I’d like to invite you to close your eyes for a moment and imagine all the colours of the rainbow. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Now try to imagine a colour you’ve never seen, an eighth colour. A colour that isn’t in the spectrum you know.
Difficult, isn’t it? Similarly, could we imagine a perfume we’ve never smelt, or music, if we’d never heard it? Can you imagine life outside the womb, until you are born?
Today, the disciples run to the tomb, and they start to experience something they have never experienced or imagined before. Something they were not even capable of imagining, until they actually experienced it.
“He saw and believed. Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.”
Everything we have read in the Gospel, up to now, was written because of what we read today. It is the resurrection which enables the story to be told. Throughout the gospels the disciples fail to understand Jesus until the resurrection enables them to imagine something they had never experienced before.
It was impossible to imagine a crucified Messiah, until the Messiah had risen from the dead. It was impossible to understand how the whole world was in slavery to sin and death, until the God in whom there is no sin or death bursts in upon that world. It was impossible for the disciples to know how much they were governed by the fear of death, until they experienced a reality in which death simply does not exist. It was impossible for the disciples to know their own complicity in violence, denial, betrayal, until the man they had denied came back to them from death breathing love and forgiveness.
As we heard on Friday, Jesus on the cross cried out, “It is accomplished!”. Jesus has finished the work the Father sent him to do. This is the work of creation, the work to restore and complete all things as the Father wills them to be. And the culmination of the work of creation is union with God. Jesus confers on those who believe “the power to become children of God”, as John announces in the prologue to his Gospel.
In a sense, in John’s Gospel, on the cross the story of Jesus is complete. He has done what he came to do. With the resurrection, the story of the disciples begins. The story of Mary Magdalene, Peter, the Beloved Disciple, Thomas. All of them, in different ways, come to faith. All of them have been imprisoned in an imagination bounded by death, and all of them are called by the risen Lord from out of that prison. They come to believe. They come to be children of God in whom there is no death.
Before the resurrection, in John, Jesus talks about his relationship with the Father as something that only he participates in. He speaks of “the Father” or “my Father”, addressing the disciples as people who are, for the time being, outside that relationship. There is no Lord’s Prayer in John, he does not teach them to pray “our Father”.
But Jesus does promise that the disciples will come to share that relationship. “In my Father’s house”, says Jesus, “there are many dwelling-places… If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.”
In his High Priestly Prayer at the Last Supper he has prayed that his disciples might be one, not in a functional sense of being part of the same organisation, but in the way that Jesus and his Father are one: “may they all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
When Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”, he is saying that he is the way by which his disciples, too, will come to call God “Father”. He is the way by which they will be included in the life that he shares with his Father, the life in which there is no death.
So, when the Risen Lord meets Mary Magdalene outside the tomb, he says, “Go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”. For the first time in John’s Gospel, Jesus’ Father is our Father, too, his God is our God, too. We are no longer servants, or even friends, but brothers and sisters.
Jesus through his death has gone to the Father, and now lives the limitless, unconditioned, deathless life of the Resurrection. By the power of his resurrection, we too can become children of God, we too can call God “Father”.
The old imagination of a life conditioned by violence and fear and bounded by death has gone. Christ is risen, and that changes everything. Christ is risen, and that makes it possible to believe. Christ is risen, and that makes it possible to imagine what we could never have imagined before: that in the Father there is no death, no violence, no darkness at all. The Father is utterly vivacious, deathless self-giving love. And the Father calls us through Jesus to share in his life.
With the first disciples, the resurrection enables us to believe. To believe in Jesus, God’s Son. To believe in God the Father who raised him from the dead. To believe in the Spirit, who is God’s life, bringing creation into being, breathing in our hearts. Belief is belief in, not about. Belief is relationship. In a while we shall say the Creed together as we prepare to renew our baptismal promises. The Creed is not a tick chart of statements that we have to agree to. It is a description of the relationship we are in. The relationship of the Church, God’s people redeemed by the resurrection, with and in God who is Trinity.
And then like the first disciples, we shall meet the Risen Lord. He is risen to the unconditioned, boundless life of the Father, and makes himself known in bread and wine, the endless inexhaustible extension of his risen presence in all the world until the end of time.
We have met him, and we believe. We have met him, risen from the dead. He feeds us with his life, the life he shares with the Father, in whom there is no death. He is the way, the truth and the life. Through him we come home to the Father’s house, our Father’s house. In him we are freed from the old order of sin and death.
Jesus has completed the work he came to do, the work of our creation. After the seventh day, when God rested from his work, the eighth day has dawned, the day of resurrection, the day of new creation, the day that will never end.
God has burst into our lives from the empty tomb, to give us what we could never have imagined or foreseen: the deathless, vivacious, utterly loving life of God our Father. Now, and for ever. Alleluia, Amen.