Alleluia, Christ is risen. He is risen indeed, Alleluia
Our Easter acclamation continues to ring out at our church services on Sunday mornings. For Easter is celebrated as Eastertide – 50 days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost. As if in recognition it takes time for the good news of Christs’ resurrection to sink in, take hold of our minds, to make any sense. Many find the whole story difficult to believe, speak of it as nonsense. They are in good company.
For such was the case with those who first heard the angel voice that acclamation at the empty tomb. We read their responses in the earliest Gospel accounts. In Mark 16 we read of the women who were the first to appear at the tomb early morning, that they were trembling and bewildered as they heard the acclamation and fled from the tomb saying nothing to anyone because they were afraid. In Matthew 28 the women again are fearful – though joyful. By the end of the 50 days in Matthew some worship while some still doubt. In Luke 24, the women again are frightened – and when they rush to tell the disciples what they have seen and heard, “their words seemed to them like nonsense”.
The Jews are an occupied people. Under a foreign military power. There is resistance and social unrest. This is the context for Jesus’ ministry. The disciples had three years of following Jesus amidst growing confrontation with the established authorities, political and religious. No wonder the crowds flocked to witness in thousands to hear Jesus speak, “hypocrites” he called the Jewish religious establishment. And always present was the Jewish expectation of a messiah who would overturn the injustice of occupation and set his people free. At the end of the 50 days the disciples ask Jesus: “Are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” And this emotional and political turmoil – all of this has come to nothing as the powers of oppression crush all hope, desire and expectation as they crucify Jesus. His disciples? They all flee into hiding – except the women. In John 21 the disciples are resigned to the fact that nothing has changed. Everything is back to how it was before. And they return to their old trades as fishermen.
Does it sound familiar? Occupied peoples. Oppressive military presence. Self-serving government. A hypocritical establishment. People anxious and frightened. Hopes dashed. Why bother? Against this we join with the angel to cry, Alleluia, Christ is risen. He is risen indeed, Alleluia. This cry stirs embers of hope in the early Christians – felt as joy and worship – which embers burst into the flames of Pentecost, which we will celebrate June 5th. At Pentecost the disciples are now bold, energetic, expectant, voices full of hope as they speak publicly of the Risen Christ. And their audience cut to the heart asks, “What shall we do?” Hope renewed stirs a renewed desire to act. This is the heart of the Easter story whose narrative reveals the fallen world is as it is ; embodies a vision of how it could be better; and invites all to commit to play their part in making it better. Alleluia, Christ is risen. He is risen indeed, Alleluia is both an affirmation and a motivation.
Jesus is the “light of the world” and those who follow him are to be in turn light (Matthew 5.14). Light struggles against what at times seems an all-pervading darkness. This was true for the first disciples. It is no less true for us now – darkness from the global perspective of war, occupied territories, the earths warming; from the social perspectives with costs of living rises, inflation threatening incomes, embedded racism and sexism; from the personal perspectives of disabling anxiety and stress, incapacitating illness, death of loved ones, addictions.
But 1 John 2 encourages, “God is light; In him there is no darkness at all””. No darkness is our direction of travel. The Risen Christ invites co-operation in his work to bring light as we can. Light in the personal as we repent – that is turn to God – that we might be re-created into a people characterised by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5). Light in the social. See how the early Christians gather into communities (Acts 2): ”All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need”. Light in the global. See how Paul urges (Romans 8) that “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God”.
Alleluia, Christ is risen. He is risen indeed, Alleluia. During Eastertide – and throughout our journey of faith – we are called to embrace this cry evermore deeply as a call to engage with ourselves and the world that each might be different. That in the face of darkness, we might be light. In the face of despair, hope. In the face of anxiety, reassured. In the face of apathy, energised.
Rev Allan Goode