Easter is such an important festival of the Church that the day is celebrated for a full week – from Sunday to Sunday inclusive. Today is known as Low Sunday in contrast to the ‘high’ liturgy, pomp and ceremony which usually surrounds Easter Day itself. In Welsh Y Pasg Bach (Little Easter). While today is an equally important commemoration of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, the mood is usually slightly more reflective and contemplative.
After the fast moving events of Holy Week we have time and opportunity to look back and to ponder all that happened. We also hear more about the resurrection than the empty tomb, as we remember the risen Lord’s encounters with his disciples and closest followers during the period from Easter Day to Ascension when Jesus ascended to heaven. The empty tomb is only the beginning of the resurrection narrative.
In that narrative, in the first instance, Jesus’ followers are bewildered and afraid. They fear what they do not know and what they do not understand. It is a distant cry from the joy which we proclaimed on Easter Day isn’t it? With the benefit of hindsight we know that Jesus had risen from the dead, we understand that he defeated death. Because we know and understand this, we are able to joyfully exclaim with confidence and commitment “Alleluia Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!”
In the Gospels there are a number of engaging accounts of the risen Lord’s encounters with his followers, such as the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. This also takes place on Easter Day. Jesus joins them on their journey and explains to them what has happened to him in the context of God’s Word in the Old Testament, so that their hearts burn within them. They do not recognise Jesus, but as they gradually begin to understand what has happened and why, the darkness of their minds is enlightened.
There remains however many a mystery. If this was truly Jesus, why did they not recognise him? What was it that opened their eyes and enabled them to recognise him at the end of the encounter after he had taken the bread, blessed it, broken it and given it to them? And how is it that he then vanished out of their sight?
We mustn’t deceive ourselves in to thinking that we know and understand it all. As the very resurrection itself remains a mystery (albeit a fact), so the very nature of the risen Lord is a mystery. There is much that we do not know and do not understand. There is much for us to think about…
Fear and bewilderment run through our society, and indeed our whole world, at this time. Fear and bewilderment caused by Covid-19. There is much that even our leading scientists and clinicians do not know or understand about this terrible virus. It is strange that our country is affected as we keep this most holy time of year, not that we have any choice in either matter. We have kept Passiontide and are celebrating Easter in such a different context, and this different context enables us to encounter God in different ways, and to hear God’s voice speaking anew to us through the familiar words.
As we ponder and reflect on everything that took place during Holy Week, the fact of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and his various encounters with his disciples and closest followers, it is critical that we never forget that the risen Lord is walking alongside us every step of our journey. That in our fear and bewilderment Jesus is speaking words of encouragement, comfort and consolation to us. Jesus is ready to nourish us, to equip us and to enable to continue with our life’s journey, as we enter in to a deeper relationship with God and a better understanding of the importance and significance of everything that Jesus has done for us - while at the same time acknowledging and accepting those elements which remain a mystery known only to God.
I offer these prayers:
"Make our hearts to burn within us O Christ, as we walk with thee in the way and listen to thy words; that we may go in the strength of thy presence and thy truth all our journey through, and at it end behold thee, in the glory of God. Amen."
"Keep us good Lord, under the shadow of thy mercy in this time of uncertainty and distress. Sustain and support the anxious and fearful, and lift up all who are brought low; that we may rejoice in thy comfort knowing that nothing can ever separate us from thy love in Christ Jesus our Lord." Amen.