We have just had two retreats back to back at Launde; one all through Holy Week and up to Easter Day and the other looking at the Resurrection stories in Easter Week. What really came alive for me was how vividly all the stories speak to us. The gospels are not histories. They are not simply the stories of the insiders who were there – the disciples and other witnesses. We are inside the story and the story is inside us. Yet again I am aware that the Bible is the story of Everyman (and Everywoman).
In reading the Holy Week stories you become aware that one of the main themes running through is failure – the failure of the disciples to understand what Jesus is about, to be courageous and to be faithful friends. Well that is probably most of us down to a tee. In the Easter stories what comes through is the great mix of emotions – grief, fear, confusion, joy (when they see the Lord) and plain muddle. The most common emotion, though, is doubt. Not only can they not believe their eyes (and remember Jesus’ appearance has changed) they doubt themselves and him. This is hardly surprising. Everything they have ever known has been turned upside down. It is almost as if they have to start from scratch as newborns. They have to renegotiate all they thought they knew about Jesus, looking back at Jesus now through the cross and resurrection. They have to understand the faith they inherited and the culture so closely aligned to that faith in a very different way. It is a huge, earth shaking change when they actually begin to “get” that God is in Jesus on the cross! And even more of a challenge to see a dead man walking, eating, being alongside them and forgiving them all their failure and doubt.
But this story is for us, as John in his gospel points out several times. At the end of the story about Thomas in chapter 21 he writes that he has gathered these stories together so that we may believe. John is talking to us down the centuries.
When we really give ourselves time to ponder the stories of Holy Week and Easter, it comes home to us that the stories are for us and about us. What is more it is possible to feel that same sense of the world turning over that the first disciples felt. In the words of G K Chesterton, “The whole world turned over and came up right.”