By the Rt Revd Dr Nicholas Chamberlain, Suffragan Bishop of Grantham

‘Jesus said to her “Woman, why are you weeping?  For whom are you looking?”’  John 20.15

There is so much about St John’s telling of the first Easter that I find deeply moving. Mary Magdalene is vulnerable, courageous, responsive, observant: ‘“Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”’

Peter, as usual, is impulsive.  He is slower than John, but not for him dithering by the entrance to the tomb – he goes straight in and looks. – Each disciple responds according to their character.

And then there is the Risen Christ, not forcing himself on Mary or the others, simply waiting for them, making himself available, and ready to respond when they are ready for him:


It is, I think, beautiful, and communicates deep truths in a way that invites deep contemplation, and it’s my sincere prayer that all of us will be touched by the hope of the good news that Christ is risen this morning. Touched in the way that is appropriate to each of us, and that will speak to our particular wounds and needs and fears  and uncertainties and hopes.

But I do want to suggest that we should be alert to the fact that even in this earliest dawn moment, in which hearts are lifted but conversations are tentative and no-one is yet physically greeting each other, even in this earliest moment there are hints that what has happened in the tomb is more than the resolution of some kind of domestic disturbance. – It has world-changing resonance – and the clues are plain to see.

Where was the stone? – John tells us it had been removed.
Where was the body? – John tells us that just a pile of cloths remained.
And who were these glorious beings sitting at the head and the feet of the now empty space in which Jesus had been laid? – John tells us that they were angels.

So there are already clues that the disturbance that Pilate and the high priest tried to snuff out in the crucifixion has been completely transformed. For what has happened in the darkness between Good Friday and Easter morning has changed the world. Indeed, I suggest that it has changed not only this world, but the whole created order: the resurrection of Christ is of cosmic significance. And it is on this cosmic reality of Easter that I would like to dwell just a little today.

St Paul says ‘if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain’ (1 Cor.15.14), which tells us just how foundational, transformational and radical the early Christians soon realised the resurrection to be. The death of Jesus was illuminated in retrospect by the Father’s resurrection of his Son, now identified as Jesus the Christ, from the dead.

But it’s not that Jesus’ earthly life was somehow interrupted, this teacher and healer, and then resumed, almost like the sound dropping out of a radio interview and then being restored. The point is that Jesus was gifted new life, so he carried his body and memory with him, but he was a new creation; the Son of God was created again. And this extraordinary, transforming, mystery, that is resurrection, is the fundamental point of Christian faith, and the hope on which we build our work for God’s kingdom today.

The early Christians had energy because they believed that everything changed on the day of Jesus’ resurrection, and that his resurrection points to ours to come. So, yes, there would be the earthly horrors of famine and disaster, of human greed, corruption, illness and warfare.

But these things could be endured because they had been put into ultimate perspective, which is the resurrection from the dead. We need this hope, this confidence, this perspective, more than ever today. We need this hope and confidence this perspective  more than ever today, and it is there, just as strongly, to be grasped, but I do wonder whether we sometimes allow ourselves to lose confidence, because we allow ourselves to be distracted from what I have called the cosmic significance of the resurrection. I am preaching as much to myself as anyone else, here.

We perhaps think that Jesus the good human being is somehow intelligible to our contemporaries, whereas Jesus the man who was given resurrection by God as the Christ is less intelligible. Talk of resurrection today can be reduced to a longing for life after death, and the pondering of the deep mysteries of the universe, which we must do as humans, is somehow pushed aside, or left as the occupation of others, or of the past.

But such deep pondering is indeed required of us, so that we may solve the problems of today. This pondering is the deep well on which we might draw, replenished through God’s transforming love, that should be our source of creativity and hope. Moreover, such pondering is possible for all God’s creatures: we each simply need to read the book of the universe that is laid out before us, day by day. And all human beings, made in God’s image as we are, with dignity and value, all human beings are able to read that book,     to look into the depths of creation, to explore the recesses of our own and others’ hearts., and to make a difference.

We fall in love. We encounter horror.  We face death. We reach out the hands of our generosity to our neighbours. We receive generosity from them. Resurrection illuminates all these encounters. We are resurrection people, and we must not be reduced to anything less. Fear about how we pay our next heating bill, collusion at the ill-treatment of the person who is different from us, because it suits those who hold power in the world; – we do not need to be held by these things. Together, we can build a more just, safer, and more hopeful global and national society. And the key to this possibility, I think, is the resurrection. The hungry can be fed, the homeless housed, the cold warmed. While the cross of Jesus is the threshold to eternity, it is the resurrection of Christ that ushers us in, and it is our action, in the light of the resurrection, that will change things.

‘The decisive element for primitive Christianity was not just the history of the life and death, the proclamation and the work of Jesus; it attached equal weight to the unexpected and underivable new factors of his resurrection by God, of the gift of the Spirit and of faith among Jews and Gentiles’ writes the theologian Jurgen Moltmann’, and what he says resonates with me.

Too much in recent years, I think, we have down-played the resurrection – dare I say that?! To a weary world, a fearful world, a tired Church, I simply say ‘let’s not do that!’ Let’s live the resurrection gift now!

Let’s try to grasp, again, the sheer wonder of that gift of resurrection that was first recognised in the garden by Mary and Peter and John, and that is as potent today as it was then.

Over these last great days, I have tried to suggest  that the passion, the cross, the resurrection, are not just, as it were human events, but events with existential, cosmic significance. I began this sermon by  recognising how affected, as a human being I am, by the perfect humanity of Jesus. But as I ponder the cross and the resurrection, I do also realise that, at the deepest level of my identity, it is not only the Son who speaks to me, but God the Father, and the comforting, transforming Holy Spirit.

Going back to the garden ‘Jesus said to Mary “Woman, why are you weeping?  For whom are you looking?”’ And she was looking for Jesus, her friend. He found her.  And he found her having been given the gift of resurrection, which is the gift that is intended for all. He wishes that we may all know that gift, and in knowing it, work to transform the world that he created.

May God bless you this Easter and always, and may you know the gift that is resurrection in your life now and for ever. Amen