"One very striking thing about Easter, as it is written about in the Christian gospels, is that nobody expected it. Later on the disciples remembered or convinced themselves that Jesus had spoken of rising from the dead but they had just not understood. On the day itself, however, the first people to find him gone from the grave were simply alarmed and confused. The first people to report having seen him alive were just not believed by the others. Yet these were people who believed in life after death. They might well have accepted that a good man like Jesus would have 'died and gone to heaven'. What they were utterly unprepared for was that he had died but not gone to heaven, that he had come back to life here on earth, and was once more with them.
No wonder, then, that modern people have trouble believing the Easter story. 'When you're dead, you're dead', is a pretty common, and common-sense, view. Easter has nothing to do with such common sense. It is about a stunning, confronting, absolutely unexpected event. It is about how people who thought they knew how life, death, the universe and everything worked had to throw all of that out the window in the light of a new and unexpected experience. It is the religious equivalent of things like discovering the earth is round, that solid matter is mostly vacant space, that time is curved. It changes how we see reality.
This Easter I invite people whose instinctive reaction is, 'It can't be true. People don't rise from the dead' to take a good look at the gospels and to see that the disciples thought exactly the same way. They thought so, that is, until Jesus did rise. That changed all that they thought they knew about life, death and everything, and it changed them.
May the reliving of that moment this Easter deepen and renew our understanding of life and human destiny, and make us people of greater hope and greater confidence that, in the great scheme of things, who we are, the individual human life we live, really matters and need not end in dust, ashes and nothingness.
- A message from Bishop Bill Wright, Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.