He Is Not Here He Is Risen (Matthew 28:6)
Why should anyone believe in a crucified Messiah?
And so, an innocent man was made to suffer and murdered.
One may feel a deep sense of pity.
Maybe even shed a tear or two.
We could draw some moral courage.
We may be inspired to live a better life.
We may be led to deeper piety.
But is this all there is to it? If the life of Christ ends with death, then his life is just a reflection of life on earth - albeit a very good one - but nothing more.
In Dostoevsky’s novel, The Idiot, the story is told of a Prince and his companion walking through a picture gallery. The Prince paused to stare at a painting of the crucifixion. His companion said, “Don’t you know that people have lost their faith in God looking at this picture?” The Prince replied, “Sadly, that is happening to me too.”
If the life of Jesus ends with the crucifixion, then we cannot say that good can triumph over hate. We will not be able to say that Christianity is anything other than a cemetery of ideals. Our lives will be enslaved in despair in this world. We walk into the night during Tenebrae and this night lasts forever. Grit your teeth. All the suffering will do is to test how strong you are as you grope your way through the dark of night.
At the end of everything, “from dust you were made and to dust you will return.” Good, evil in this life and everything in between is all finally "dustified."
But Jesus rose from the dead. He overcame death. He established a new order of reality: his new resurrected body is a sign of more to come (1 Corinthians 15:20-21, John 14:19), offering a hope "beyond the dust". It is a validation of the teachings and claims of Christ (Mark 8:31). His life was justified. And the list goes on.
Good Friday can only be called “good" because of Easter Sunday. That is why St Augustine said: “The face of Christianity is the resurrection of Christ.” Almost everyone believes that Jesus died. They believe in Good Friday but not everyone believes in Easter. Easter draws a line for those who believe and those who don’t. Easter makes all the difference.
A novelist, some years back, put it very well when he described what it was like to arrive in the empty hallway of a monastery for the first time; 'There is an impression of intense activity elsewhere'.
That was the feeling at the empty tomb on Easter Morning. It is done. It is finished. The women went to the tomb but they were told “He is not here. He is risen.” No more work is needed. Jesus did it.
Now, it is for you and me to trust - and rest - in what Jesus has done for us.