Our contemporary mindset is not dissimilar. We are deeply and rightly impressed by the transience of all things. Even when, as at this time of year – and snow apart – we are suffused with joy and hope at the new buds and new birth – the daffodils in the wood, the lambs in the meadow – we know they are but part of the endless cycle of birth, growth, decay and death. The eternal note of sadness is never far way. So we are not very receptive to any aspect of our experience that might suggest otherwise. We are not comfortable with the idea that Christ rose from the dead. We are not comfortable with the idea of our own transformation beyond death. We dismiss intimations of immortality. None of this suits the contemporary mind.
So what are we to make of the Easter claim of the church that Christ is risen?
Recently on the Today programme a biblical scholar suggested that it might make better sense to speak about the resurrection not of Jesus but of the disciples. The hard historical evidence is that after Easter Day they become changed people – a radically different mindset, a psychological resurrection. That is true. And yet even a psychological resurrection needs something to trigger it. Given the deep scepticism of the disciples that all was lost, could that trigger have been anything less than an empty tomb and a mysterious presence?