For many of us Easter is experienced through the warmth and generosity of family gatherings, big meals, too much chocolate and the rebirth that surrounds us as winter turns to spring. Yet, when we reflect on the origins of Easter Sunday we see a very different story in the pain, suffering and death of Jesus of Nazareth.
But for me it is this apparent contradiction that makes Easter the triumph of hope over experience. We can see in the Easter story that even from the most terrible events some good can come to inspire us all to learn, improve, develop and make the best of our lives.
Much of human life revolves around planning, living and assessing our day-to-day experience. All of us will face a mixture of pleasure or pain, fulfilment or frustration, and our individual experiences vary enormously and perhaps unfairly.
We can see the full range of the human experience in the life of Jesus. Success and failure, friendship and betrayal, goodness in the face of evil. But Jesus brought something unique to the human condition and shared it with us through the example of his life – a faith in the grace of our Father who gives life, blesses life, and restores life even from death.
When Jesus was tortured and murdered in public, the pain and suffering of his death showed him to be fully human. It is something that no human being can escape - we all must die yet Jesus example shows us that even this need not be the end, that hope springs eternal.
On the third day following his death – the day we call Easter Sunday – his followers were suddenly filled with hope.
Against all the evidence of normal human experience, suddenly and unexpectedly he reappeared amongst them. His life continued, was alive and active, his spirit a part of them.
Life was resurrected, a different life, one tinged with eternity, powerful enough to overcome even death.
Jesus’s example shows us that we are made for experience beyond what seems possible in this life, that hope offers so much more.
That is the message of Easter – a new experience, sensed by most people in the hope which holds on even in the most difficult times, guiding us to better days.
It is a positive message reaffirmed as we enjoy the warmth and comfort of friends and family surrounded by signs of rebirth seen everywhere at the beginning of spring and in the story of one man resurrected to give hope to us all.