27 March 2016

Luke 24:1-12

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” (v.5)

Psalm: Psalm 118


The first Easter Day did not dawn in a blaze of joy and glory. Instead it began in the uncertain half-light with confusion, disorientation and fear. The women are described as "perplexed" (v. 4) and "terrified" (v. 5). Although they went and told the male disciples what had happened, there is no indication that they were convinced of Jesus' resurrection and certainly none that they rejoiced. The testimony of women was not valid in the first-century Jewish world and the male disciples dismissed the story of these women as hysteria or delirium (verse 11). All in all, the first Easter Sunday was messy and inconclusive.

The angels said to the women: "Why do you look for the living among the dead?" (v. 5). They were still operating within an obsolete paradigm in which the dead cannot live again, and within this way of thinking they could not possibly understand or recognise the truth of the Resurrection. They needed to emerge from the tomb into a new way of thinking that recognises God's absolute power even over death.

Nancy Claire Pittman, Assistant Professor of the Practice of Ministry at Phillips Theological Seminary in Oklahoma writes: "We too want to tend the corpses of long dead ideas and ideals. We cling to former visions of ourselves and our churches as if they might come back to life as long as we hold on to them … We choose to stay with what we know in our hearts to be dead, because it is safe, malleable, and so susceptible to burnishing through private memory. The words of the unworldly messengers are a challenge to stop hanging on to the dead and to move into new life. They are reminders that the Holy One dwells wherever new life bursts forth."

It is tempting to burst jubilantly into Easter celebrations with easy alleluias and daffodils, but the Resurrection is really about dying to our dead, limited, but safe ways of being, and allowing God to raise us to a larger way of life, open to the possibility of new life we could never have imagined.

Andrew Pratt's hymn "The sharpened chill, the flower-strewn tomb" expresses it beautifully.

To Ponder

  • Are you stuck in the tomb of any 'dead' ways of seeing or doing things? What is God wanting to raise to new life within you?
  • How might marking Easter more reflectively help you to do the difficult work of engaging in your own process of death and resurrection?
  • Is your church's Easter worship more feel-good or challenging? How appropriate is it for you?

Bible notes author

The Revd Anna Bishop

Anna Bishop is a wife, mother and Methodist presbyter. She is currently without appointment while her two small children teach her a spirituality of interruption! She is living in the Salisbury circuit, where she leads Baby-interrupted Bible Study and Little Blessings, a service of worship for babies, toddlers, pre-school children and their carers.