I attended a really good CPD event this morning hosted by North Kent Methodist Circuit led by Dr Simon Stocks. We spoke about the dangers of familiarity with the Easter story, and reviewed 1st Century Jewish beliefs on resurrection and Messiah(s). We discussed in groups what we believed would be assumptions from non-Christians if they heard us speaking about the Easter message and Jesus' resurrection' including our assumptions that God is real and that the Gospels are a reliable witness. We discussed the difficulty that some people have in relating to the reliability of ancient documents and the literality of them
In groups we looked at each of the Gospels, and noted common themes that in none of the Gospels is there an eye witness account of the resurrection itself. No-one saw Jesus being raised; however all the Gospels confirm the existence of an empty tomb. The other main common factor is the lack of scriptural quotations related to the resurrection event, suggesting and confirming the surprise at this event among the apostles, something at odds with Matthew's Gospel in particular surrounding the birth of Jesus
Our group focussed on John's Gospel noting the lack of an apocalyptic nature in contrast to Matthews description of earthquakes and mass raising from the dead, something that we agreed was a piece of metaphorical writing so give the picture of the importance that should be associated to the Crucifixion and Resurrection.
John's Gospel paints a picture of new creation new life. Links between John's depiction of the resurrection and the beginning of his Gospel, and the beginning of Genesis. Themes of light and dark, the events happening on the first day of the week (Sunday), and the meeting of the newly resurrected Jesus and Mary happening in the Garden, reminiscent of God walking in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. The account in John is quieter, with a focus on relationship and the renewal or restoration of relationships, the allowing of doubt in this new world, the acceptance by God of questions in a relationship. We noted the use of women in being the primary witnesses to the resurrection something that would be highly unusual for 1st Century society, a new way of living. Finally we noted the sense of amazement and confusion by the authors, this event was shocking to them and one can determine a real sense of confusion - hence in part the differing accounts seen in the Gospels, we have people trying to make sense of something so weird, so unusual but quite obviously to those writing the scriptures so life changing in nature.
We are left with the confirmation that Jesus is raised from the dead with a bodily resurrection, albeit a different sort of body. Again God arrives in a way that we do not expect, and when we do not expect.
We should allow ourselves to be constantly surprised by what happened at the first easter, shocked and allow ourselves and others to ask questions, to try and make sense of it all.