On Good Friday we read of the betrayal, suffering and death of Jesus Christ. We reflected on the last meal with his friends and how Jesus, even before his friends knew they would need it, left them something to remember him by. Something that would help them to find their way back to him after Easter. Something that would help them recognise, to their surprise, again and again, that somehow, against all their expectations and despair, death had not put an end to his presence in their lives, but had only been a new beginning in their relationship with him.
It was the meal that we, after two thousand years of continuous observance by Christian generation after Christian generation, will share with each other today. The meal reminding us that the breaking of Christs body was the beginning of a sharing of his love and life with even more people than had be possible before. That the pouring out of his life blood was a sign of a whole new way of God being present in human lives as had ever been possible before. Bread and wine symbolising, for centuries to come, the way Christs suffering and death had not ended in the deep despair of that terrible Friday, but had instead opened the doors to hope and life.
Betrayal, injustice, fear, suffering, the agony, the loneliness, the prayer for a miracle, the plea to his Father for the cup to pass, to please not have to face the worst people can do to you, the tomb and the stone rolled in front of it.
It should have been the end of this rabbi from Nazareth. Life should have resumed as if nothing had happened. The same old world, where friends betray friends, where other friends arent around when they are badly needed, where people sweat blood and tears in fear and where innocent people sometimes end up on a cross because leaders deem it expedient to their purposes. With Jesus in the tomb and his friends returning to Galilee to come to terms with their loss.
Thats what should have happened.
But it didnt.
And from the beginning of the story, for those who listen with ears tuned in to the scriptures of old, it should have been clear from the start that nothing will be as it should in this story, because from the very beginning it is connected to another story where nothing was as it should have been. The story of a group of slaves destined for the labour camps of Egypt, people who had nothing to hope for and nothing to live for or to long for. People like there are so many in our world today: child prostitutes in the big cities of the poorest of the poor, people living on rubbish dumps surviving on what they can glean from what others discarded, people in sweat shops (and they are the lucky ones, they at least got an income). Slaves, with no hope and no future who find themselves crossing the sea on dry land with God at their side, leaving their oppressors behind in the mud. Impossible. Anyone in the Ancient Middle East knew that once you were in the claws of mighty Egypt there was no escape possible. At all. And yet, here is the story of a people who manage to get out, against the odds, through a sea that should have drowned them, into a wilderness that should have killed them, making it to a better life.
And the Easter story tells us: Its happening again. Here is an enemy even mightier than the Egyptians of old. Here a sea deeper than the one Gods people crossed so many centuries ago. Here a more definite despair than theirs was at that time, in the camps where their sons were drowned in the crocodile infested Nile at birth. Here death itself tries to slam the door on love. On life. On light. Putting its seal of approval on those who thought that one innocent death would not matter that much if considered against the greater good of the people, the institutions, the nation, and God knows what else.
And again, what should have happened, what happens all the time in this world, does not happen. Death does not get the last word. What Jesus stood for, lived out, died for, proved impossible to kill.
On Easter morning the tomb is empty. All the suffering, the fear, the agony, the betrayal, its all been left behind. Like the pieces of cloth littering the tomb, Christ shakes what has dragged him to the pits of hell and fills the hearts of his friends with hope. In the blackness of despair they find a flickering light gaining in strength, they discover to their amazement how their life is renewed and how, somehow, the man they thought they had lost forever is there with them, reaching out with love and forgiveness once more.
Come you who betrayed me, come you who fell asleep when I needed you, come you who stood at the cross and felt the bottom fall out of your existence. Come you who know what it is like to be betrayed, to be left alone in your greatest agony, you who have sweated water and blood for fear, you who know what it is like to be nailed to the cross and left to die. Come you who have been through hell. The tomb is empty. Love is stronger than death, a new day is dawning. I will continue on the road with you, beside you when you suffer, ahead of you when darkness looms, behind you when you find your feet running towards the light of a new creation.