It was very early on the first day of the week, and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb.
St John’s account of Easter morning began with Mary’s discovery of an empty tomb. They had taken her Lord and none knew where he was to be found. Peter and the beloved disciple raced to the tomb, only to find it empty.
The desolation of what must have seemed the final insult to their crucified Lord was transformed as the other disciple entered the tomb. The description of what happened is modest. We simply hear that as this other disciple entered the tomb he saw and believed. Until that moment he had failed to understand that his Lord must rise from the dead. The narrative tells us nothing of the manner of the resurrection. It is instead a description of the power of the resurrection at work in those first believers. They saw and they believed. Something had changed in the disciples. Jesus had not simply risen from the dead. He was alive in their hearts. This, surely, is the meaning of our Easter joy.
As we celebrate Easter we, like Mary and those first disciples, must confidently expect to be changed from within. We believe that even our greatest darkness, when surrendered to the Presence of our Risen Lord, raises us to new hope.
The words of Peter to Cornelius did not describe the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus as static events locked into the past. Peter described Jesus as anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power, a power unleashed for all time in his resurrection. Frequently we are tempted to believe that our own lives are held captive by powers greater than our own. Sometimes habitual sin holds us in its power. At other times our disappointments, our envy and ingrained attitudes seem insurmountable. The list could be endless. In proclaiming that all who believed in Jesus would have their sins forgiven, Peter was declaring that the power of the Risen Lord lives in the hearts of those who believe in him. Though we may perceive ourselves as helpless, the power of the Risen Lord can achieve infinitely more than we could ask or even imagine.
St Paul spoke of this triumph as he described the inner life of the believer. “You have been brought back to true life with Christ. Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, because you have died, and now the life you have is hidden in God.”
Christ died on the Cross so as to set us free from the sin that so easily overwhelms us. He invites us to die with him, not only to sin, but, more importantly, to its persuasive power at work within us. A life that is hidden with Christ in God is alive in the power of the Resurrection. It is for this reason that Paul confidently invited us to set our thoughts on heavenly things, not on the things that are on earth.
Like St Paul, we continue to live in this troubled world. The Resurrection means that we do not struggle alone, that Christ lives within us. His hidden power, at work within us, changes us as the disciples were changed on that first Easter day.
“When Christ is revealed, and he is your life, you too will be revealed in all your glory with him.”