade” where Indy has to cross a chasm on a ‘bridge of faith’ – he has to step out into a ravine to walk across a bridge that he has been told is there – but he cannot see. It requires his utter trust that what he has been told is true.
Stepping out in faith can be scary, frightening – because it challenges much of what we have come to accept in the world. It means letting go of our own control of our lives and it means trusting in God before trusting in ourselves.
It’s the most exciting way to live life – how it was meant to be lived but it is a scary first step. And it is at that first step that we fail.
Pilate who is a big part of the Good Friday narrative is, I think, tempted by what he sees Jesus can offer – there is a hesitation in interaction with Jesus before his death – he sees no fault, no just cause in the charges against Christ – he calls him ‘an innocent man’ but he doesn’t have the courage to do anything about it – he doesn’t dare go against the opinion of the religious leaders or the prevailing wind of the crowds against Jesus. And he famously washes his hands of the situation.
Here at St Mary’s on Good Friday we created the image you see here at the front – it is the cross of Jesus – and we each who were gathered here put our hand print on it as a sign of our part in his death – that it is our wrong doing that makes it necessary for Jesus to die – to pay the price for us. We then, as Pilate did, washed our hands in a bowl of water.
Jesus’ death bought us freedom from our sins and in doing so restored us to God – so that Christians can live the life intended for us all in the beginning.
It is a life that is on offer for all. There is no one at all who cannot respond to that life giving gift of love that Jesus offers us by his death and resurrection.
Today is a day of celebration a day of enormous victory – today we celebrate the fact that with this one event – everything changes. There are no half way stances with this – it either changes everything or nothing – you can not be a half way follower of Jesus – you can not be a Sunday Christian – it is all ….. or nothing.
On Friday we placed our hand-print on the cross to show that it was our sin that held Jesus there – today we celebrate that we can choose to leave our burden on the cross and take the freedom that He offers.
That choice is open for you today.
For some of us this a chance to stand again and say yes, for some to day this will be the first time – but I am inviting all of us to write our name on the paper chains and then link them on the cross – leaving our burdens with him.
We then have an opportunity to wash our hands again – not as Pilate did to absolve us of responsibility. But to take away with us the freedom that Jesus has bought us. Leave our burdens – take away the smell of freedom back to your seats, you homes, on your hands – the hands that nailed Jesus to the cross redeemed and made new.
Just as our lives can be too if we only step out faith.