A reflection for Easter Sunday 31st March 2024 by Canon Dean Fostekew

“There will be no miracles here.” and “Everything will be alright.” 

You’ll probably know these two sayings from the sculptures in the grounds of the Modern One and Modern Two galleries. They are by Nathan Coley and Martin Creed. For me they have a resonance with today’s glorious feast. You might wonder quite how? But think on. How did those woman who went early in the morning to Jesus’ tomb really feel on discovering the body gone and a strange young man telling them to go and tell the disciples that Jesus had risen? 

“7But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ 8So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” Mark 16:7-8 

There is a bit of a problem with these last two verses from the Gospel read this morning. The young man (or angel) in the tomb tells the two Marys and Salome to go and tell the disciples and Peter that Jesus is no longer in the tomb but that he has in fact risen from the dead and is on his way to Galilee. This is all well and good, and you might expect the women to go and do just what they have been told to do. But! As we are told in verse 8, the women were so terrified of the angel and his message that they decide not to say anything to anyone. (There will be no miracles here!) Verse 8 really does not make much sense because if they were so terrified as to do nothing, how then did the news of Jesus’ resurrection spread? 

Personally, I believe that the women were made of sterner stuff and once over their initial shock they did as they were commanded and spread the good news. (Everything will be alright.) The seeming paradox of the women being too terrified to say anything and the news of the resurrection spreading is simply, poetic licence. Mark uses the language he does to emphasise how utterly amazed and terrified the three women were - in the FIRST instance. I can’t believe that once they were over their initial shock that they chose not to say anything to the disciples and Peter. It is human nature to want to talk about what one has seen once the shock has passed - it is in fact one of the ways that we come to term with our experiences. We humans need to talk about our traumas in order to process and understand them and to comprehend the effects that they might have upon us from there on in. If we bottle it all up we are usually heading for difficult times ahead. A bit like that 17th century french Bishop of Modseine trying to make light of the unexplained miracles that kept happening in that city when he said; ‘There will be no miracles here’. Forgetting that we humans can’t control what God does. 

The three women, I suspect, would have talked among themselves about the empty tomb and the ‘young man’s’ words to them. I also think that they would have been too in awe of the ‘angel’ not to have done as he asked and that they would have sought the disciples and Peter out. So, although, Mark says they said; ‘nothing to anyone’; I think they must have or how else did the news of his rising from the dead spread? We also have to remember that Mark’s account is just one of the resurrection accounts in the New Testament. In Matthew 28 we are told that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary after encountering Jesus in the garden did run and tell the disciples what they had seen, with great joy and excitement, not fear. So, although, in Mark’s account the women seem to be dumb struck, in Matthew’s account it is actually Mary Magdalene who becomes the first evangelist of the risen Christ. The truth of the women’s reactions is probably somewhere in between. They realised a miracle had happened and that perhaps 'everything would be alright’ even after their grief had overwhelmed them on Good Friday. 

On that first Easter morning the women in their grief and despair at Jesus’ death, want to ‘lay him out’ properly as women have done for centuries before and after. They want to give him a good and decent burial and this would have been in the forefront of their minds and actions. When they encounter the empty tomb; fear, anger and distress would have overwhelmed them. So much so that they were rendered speechless but once over their initial shock and surprise they would have course sought out Jesus’s closest followers and friends to tell them what they had seen and experienced in all its weirdness. They well may have been convinced that a miracle had happened. I think those three women in this Gospel account became evangelists just as Mary Magdalene does in Matthew’s account. Can you imagine, however, what Peter and the disciples first made of what the women had to tell them? 

In fact how would you have responded if told that Jesus was risen from the dead? Might your first response had been along the lines of that 17th century bishop with his no miracles statement? How do the words; ‘Alleluia! He is risen!’ really make you feel? Do they give you hope, that things will be alright? Now translate that back some 2000 odd years to those who first heard those words - ‘He is risen!’ These words contain a power of liberation and hope beyond our actual comprehension. For these few words release us from our slavery to sin and guide us into the shining light and power of Jesus’ resurrection. Once the words; ‘He is risen!’ have been spoken life can or is never the same. 

Human life has not been the same since that first Easter morning. Christ’s resurrection changed human history for his resurrection was proof of our forgiveness and liberation from our sins. It was proof beyond measure that God loves us as he loves his Son, so much in fact, that we humans can be forgiven eternally because of the selfless actions of Jesus on the cross. How amazing is that? What a miracle that is and how wonderful it is to know that things are and will be alright, eventually. I hope that you find it amazing when you hear the words we use a lot today; ‘He is risen!’ because there are no other words quite as powerful apart from; ‘I love you’ and when you think of it; ‘He is risen!’ could quite as easily be translated as God saying; ‘I love you’. This is what today is all about, the power of love, God’s love, Jesus’ love, human love to change our lives and the lives of others too and to ultimately change the world. Perhaps the phrase today is; ‘He is risen!’ but translated as; ‘I love you’. 

In this amazing love of God we are risen into new life day after day after day. But, however, it is NO USE in Christ being risen if we don’t then do something about it. The best thing we can do is to tell another human being about Christ’s resurrection and the great love that God has for each of us. We need to try never to be too frightened, as the women may have been, to tell others about Jesus and we need to remember that miracles can and do happen and that things will be alright, if we have hope. For hope is love and love is the proof of the resurrection. May your lives always be filled with hope and love and may we always shout throughout eternity: 

Alleluia! He is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!