Published on Thu, 25 Apr 2019 00:00

(Mike's article published in the village magazines)


On the first Easter Sunday a group of women went to Jesus’ tomb expecting to find a dead body to embalm. Instead they found a pair of angels who asked them a question: Why are you seeking the living among the dead? Jesus isn’t here, said the angels, he is risen! When this story was told to Jesus’ friends they dismissed it as an idle tale. How on earth could Jesus be risen?

Later that day, two followers of Jesus were walking to a nearby village and trying to make sense of everything that had happened. Jesus, who they had hoped would put everything right, was dead. Some women claimed that the tomb was empty when they went to visit. What did it all mean?

Jesus appeared, walking alongside these men, but they didn’t recognise him. They weren’t expecting to see the living Jesus – he was among the dead! Only later, after explaining everything, when Jesus shared a meal with them, did they recognise who he was.

We don’t usually expect to find the living among the dead. Death is the end, isn’t it? Yet I believe that Christians are called to be people who do look for the signs of new life among the dead. If you’re a gardener, you probably start looking for signs of new life early in the year. In the cold, dead ground of winter you start to look for the first signs of the crocuses and daffodils emerging again. Christians are similarly called to be those who seek the signs of new life within that which was dead. Whether the “death” be broken relationships, shattered dreams, illness, failure or loss, Christians seek the God who is always at work to bring joy out of despair and life out of death. This isn’t a way to trivialise suffering (“every cloud has a silver lining”), but the trust that God is able to transform suffering and death in unexpected ways.

Part of the reason it is so difficult to seek life within death if because we don’t know what we’re looking for. People often wonder why those two followers of Jesus didn’t recognise him as he walked alongside them. It’s probably because the new life that Jesus experienced was totally different to the old life.

Imagine never having seen a caterpillar before. Imagine you see it making its cocoon. Imagine that you come back to the cocoon one day and find it empty. If you were to look for what has emerged from the cocoon you would probably start by looking for something that looked a bit like a caterpillar, but of course you would be wrong. Who would guess that a wonderful butterfly might emerge?

At Easter we celebrate Jesus emerging from the tomb into a new life that was as different from the old life as a butterfly is different from a caterpillar. This transformation was the beginning of God’s new creation breaking into the old way of things. I believe that in big ways and small God’s new creation continues to break in among us today if only we have eyes to see it. That’s why I look for the living among the dead. Happy Easter!

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