Reflection by Rev Sydney Maitland for Sunday 12 April 2020.
• Old Testament: Jeremiah 31: 1-6 (Again I will build you and you shall be built)
• Epistle: Colossians 3: 1-4 (Set your minds on things that are above)
• Gospel: Matthew 28: 1-10 (He is not here. He has been raised from the dead)
It was a time when faith was faltering, love had gone cold, and hope had died. The authorities were either cynical or sanctimoniously controlling, and probably both.
The Romans took what they wanted, and generally despised the people, and yet within this self-destructive culture, Jesus had walked, talked, healed and forgiven.
He had been offering a hope and a vision that none of the others could match, except John the Baptist, and him Herod had killed in order to avoid losing face with his friends and hangers-on.
And so Jesus also had gone too far and offended just too many of the wrong people. People with power and authority and in their own minds, relative impunity. So long as they did not offend the Romans they could do what they liked – and they did.
But that did not include forgiving people, healing them, restoring the broken and healing the desolate. The outcasts were there for a reason: to be an object lesson in support of their own power and prestige.
And so Jesus had to be killed in the most graphic means possible – that is crucifixion by the Romans. That should put an end to it.
Where the authorities felt that they could rest easily and sleep soundly, God acted. It was decisive and beyond any reasonable expectation. It could even be denied or ridiculed, but to those who saw and understood, it was world changing.
This was the black swan to beat them all, and it did.
God acted to vindicate His own being, and Jesus was brought back. This time there would be no room for doubt in the eyes of His followers.
When the women came to the tomb, equipped only with their spices and misery, they found it had all changed. Death no longer ruled supreme. Hope had been renewed and faith had found new strength.
Love itself, having been betrayed, denied, ridiculed, scourged and made a public exhibition of abuse, had come back, not as an innocent lamb but as a roaring lion.
No longer the victim, but now as the victor. Jesus was risen, and death itself would never again have the power to terrorize those who followed Jesus.
At a time when our society and economy have been closed down in response to a silent and invisible pestilence, the message of Jesus is still the same.
The kingdom of God has come, turn your lives around and receive the good news. You do not have to surrender to cynicism and manipulation. Love was always going to be more than sentiment and faith was always going to be more than wishful thinking.
Jesus was alive, this time for every generation in every corner of the world. God had acted gloriously and His people would be renewed in His strength and not their own.
Guilt and rejection, the spurious projection of false virtue and the self-absorption in false prospectuses would never again rule. For Jesus was risen and the message was going out, to the ends of the world and to the end of the age.