For only the second time since the Second World War, has Easter Day fallen on April 1 as it did this year. April Fool’s Day, when foolish jokes and fake news stories are given fresh license, may be a more fitting day to celebrate the Resurrection than we realise.
For the first followers, the report of the empty tomb was seen as the very epitome of fake news. When the women reported what they had seen, the Gospel of Luke tells us that the other apostles thought it an idle tale – an April Fool.
Some 25 years later, Paul wrote to the community of believers in Corinth about the way the Gentiles regarded the message of the cross as foolishness rather than wisdom. Still an April Fool.
But the thing about fake news is that it doesn’t last very long; if a story is made up fatal inconsistencies soon appear. What is striking is how quickly truth comes out. Conversely, if the story is true then no matter how many attempts are made to rubbish it, the story itself won’t go away.
Easter is just such a story. Its sheer longevity suggests it is no April Fool. And for those who wish to dismiss the Resurrection as fake news, the greatest stumbling block is the transformation that overcame the disciples themselves.
Remember how, having deserted Jesus at the Crucifixion, they first ran away from the empty tomb and before returning for a second look. It was on that second visit that change occurred and belief begins – a belief that moved the disciples from fear to faith, from cowardice to courage, from grief and guilt to the conviction that Jesus is alive and that all his teaching has been authenticated.
Something happened to explain it. That something we call the Resurrection.
This is an understanding of what might be called the Resurrection – then.
What about the Resurrection – now?
For Christians today there is an important lesson to learn from one of the most memorable moments of the Easter story. Mary Magdalene first mistakes the risen Jesus for a gardener and only recognizes him when he calls her by name. Her instinct is to reach out and touch him, whereupon the risen Jesus says to her ‘Do not hold on to me’. The message to Mary Magdalene, is a message for us all. The past is past and cannot be re-visited or changed. For people of faith the message is ‘do not cling but follow’.
Mary Magdalene begins to understand that a ‘Lord who cannot be touched is also a Lord who can never be taken away’ – in other words she has to learn to love in a different way.
That I suggest is what we all have to do when someone dies; life is changed but not taken away when we die. That is the great Easter Hope – both then and now.