Posted April 30, 2017
At Easter time Christians across the world celebrate and give thanks for the redemption of humanity through Jesus’ suffering on the cross and glorious victory over death. From Grasmere, Cumbria, in the wonderful Langdale Valley in the English Lake District, comes this meditation on the great mystery of those seemingly awful events of Good Friday to that awesome dawn three days later, and the journey of our faith which those three days call forth.
This meditation is by Derek Hall, a retired vicar who served in the parish church at Grasmere; reprinted here with kind permission of Grasmere Parochial Church Council.
Will you imagine in your mind’s eye a question mark. I mean a really huge question mark as big as you can imagine. Set it up on some horizon against a black, empty and forbidding sky. Can you see it? That is how I see the Cross; that is how I see it if the story ends there. If it did it is the greatest, unmitigated tragedy in the whole history of mankind. There is no more rhyme or reason left to me in the world. Establish that the life of Jesus went out in darkness and we may as well conclude that behind the Universe there is no God. As Thomas Hardy said in “Tess of the d’Urbervilles” as Tess was on the gallows, “The President of the Immortals had finished his sport with Jesus of Nazareth.”
Have you ever stopped to think what follows if the event of Easter Day never happened? If we are even remotely Christian we had better face the awful consequences. Consider this: Evil and not good has ultimately triumphed. Why are we all so bothered about justice? There wasn’t any. As for Christian Faith, forget it, it’s just an irrelevant pack of lies. Your faith is founded on a pointless myth. As for “hereafter”, forget it, there isn’t one. What else does it mean? It means that at worst Jesus was suffering from delusions of grandeur and at best mistaken. Why? Because an integral part of his teaching was that he would conquer death and rise again. He said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” If the Resurrection never happened then we still wallow in our sins because the Christian message is that Christ died for our sins. A dead Saviour cannot save you. If the Cross was the end, his mission on earth failed. We had better grunt and sweat our way through this world knowing that it will all fizzle out into meaninglessness and nothing in the end. Life? Well, it’s just a little game because life was just an accident of evolution. It means that man did his damnedest and snuffed out the life of the Stainless One, this One True Light for ever. They scourged him and then pegged him up on a Cross. The biggest disaster in history. Matthew, in his gospel records “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.” As well there might be! Now do you see that huge question mark against the backdrop of a black sky? Evil has triumphed. His disciples were behind locked doors scared witless lest they suffer the same fate.
On the first day of the week the women went to the tomb to anoint the body; they found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. Two men were there saying “Why are you looking for the living among the dead? He is not here, He is risen.” The Lord was risen indeed! Over a period of forty days the Risen Lord appeared to his disciples: in the Upper Room, on the shore of Lake Galilee, to Mary Magdalen as she wept outside the empty tomb, “to 500 brethren at once,” to Paul on the Damascus Road, on the road to Emmaus (do read Luke’s gospel ch. 24: 13-49)
I see the Resurrection as a great light shining forward across the pages of history but also shining back, illuminating the Cross – don’t you see, it invests the Cross with an entirely new meaning, it validates his redeeeming work on the Cross – the story did not end there! He now ever lives to be our Saviour, and lives in the lives of all of us who receive him into our heart.
You can take down that huge question mark of mire against that black sky. I’ve got the answer! A brilliant new day has dawned. The Lord is risen, he is risen indeed, alleluia!