Filled with awe and great joy the women came quickly away from the tomb and ran to tell the disciples.
And there, coming to meet them, was Jesus. ‘Greetings’ he said. And the women came up to him and, falling down before him, clasped his feet. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers that they must leave for Galilee; they will see me there.’
While they were on their way, some of the guard went off into the city to tell the chief priests all that had happened. These held a meeting with the elders and, after some discussion, handed a considerable sum of money to the soldiers with these instructions, ‘This is what you must say, “His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.” And should the governor come to hear of this, we undertake to put things right with him ourselves and to see that you do not get into trouble.’ The soldiers took the money and carried out their instructions, and to this day that is the story among the Jews
Easter Sunday, after morning mass and chocolate madness, is usually a day of rest.
This year I had the chance to meet up with some friends so found myself in in a bar in the city centre. It was packed out with people enjoying what had been a warm Spring day and the peak of the Bank Holiday weekend. The music was loud and the voices called to each other in between the shrill multi-notes of mobile phones. Dress and hair style was as varied as could be imagined with tattoos and piercings suggesting a coming together of tribal families. There was a good humour about the place and I was quickly offered a seat (giving my age away a bit).
With the struggle to have a conversation we went outside to the pavement area. Within minutes we were surrounded by people in dayglo security vests and people leading sniffer dogs marshalling a fast forming queue of people. It seems that there was a music event going on in the next building and this was only the start of the night's entertainment.
Sandwiched between the crowded bar and the growing line, people watching was unavoidable. Snatches of conversations overheard, friendship groups observed, fashion statements noted. The tensions grew between clubbers and security, impatient tapping of phones, printed tickets clasped tightly - prized possessions. Tonight was going to be one of the nights of their life.
As one man sauntered past with a t-shirt featuring a broad gold cross with 'sinner' emblazoned across it my friend asked 'Do you think they know they have been redeemed?'
Well, no, they don't. But then, again, they didn't know they had been redeemed two thousand years ago.
The day after the Sabbath celebrations it would have been equally as busy. The peoples from the Diaspora making plans to gather the caravans together. The varied languages crisscrossing the streets and squares of Jerusalem, catching up with friends, finalising deals, shopping from market stalls. Maybe the Romans holding some festival of their own for the coming of Spring, whilst the soldiers moved among the crowds keeping order.
Who will have remembered the pitiful human dragged through the streets only days before? Who could have borne the hours of standing, watching the light and life drain away? Who would have cared for the bag of bones held in the arms of a weeping old woman?
Who would have ever imagined that this story had not ended with the sealing of the tomb and the abandonment by those who were his friends?
But not total abandonment..
By this time, only a handful of people knew that the promise had been kept. The ones who waited had nothing left to lose. The women witnesses held no authority despite their conviction. It would be a challenge even to convince their friends.
The guards are suspected of covering their backs but the chance that the story would ever be believed was held at bay with money, underhandedness and the desire that power would stay with the status quo.
That desire still exists. The distractions change but the intent is the same. Who wants to believe that the world can be saved through sacrifice? Isn't it all about show, bravado, self-esteem and assertiveness?
Who wants to believe salvation begins in the silence of a desert garden? Isn't life lived in the fast lane, on the edge, for the moment?
The only people who believe in redemption are the witnesses, those who experience the Risen Jesus for themselves. However many they are it doesn't matter - redemption has happened. Unearned, unexpected. It doesn't depend on the who or what of who you are - it doesn't matter if you noticed or not - it's happened.
The 'what next?' is an invitation. If the others can be convinced then they can come and see. Because Jesus is already on the move. He is going back to Galilee. Away from the city lights and power houses of authority to the beginning.
The people that surrounded us last night have their lives to live, no doubt good and hopeful lives. Whether or not they experienced the ritual of Holy Week, the joy of this early morning. They live redeemed lives. Lives that can be saved over and over again because that is what Jesus bartered his life for.
If we are the witnesses we hope to be then we will live our lives in invitation. Offering the reconciliation of Galilee, the promise of forever, the relationship of love.