'If our hope in Christ is good only for this life, we are worse off than anyone else. But Christ has been raised to life! And he makes us certain that others will also be raised to life.' 1 Corinthians 15:19-20
The celebration of the resurrection of Jesus at Easter is fundamental to our Christian faith, for if we cannot accept the fact of the resurrection, our faith is something that only has a present and a past. It certainly has nothing to offer for the future. It has nothing to offer as we face the certainty of death. It denies all that Christ taught about victory over death and the freedom that would be accorded to the 'children of God'. If our faith is for this life only, then as Paul wrote to the early church in Corinth, 'we of all people are most to be pitied'.
Jesus was not raised to his former existence so that he could start again or go off and start a new life in a new identity. He was raised from the dead to fulfil the promises that he had been sharing with his disciples from the beginning: that through him, eternal life is available to all. We are not promised immortality – but we are promised life in the presence of God for all time.
The good news is that Christ was raised; he has promised us that what is his will be ours. We can therefore share in the resurrection hope, which he has made available to us all. It is a hope that millions of people bear witness to in the way they lead their lives in that they recognise the signs of hope in the world, however deeply the world may try to bury them. That hope is not just something for one day of the year, but something that we carry with us every day of the year.
It is a hope that we are offered every time we meet for worship together and a hope that we are offered every time we pray for others or ourselves. But the hope that we have in Christ is not reserved for ourselves alone, it is to be shared with God's people on the widest possible scale.
In the first of his letters to the early church, Peter writes this:
'Even if you have to suffer for doing good things, God will bless you. So stop being afraid and don't worry about what people might do. Honour Christ and let him be the Lord of your life. Always be ready to give an answer when someone asks you about your hope. Give a kind and respectful answer and keep your conscience clear.' 1 Peter 3:14-16a
Easter reminds us that, because of God's love and Jesus' obedience, there is hope for the world, despite appearances to the contrary. The challenge for us is how we communicate that hope to others without sounding trite or as if we have all the answers to the world's problems. May our Easter celebrations fill us again with the confidence that 'we have gospel to proclaim – good news for all throughout the earth' (E J Burns).