Scripture for Easter Sunday:
Isaiah 65.17–23; Psalm 118.1–2, 14–24; Acts 10.34–43; John 20.1–18
The gospel of John opens with the contrast between light and darkness and proceeds with a gathering gloom that threatens the light which Christ brings into the world. The darkness gathers as Judas prepares to turn from the way of Jesus to pursue his own agenda: then, John says, “He went out. And it was night.” Within 24 hours, the lifeless body of Jesus is entombed in a dark cave.
But, as John’s gospel states, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” The light of Christ cannot be contained and it bursts forth, leaving an empty tomb. The missing body is to be found in a garden, greeting Mary Magdalene, who in grief mistakes him for a gardener. And yet … “in the beginning was the Word,” a divine force that has something to do with creating a garden (Eden); perhaps in her grief Mary was not so mistaken after all – just about the scale of the garden!
This is a creative light that cannot be overcome by darkness – or, with an enigmatic Greek word, ‘understood’ by it. Because it is true that there are those who do not understand the light that Christ shines into the dark places of the world, and they end up stuck in dark corners.
We celebrate the light that shines – that bursts forth – at Easter, yet we should not forget the journey of darkness that leads to resurrection. It is all too easy to skip from the Hosanna procession of Palm Sunday to the joy of resurrection at Easter without recalling the journey in between, and the price that was paid in suffering and real, painful death by Jesus.
Joy is appropriate and understandable, yet as the empty tomb is revealed there is still much unfinished business: unfinished anointing, unfinished grieving, unfinished business about denial, unfinished questions about Jesus, unfinished questions about where the disciples are to go from there.
So Easter does not mark an ending – but rather the beginning of tackling the challenge of shining the light of resurrection into the dark places of the world. We need to carry the spirit of joy of that resurrection and its hope and promise into places where darkness remains, remembering that the work of the resurrected body of Christ is still before us today.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!