Monday 27 July
“He has risen! He is not here.”
I’ve had the privilege of visiting Jerusalem several times. The city is steeped in history; it feels as if there is something for sightseers on every street corner.
The route every tourist and pilgrim wants to take is the road Jesus walked from the Mount of Olives, where he was arrested, into the city where he was sentenced to death, and ending at the traditional site of his burial.
Almost every building on the route is a landmark to some Biblical event, and there is plenty to see in the short time it takes to make the journey. But what has struck me as I have walked that path is that when I’ve got to the end… there has been nothing to look at. There is no body in the tomb; there’s just a building. And those famous words ring out: “He has risen! He is not here” (Mark 16:6).
It is the women of Galilee who made that first pilgrimage to the tomb where Jesus had been buried. Wrapped hastily as the sun was setting for the Sabbath, Jesus’ body needed to be embalmed properly with spices. So some of Jesus’ most loyal and faithful disciples made the necessary preparations early on Sunday morning.
These women had supported Jesus and his disciples in their ministry through their financial gifts. They had heard him preach and perform miracles. They had believed that he was God’s great rescuer. And then they had witnessed his crucifixion, and now they were on their way to attend to his corpse.
If ever there was a moment for despair, it was this. Their dreams had been dashed; their expectations had been shattered. It must have felt desperate.
That feeling is more common than we might care to admit. The promises of Jesus are clear to hear, but sometimes it’s hard to believe that he will carry them out to completion.
Jesus came to turn rebellious hearts from sin against God towards obedience to God - yet even faithful followers of Jesus find themselves battling against persistent temptations, conscious of their weakness and failings. Jesus came to restore a broken world into the paradise it was made to be - but the diseases and disasters and death that surround us leave us asking, “How long, O Lord?”
Like the women of Galilee, we can find it hard to believe that the weakness of a crucified Messiah might be the strength of God for salvation from sin and the redemption of the world.
That might be true if the Christian faith was an Easter Saturday faith. If Jesus had stayed in the tomb, our hope would be buried with him. But Jesus didn’t stay buried. The Christian faith is an Easter Sunday faith.
As the women arrived at the tomb on Easter morning, they heard the most life-changing words ever uttered, “He has risen! He is not here.” Those seven short words in English are the hinge of history, and they give us certain hope in a time of despair.
They mean that disappointment doesn’t last. Death is not the end. With Jesus, the worst thing is never the last thing.
Many living in the world today look to the news headlines, and what they see there determines how hopeful they are about the future. But in the gospel we are invited to look to the tomb of Jesus, and what we don’t see there determines how hopeful we can be about the future.
Because Jesus rose from the grave he defeated sin and conquered death itself. For those who follow Jesus - sharing in his death, and through it sharing in the new life he has begun - there is certain hope, even in the deepest despair.
Written by Alastair Gledhill, Resource Development and Online Engagement Consultant
Ali has previous experience working in digital communications, before more recently serving on the ministry team at All Souls Church. He has joined the team at CEM to help update resources and build engagement. He lives in central London.
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