I was once in a queue in a London police station to report the theft of a wedding register when the man next to me said suddenly, ‘Can I talk to you?’
It turned out that a few nights previously he had drunk far too much and got into a row with his girlfriend.
He said things he didn’t mean to say; she had dumped him and he felt terrible. He hadn’t committed a crime, but he had come to the Police to confess to a crime because it was the only way he could think of to find forgiveness and a new start.
That man’s life was in a mess, and he couldn’t see any way out of it.
I suppose most people go through times in their lives when they feel a bit like that man, that their lives are heading nowhere. It may be the result of unemployment, a dead-end job, a negative relationship, a sense of guilt, or constant pain or debt. Whatever the cause, they feel stuck, they feel there is no way out of the mess.
Easter tells us something different. Easter tells us that in Jesus there is always a fresh start. Think of Mary, Jesus’ mother, as that precious body was laid in a borrowed tomb. Her beloved child was dead, the boy she had brought into the world was a lifeless corpse. She must have been in utter despair. Or was she? A poet called Margaret Louisa Woods once wrote some beautiful words reflecting on how Mary must have felt on Good Friday night.
Hush! In her heart
which first felt the faint life stir in her Son
perchance is apprehended
even now new mystery; grief less loud clamours,
the Resurrection has begun.
A body left to rot in a tomb. Yet from that place of death will spring new life, new hope, a new beginning. With Jesus, there is no such thing as despair, only hope. No such thing as darkness, only light. No such thing as death, only life.
The message of Easter is a very simple one. Jesus is alive. If he burst open the tomb, he’s still alive today. Death couldn’t touch him. Which means that we can live today in contemporary friendship with him.
And it is that friendship with Jesus that can turn around our lives too. In him there is always a fresh beginning. When we sin, there is forgiveness. When we are in pain, there is healing. When our lives seem to be heading nowhere, there is a new way of being alive. When we die, there is new life.
This Easter, seek afresh the Jesus who burst from the tomb. He’s alive. We can know him as friend. And, in that friendship, is a wonderful fresh start.
Rt Rev. Philip North
Bishop of Burnley