The Easter Witness
Sermon preached on Easter Sunday 2004
Victor Meldrew from the BBC TV sitcom, “One Foot in the Grave” was famous for one particular phrase, “I don’t believe it!” What a wonderful saying and he had such a brilliantly expressive way of saying it. Victor used the phrase in so many situations and I remember one particular occasion when he awoke one morning to find that someone had put a Citroen 2CV in a skip outside his house, “I don’t believe it!”
In our Gospel reading today we find some women, including Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the Mother Of James, reporting to the Disciples that they have seen the empty tomb and that two men, messengers from God, have declared that Jesus is risen from the dead. The women had gone early in the morning to anoint the body of Jesus and embalm his body to complete the rushed and partial burial rites that were performed on the day of his Crucifixion. These burial rites could not be completed on the Friday since to have done so would have made them unclean and unable to partake in the Sabbath. On the Sunday as they approach the tomb they see the stone has been rolled away, they meet the two messengers from God, who were possibly angels, and they report what they have witnessed to the disciples. What do you think the Disciples reaction would have been? “Nonsense?” Perhaps they even said “I don’t believe it!” Just think about it, what would you have said if you were there?
If you were to place yourselves in the sandals of the first disciples, of course it is nonsense to suggest that Jesus is alive, of course it is unbelievable and utterly outrageous, for they have witnessed his death, crucified and lanced with a spear. How could he possibly be alive? No, he is dead, people just do not come back from the dead. “I don’t believe it!” Perhaps the women were untrustworthy witnesses, women were just not to be believed. So Peter decides that he must go and see for himself. He will not trust the words that he has heard from the women. He must see for himself. He must know one way of another. He finds that the tomb is empty and returns to the rest “amazed” at what he has happened.
I wonder how you would have felt if you had been there? What would you think if you were told that a man you had seen crucified was now alive? Disbelief? You would think that these women and men were crazy. Perhaps you would also be shocked, confused. If we think about it today, it does seem utter nonsense to suggest that somebody could come back from the dead. If you were told that a dead person was now alive you would think that they were mad, deluded, drunk or on drugs.
Yet we know that Jesus is alive for he lives within us through the Holy Spirit. Many Christians say that they have had a personal experience of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour and that they are assured of his presence with them at all times. As Christians we can say that we know the Resurrection of Christ is not nonsense, that it is not the hysterical ramblings of a few “unreliable” women, for Jesus Christ has changed our lives and made a real difference to who we are. Jesus Christ has made us different to the very core of our being and just as the door posts of the people of God were marked with the blood of the sacrificed lamb, thus saving them from the death, so our lives are marked by the Blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, thus saving us from death and bringing us eternal life.
In Christ, through His death and Resurrection we are made anew, offered new life and a new beginning, a second chance, a fresh start. Have you ever done something in life and wished you could have had a second chance? Education, Relationship? Job?
We might never have a second try at these things, but in our lives as human beings, we are offered a new beginning in Christ. Through the love Christ has shown us from the cross and the love God has shown us in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are enabled to begin again and put our lives right with God. No matter what our sin maybe, no matter our inadequacy, pride or conceit, the love of God in Jesus Christ, embraces and enfolds us all, lifting us above our sorrow, moving us on from only seeing the world from our point of view, challenging us and enabling us to begin to live our lives for God, following his will for us.
Finally, sadly, there many in our world today who do in fact agree with Victor Meldrew and say, “I don’t believe it!” It is part of our discipleship as followers of the Christ, to try and bring people into a loving and fulfilling relationship with Jesus. I pray that this Easter as we rejoice in the Salvation that He has achieved for all humanity, we might grow closer to God in faith and understanding, and in doing so, we may be encouraged and inspired to share our faith with those around us, in the hope that through the grace of God they too might know Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.