Reading: Acts 10.34-43, Matthew 28.1-10
While the younger worshippers are getting into the Easter egg hunt, let’s for a moment meditate on the object of their search. What is the most important thing about an Easter egg? It’s what’s inside, which should be: nothing. The miniature Snickers bars and liqueur chocolates are theological distractions, heresies with milk solids: the only good egg is an empty one. I have a favourite egg moment, in the film Jurassic Park, the story of how an eccentric tycoon (played by Richmond resident Richard Attenborough) recreates dinosaurs – all of them female to prevent freelance breeding – in an island wildlife park. Sam Neill (playing surely the most dashing palæontologist in the history of that profession) picks up a broken eggshell, sniffs it, and his expert palæontological nose tells him the dinosaurs have indeed begun to breed. As his colleague (Jeff Goldblum) puts it, ‘Life finds a way.’ An egg has done its job when it’s empty and new life has burst out of it.
And then there is death. Last Sunday and on Good Friday we marked the final hours of Jesus and his death on a cross. It is bad when anyone close to you dies, for part of you dies with them, and so it was for the friends of Jesus. It wasn’t just he who died on the cross, their hope perished with him (they thought he’d change the world, but he failed), and so did their ideas about themselves: Peter had promised to stick with Jesus, but he didn’t; none did. So when Jesus died, he had failed and they had failed him.
Today, as we hear, the women go to see the tomb, to come face to face with all that, the destruction of hope, the proof of their defeat. But the tomb is vacant. What they thought they came for ‘is only a shell, a husk of meaning’. And whatis its meaning? If the body of Jesus isn’t there, what about the failure of Jesus? What about their failure? If Jesus is alive, does that mean their hopes can be alive, does it mean that ‘failure’ need not be the last word for them?
That is the inner drama of this story. And we need to let it grasp us, if Easter is to be something more for us than a festival of unfocussed cheerfulness amid the Spring sunshine, an elaborate way of saying, ‘Never mind, something’s bound to turn up’. To avoid that, we have to contemplate these stories and make them our own. When we told the story of Jesus’ death last Sunday and on Good Friday, some of us took parts – Peter, Judas, the crowd – and today you and I need to do the same: in our hearts and minds, we must go to the tomb with the two Marys to see the body. For them, the body stands for the death of hopes, and defeat. What does the corpse in the tomb embody for me, for you? There will be different answers for each of us, but our answers will have something to do with things we hoped for that have not come off; times when you or I have let someone down, failed to be the people we thought we were.
We go to the tomb, we look in: and there is nothing there. It seems that God is not going to leave you with your disappointments, or leave me with my failures, with my broken picture of myself . What is God going to do with these things, I don’t yet know – that lies ahead: ‘Tell the others to go to Galilee,’ says the risen Jesus, ‘they’ll see me there.’ Galilee was where it all started, of course; it is a place of promise.
That is the God who seeks to grasp us this morning, a God who never gives up on us and our world; a God who raises the dead; a God who is waiting for each of us in that place of promise, wherever your Galilee might be. Let’s pray that we each find it, that each of us meets the Risen One this Easter.
‘A shell, a husk of meaning’ – TS Eliot, ‘Little Gidding’, fourth of theFour Quartets.