Nerve agents. Spy swaps. Poisonings in genteel English towns. Tit for tat expulsions of diplomats. Relations between the UK and Russia close to collapse.
Lent this year has been lived out against a very strange backdrop. It feels like we’ve time-travelled back to the dark days of the Cold War or even into the pages of a John le Carré novel.
And all the time there is a real fear that it might escalate out of control, that the human addiction to conflict might impact on our own safety.
It’s no surprise that it was similar political shenanigans that put Jesus to death. The last hours of his life were played out against a backdrop of conflict, betrayal and secrecy.
He was betrayed by the spy Judas in the darkness of the night. He was done to death as an act of political expediency. He was crucified as a pawn in a game between competing secular powers. It was the same, sinful human world of dark deceit and intrigue that took Jesus to the cross.
But at Easter the tomb is empty, the body is gone. At Easter we rejoice because human sin and darkness had no power to hold Him. As the women peered into the empty tomb, they weren’t just seeing the absence of a body. They were witnessing a whole new way of being human.
And in contrast to the darkness of human sin, this new way is going to be all about light and transparency and honesty. The signs are there in the scriptures.
The empty tomb dazzles with the light of angels. The broken community of the disciples is mended. The past is forgiven. The joy causes grown men to run to share the news. And it’s in the open. No secrecy, no intrigue. All is revealed and laid bare.
This wonderful resurrection gives us a promise. Jesus has overcome sin, darkness and conflict. Those things are put to flight, they cannot last. So, we know now for sure that love and peace has triumphed and that one day they will be revealed in their fullness in the glory of Jesus.
But the resurrection also gives us a purpose; for those who follow Jesus are called to live that future promise now.
We are called to be role models of the new humanity, showing the world the light of Christ as we make a stand for peace, give voice to the poor, labour for justice and in our own lives act with transparency and honesty.
The tomb is blown open and all the world can see a new creation. This Easter we rejoice in the triumph of Christ over sin and darkness, and we respond as we live the new creation now. Rejoice to be children of the Light. Alleluia, Christ is Risen.
Rt Rev. Philip North
Bishop of Burnley