He is risen
I love stories! I devour novels and whilst I respect beautiful, poetic language, it’s a good plotline that makes me want to hide in a quiet place and keep reading.
Part of the joy of a story is the climax moment, just a few pages before the end of the book, when everything comes together and the various strands of the story connect. We finally find out who did it, the couple finally disclose their love for one another and kiss in the moonlight, the villain is humiliated.
We can describe the events of Jesus’ betrayal, trial, death and resurrection in Jerusalem at Passover in AD33 as ‘the Easter story’. I’m nervous about that phrase, in case calling these historic events a ‘story’ makes them sound made up, but the real life story of what happened is the climax of the story of the life on earth of the Son of God, Jesus.
This year in my preaching at St Chads, I’ve talked about stories a lot. In our Living Free series, we’ve seen that our identity is found in God’s story and not the scrappy first drafts of the stories we tell ourselves. And whilst God’s story spans from before creation into our eternity with him, the events of that weekend in Jerusalem are the key moments in that story. They, more than anything else, define our story too.
The world in which we live tries to make sense of life through a whole range of other stories. Evolutionary biologists tell the story of natural selection, how millions of years of survival shaped what it is to be human. (I keep meaning to ask one what the evolutionary advantage is of my hair no longer growing on top of my head, but my eyebrows finding a new gear of growth in my 40s!!). There’s the story of human progress, its fragility this week perhaps best shown by the Notre Dame fire, with the majesty of such a stunning a Cathedral built 800+ years ago, collapsing in one evening. Or the story of political confusion, with egos battling for votes, appealing to greed and fear, and often finding fault instead of listening to constructive ideas. Or the scary story of environmental crisis, with fossil fuels running out, plastics destroying oceans and the earth warming at a dangerous rate. Or the myth of progressive tolerance, which has turned into bitter control of anyone in possession of different views. These stories all have reality in them but they conflict in our minds, leaving us confused. And none of them answers the deep desire of our heart – to know God and experience his forgiveness.
The Easter story has one thing which none of these stories contains: Resurrection.
No humanly invented story of experience would include such a plot twist – death seemed like the end, but Jesus rose! And his resurrection is more than the story of one man, one miracle, one empty tomb and some baffled Romans. His story is our story. The God who created us on earth also created us for eternity. Humans gradually improving and then ecological or violence destroying is not the end of the story. Death, decay, devastation are not the end. The great plot twist, Jesus rising from the dead, impacts how we read the earlier story and how we look ahead, knowing the story isn’t finished.
Because he rose. What he achieved on the cross was real. The stain of sin is washed away, the gap between us and God is bridged, the enemy is defeated, sacrificial love is more powerful than selfish hatred.
Because he rose. Our future joy is real. Life is greater than death, hope is greater than fear, and that heavenly banquet will taste amazing.