I passed on to you what was most important and what was passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. 1 Corinthians 15:3,4
I don’t know how you describe your status as a person of faith, do you describe yourself as a Church-goer, a Methodist a Christian, a follower of Jesus? I want to give you another option today, you are an Easter Person, part of the Easter People.
For several years from the late 1980s onwards Rev Rob Frost ran a holiday week for Christians, mainly from the Methodist Church, in the week immediately following Easter. It was called Easter People. From small beginnings it grew rapidly until it was running in 3 centres. For several years as a family we attended and enjoyed times of great fun, glorious worship and activities for all the family. For many people in the Methodist Church Easter People each year was an eagerly anticipated opportunity to recharge batteries and be inspired, challenged and enthused for day to day discipleship back home.
Since those days I have always thought that ‘Easter People’ was a great and appropriate name for Christians. But what does it mean to be Easter People, why is it appropriate? At the heart of it is the suggestion that without Easter and more specifically without the resurrection there is no such thing as a Christian, therefore all Christians are Easter People. In 2003 years ago Tom Wright the former Bishop of Durham published a book, 730 pages long, entitled The Resurrection of the Son of God, it is the most detailed and thorough analysis not just of Christian thought and understanding on the resurrection but also on what beliefs and expectations were amongst others prior to and at the time of Jesus. In an article published just this Thursday he summarises some of his findings, beginning with this:
The Christian claim from the beginning was that the question of Jesus's resurrection was a question, not of the internal mental and spiritual states of his followers a few days after his crucifixion, but about something that had happened in the real, public world.
This "something" left, not just an empty tomb, but a broken loaf at Emmaus and footprints in the sand by the lake among its physical mementoes. It also left his followers with a lot of explaining to do, but with a transformed worldview which is only explicable on the assumption that something really did happen, even though it stretched their existing worldviews to breaking point.
The Christian faith is only explicable on the understanding that the first Christians believed that Jesus had actually risen from the dead and that this was something that was not expected to happen and that it was something physical and not just a hallucination.