04 April 2012
An Easter message from Steve Clifford
With Holy Week now upon us, I decided to take a little time to read the Easter story again as told by Luke. The power of the story hits me every time I read it. This is the watershed of human history, this is what salvation history has been preparing us for. The law and the prophets were pointing forward to this - God's rescue plan unfolding before our very eyes. This is God supremely at work, not far and distant but hands-on, facing the worst humanity could throw at him.
As I read the story again, what struck me this time was the very human touch. The myriad of little stories within the Big Story; so many seemingly insignificant people included in this great moment of history. There's the colt owner who lends the animal to Jesus; a water-carrying man and a widow making an inappropriately small offering; a denying disciple alongside one who betrays; a confessing criminal receiving a promise of paradise; and a praising Roman centurion recognising the significance of what is taking place. Many are anonymous but some are named – Simon from Cyrene goes down in history as the one who carries the cross, while Joseph of Arimathea gives up his tomb. Luke's really concerned we know about the women – they are the ones who stay until the very end, who follow the corpse and see where the grave is. They are the ones up first thing in the morning - the announcement of the resurrection by the angel is made to them.
As I read the story, I am challenged again as to what my response would have been. Would I have realised the significance of what was taking place or would I have fallen asleep when Jesus asked me to pray? Would I have swung the sword and cut off the soldier's ear? Or maybe I would have been among the crowd excitedly welcoming Jesus as he entered Jerusalem, yet demanding a crucifixion when offered the choice between Barabbas the murderer or Jesus the Christ.
Luke concludes his gospel (he's going to continue the story in the book of Acts) by Jesus appearing to his disciples. With so much having taken place over the last few days, with their emotions totally blown - doubts, fears, anxieties overwhelming them - his first words meet them at their place of need: "peace be with you". Having shown them his hands, his feet, having convinced them he's not a ghost and that he can actually eat some fish, he turns his attention to the significance of all that has taken place. He takes them back through the multitude of little stories, to the Big Story - a story which makes sense of all the other stories.
Luke concludes with these words - may they be true for us this Easter (Luke 24:45-48): "And he opened their minds so that they could understand the scriptures. He told them, 'This is what is written: the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, a repentance of the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations beginning in Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.'"