Having journeyed through the forty days of Lent, and having celebrated the moment of Jesus’ resurrection, we now find ourselves in the fifty day season of Easter. During these days the Church is bedecked in white and worshippers are invited to revel in the joy of that greatest moment in the history of humanity – the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
One of the great joys of this season is the opportunity we are given, through the Church’s cycle of readings, to share in the sheer joy of the disciples at finding all of their despair turned into unimaginable and indescribable happiness. Of course, as with anything that seems too good to be true, the time immediately following the events of Good Friday are met with uncertainty, even doubt. However all of that apprehension is set aside as it becomes obvious that Jesus really has risen from the dead. Those who found the empty tomb wondered, quite naturally, what had been happened to Jesus’ body. Thomas, having missed the disciples’ first meeting with the risen Jesus, doubted that it could possibly be true. Indeed, it took Jesus himself standing before Thomas and inviting him to inspect his wounds to convince the doubter that he was the one who had got it wrong. The whole post-crucifixion narrative in the gospels is one of people coming to see that Jesus is indeed risen.
The Church’s pattern of readings is planned on a three year cycle. I mention this merely as an aside to explain why this year we will not be hearing one of my favourite readings from Luke’s gospel. In Years A and B of the cycle we hear the account of two people walking the seven miles from Jerusalem to a village called Emmaus. They had not heard of Jesus’ resurrection and were still desperately sad that the authorities had executed the man who they had seen as their Lord and their Saviour. As they were walking along and discussing the tragic events of the previous couple of days, the gospel tells us that: ‘Jesus himself came near and went with them.’ It is those wonderful words that have always resonated with me in this post-resurrection story. In those few words, contained within this simple account, is the heart of the Easter message. Jesus did share in the harsh reality of our earthly lives two thousand years ago, but he also transcended the cruelty of our human frailty in order that he might give us the hope, comfort and joy of his presence in our lives for all time.
The disciples were scattered and in despair, the travellers on the road to Emmaus were disconsolate and puzzled by what had happened, and Thomas doubted. And yet, all of that unhappiness and misery was turned to inexpressible joy when Jesus conquered the powers of this world and rose from the dead – for each and every one of us!
Wherever you find yourself on your pilgrimage through life, remember that Jesus himself has drawn near, and is waiting to walk with you. Jesus is waiting to hold your hand and lead you into the joy of his resurrection. And, if you find it difficult to walk with him, then let him carry you through those dark times – his loving arms are strong and accepting of all.
I pray that as we journey together through this joyous season of Easter you may be able to say, with Thomas (who once doubted): ‘My Lord and my God’ as you experience Jesus himself drawing near to, and travelling, with you.
Revd Stephen Buckman