Homily for Easter Day
The well known children’s writer and atheist, Phillip Pullman, has a new book published this weekend. It is called “The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ”. The basic idea behind the book is that Jesus was a good man, a teacher of sound morality, who lived an exemplary life and died a terrible and undeserved death. St Paul, however, created something very different, a god-like figure of worship, Christ, in whose name much cruelty and wickedness has been committed.
No doubt many people will be attracted by this idea. Don’t think it is a new or original idea. This idea that Jesus was just a good man and all the rest made up has been around for a long time. It is much the same as what Muslims believe. It was the popular subject of many books in the 19th Century. Social reformers have often seen ‘the good man Jesus’ and his sermon on the mount as an inspiration in their struggle for justice.
But there is a big flaw in the argument, a whopping great fly in the ointment, and that is our belief in the resurrection, the Christian celebration of Easter. Pullman’s ideas, and of those who hold much the same, separates the good man of history from the worship, and the miracles and the more than anything else, the resurrection.
And yet, the resurrection is a historical event. It changed history. And it is based on solid historical fact.
The first historical fact is that Jesus truly died on the cross. We are told that when the soldier put the spear in his side ‘blood and water’ came out. This proves Jesus had suffocated.
Secondly, everyone knew where Jesus’ body was placed. The women visited the tomb. They knew who the tomb belonged too. Soldiers even guarded it.
The third historical fact is that even the enemies of the first Christians agreed that the tomb was empty after his death. It would have been easy to prove he’d not risen if his body could be found. It couldn’t. It has disappeared.
And the fourth historical fact, and the fact which shows the change in history is what happened to the disciples. When Jesus was arrested and crucified his disciples fled in fear for their own lives. One of the had betrayed him. Another denied he ever knew him. Yet in three days they were transformed from fear to joy. No longer afraid that they might die, they were ready to give their lives for what they had seen. And their message has spread throughout the world ever since.
The very fact that we celebrate today not an abstract belief, but an event in history is proof beyond all prejudice that the Good Man Jesus is the Risen Christ.