Today, I attended a service at the crack of dawn to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. My sacrifice of lost sleep is insignificant compared with His at Calvary, yet denying my flesh those extra 40 winks made today’s service for St John’s and St Luke’s churches in Colchester seem the sweetest Easter I have ever celebrated.
In minus degrees temperatures at Highwoods Country Park, about 50 folk encircled a camping table bedecked with a tablecloth, bread and wine. Our breath clouded our voices as we joined the bird’s dawn chorus singing praises to the Risen Lord. Our warm booted feet melted the frost encrusting the grass (see our footprints in the pic) as a rosy blanket slowly covered the horizon.
It felt worth having cold toes as we took the sacrament and shared heartfelt hugs with greetings of ‘Christ is Risen’ and ‘He is indeed!’ Happiness more joyful than that at Christmas filled us.
It made me wonder how the early followers must have felt visiting the tomb that first Easter morning as John 20 tells us in verse 6: ‘Then Simon Peter came, following him and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and there the handkerchief that had been around His head; not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.’
Simon Peter would have gone to the tomb feeling depressed after witnessing Christ crucified. Mourning His Lord, He was expecting to see the body of Jesus but saw nothing. The small handkerchief was deliberately folded to show that grave robbers had not snatched the body of Jesus away but He had taken it off His face and placed it symbolically aside. All the words Jesus had prophesied to them that He would be seen again (John16:16) would have raced through His mind as He battled with unbelief.
The disciples were not to be left in wonderment for long, as soon after Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene. And as Selwyn Hughes wrote in his daily devotion ‘Every Day With Jesus’: ‘ On this, another Easter Day, come with me and peer into the tomb in which Jesus was laid. What do you see? Nothing? Ah – that, I am sure you will agree, is the most marvelous and most sensational ‘nothing’ the world has ever known.’!
Don’t you agree?