By Revd Canon David Tomlinson
John 20:19 – end
A few years ago I was driving along the single track country road that led to our house. It was a quiet road with little in the way of traffic and few places to pass the odd camper van that might meander our way in the lazy months of summer sunshine. This day was neither sunny, not lazy, it was grey, damp and I was in a hurry. It is often the way that being in a hurry means getting stuck behind the slowest vehicle on the road and for me this was a cattle lorry. It was lumbering along the road with its living load of bovine beauties, taking each steep narrow bend at around 10 miles an hour and I was feeling the frustration slowly build within me.
Suddenly the lorry’s hazard warning lights started to flash gleaming through the mud caking them, it started to brake and came to a complete stop blocking the road entirely. As the driver and his mate disembarked, I realised that they were going to unload the cattle. Backing up I watched, now feeling somewhat resigned to the delay, as they opened up the gate to a field on my left and with one guy positioned in front of my bonnet the other went to open the back of the lorry.
As the ramp was lowered and the door began to open the lorry started to sway, as the gap between door and frame widened the penned in cattle just erupted from the lorry like corks from a bottle. They poured down the ramp and ran into the field, they leapt, pranced, bucked, waved their heads, kicked their legs, galloped across the field, galloped back across the field and bucked again. The scene was transformed by their joy, the grey sunless day filled with urgency and frustration collapsed before the unbridled happiness of the herd.
Their delight lit something in me that made me laugh, the lorry driver and mate were grinning too and gave me a cheery thumbs up as they shut the up the gate and secured the lorry. Nothing had changed but everything had changed, I was sat in the same place, behind the wheel of my car, but viewing the world through a different place, the joy of those animals revelling in their freedom.
In the Good News or Gospel of John chapter 20 finds the day still was dawning, the grey shadows of night lingering in the hollows. The bleakness of the hour was as nothing compared with the bleakness that lay on the heart of Mary. Jesus, the one who had given her her life back lay rotting in the garden tomb before her, all hope was gone, her life felt as though it was over.
She wept her grief pouring down her cheeks as though there was no end to it, the cracks in her heart oozing pain with every breath. Then he was there, Jesus! Yes the dead Jesus was alive! Mary, he said, just that Mary. I can imagine that as hope was rekindled in her she felt like dancing, like skipping, like shouting her joy as a child might at 5am on a Christmas morning.
Suddenly her world was unexpectedly transformed, the shadows of night still clung to the hollows but within her heart the light of hope had dawned. The world looked the same but everything had changed, the dance was just beginning and Mary was discovering the steps to dance with.
For this is the gospel, or good news. John shared the story and we are called to live it, to dance it, to know its truth, that even though the world seems dark when we discover that the tomb is empty everything is changed. For the Christian, hope in the midst of loss is that this isn’t the end, it is simply the beginning of the beginning. For Jesus rising from the dead didn’t change the colour of the sky, or the hours in the day, but it what it does change is how we live those hours, or view that sky.
For this is the good news of the Christian gospel, that love wins, death is defeated, and our hope can change even the darkest day into one filled with abundant life.