One of the reasons why people find it difficult to believe what we Christians claim about Easter, is that they haven’t understood the meaning of Christmas. Today we hear Jesus say in our Gospel (John 14:1-12) “To have seen me is to have seen the Father”; and this reminds us how much we love the idea that God is close to us in Jesus, how much we love to call God “Father” as Jesus taught us. Now all this is very good, but what we so often fail to realise is the immense mystery that is being presented to us in these words. What we often fail to do is to mediate on what our God, the one we call Father, is actually like.
In order to do this, we need to remember that as the Creative force underlying the Universe, God is even more amazing than the Universe. So in order to think about God, we have to struggle to understand a little about the Universe. The problem is that so much of what modern science teaches us is just too hard for us to understand, and is usually presented in mathematical formulas like E=MC2. which probably bewilders you as much as it bewilders me! Thinking on this, I googled “How big is the Universe” and heard an astronomer say “You’ll never get your head around how big the Universe is”. (www.youtube.com/watch?v=AC7yFDb1zOA) Now this sort of comforted me, because I thought that even an astronomer who has all these mathematical formulas at his fingertips, cannot understand this either.
I have been trying to share this with children in some of the school assemblies I give, and the thing I shared with them is how amazing light is. I told them to look up in the school hall and look at the space in the middle, not the ceiling but the space below the ceiling. There appears to be nothing there, just an empty space; and yet light is there or we wouldn’t be able to see anything, and although some of that light reflects off things so we can see them, much of it along with other electro-magnetic waves (including the radio waves that mean we can watch TV) pass through the ceiling and the walls and can also pass through us.
St John, who was the disciple closest to Jesus, tries to get over to us some of the mystery of what God is like. In his 1st Letter (1 John 1:5) he says “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all”. If we think of what that really means, having just thought a little about what the Universe and the light within it is like, then we really need to adjust our thinking about God. We need to realise that everything we say about God is only a tiny approximation of what God is. And if Jesus is one with that God… remember his words again “To have seen me is to have seen the Father”, then although his death as a human is a real death, a real agony, the eternal life of God, that is within him, cannot be consumed by death. Some ancient writers have even described the death of Jesus, as the moment when Death, like an enormous monster, tried to swallow Jesus; but in doing so it found it had swallowed LIFE and in swallowing LIFE was destroyed.
So the appearances of Jesus after his death are just that, appearances to help the disciples believe; but the Resurrection is so much more than that. The Resurrection is the eternal LIFE that is in Jesus, the eternal life that destroys death, now becoming available for all men and women. Jesus said “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10) So when we say that Jesus is alive today, we are saying that his humanity, the human Jesus that died, has somehow, beyond our understanding, been transformed and made for ever one with the immortal eternal God. Inevitably we cannot understand this mystery, we can only gasp with amazement at what is being claimed.
It is worth remembering that all that science has discovered about the Universe should actually make it easier for us to accept that, like the Universe, God is beyond our understanding. It always seems strange to me that some people think science and religion are in conflict, when in reality science points us to the possibility that there is a creative power beyond all this, and yet within all this, that we call God. What Jesus then does is to show us a way of being in communion with this power, through him. Thus he says “I am the Way, The Truth, AND the LIFE” (John 14:6)