Resurrection Sunday is good news. In fact, it’s the best news we could ever conceive of. In fact, it’s news that only God himself could conceive of — a divine masterplan to reshape human destiny towards the total shalom of God’s goodness throughout all of creation. So, what better excuse for a party in church today? But the first Easter Sunday caused mayhem as it unfolded among Jesus’ closest followers. It caught fire quickly with those first on the scene at the empty tomb, but it took a while to spread among the others. This resistance is most clearly personified in Thomas, who tells the others that he will only believe it if he can put his fingers in Jesus’ wounds. Those words will come back to haunt him, of course, as Jesus’ affords him that opportunity a week later.

Despite Thomas’ bad rep as a “doubter,” he’s an important figure in the story because he most clearly represents our own experience of faith. A few days earlier, Thomas has seen his dreams and expectations go up in smoke, as his friend and leader breathes his last words on a Roman Cross, rejected by the very people he’d come to emancipate. This was the same Jesus who had taught with unique authority, healed diseases and afflictions of every kind, and had even called a dead man out of a tomb. But all of that went up on the bonfire of Good Friday. Now, just a few days later, Thomas is being told that all of those hopes and expectations were just pale shadows of what has now happened — Jesus is alive!

When you think about the mind-bending nature of that first Easter, can you blame Thomas for struggling to catch up? Well, in the end he does catch up. In fact, when he touches Jesus wounds, he goes beyond the other disciples and speaks the words of worship that no-one else had uttered until then: “My Lord and my God.” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus is speaking about us, those who have responded to his call to follow him even though we haven’t touched his wounds or seen him in the flesh. And that’s the challenge of the Christian life, isn’t it? That we place our trust in the unseen reality of the crucified and risen Jesus, who frustrates our fantasies and blows our minds.

Theologian Richard Bauckham puts it like this: “There is no smooth path to God which we can ascend with all our expectations of life confirmed and fulfilled. There is only the way of the cross, where the condemned and crucified Jesus contradicts our expectations, forces us to see ourselves as we really are, not as we would like to be seen, and reveals the world as a strange new landscape we had not seen before, a paradoxical game in which only losers can succeed.” The mystery at the heart of Easter is that the Lion of Judah must die before he can breathe life into death. We, too, must go on the recurring journey of Easter — to have our low expectations gloriously frustrated, so that we might find our way through the back of the wardrobe into the vast expanse of God’s reality beyond; a world that our weak imaginations need the jolt of Easter to enter into. The dazzling hope of Easter Sunday is all the brighter because of the darkness of Good Friday. The Cross of Horror has become the Empty Tomb. The reality that Jesus has faced the worst and overcome it, is both our heritage and our destiny! Let’s seize upon that hope today.

Blessings,
Rev Jonny Grant