One week before the first lockdown in England in March 2020, I was incredibly fortunate to be in Israel with a group of staff and students from our school, Frances Bardsley Academy, and our German partner school, Marienschule.
We visited Bethlehem, Nazareth, Galilee and finally Jerusalem, taking in those historic sites which have been the source of so much conflicting emotion through the centuries: pain and joy mingling particularly at the sites associated with the Easter story.
As a child I never quite understood why Good Friday was celebrated as a national holiday when it seemed to be all about torture and death. I never fully appreciated why the cross, a Roman instrument intended to maximise pain and suffering, was a major icon for Christians around the world, and why Easter seemed bigger than Christmas in the Christian calendar with such a momentous build-up and so many Holy Days in such a short space of time.
But what makes the Easter message such a universal and positive one is the way in which despair can so quickly and so deliberately turn into elation. The very worst of times can turn into the best of times seemingly overnight. The Christian story has a final scene of death and misery on Friday night where all hope is lost. Friends and family have witnessed the death of their beloved saviour and have been left doubting themselves and their Messiah after such a terrible few final hours.
Yet fast forward to Sunday morning and we see a totally different set of emotions emerge as first Mary, then the disciples discover that Jesus is not dead, not stolen, not moved, but risen from the dead and has done so in order that women and men can have everlasting life. Life in all its fullness.
This rollercoaster story seems to resonate particularly well this year. After so much pain and suffering, so many challenges and difficulties, it seems almost impossible to believe that we might be entering a time of hope and new life. Yet, the Easter message urges us to have such faith and belief. To choose optimism over pessimism. To actively work for good for the sake of ourselves and our fellow human beings.
Obviously not everything turns around in a weekend. So many of us carry wounds and scars. Many situations in the world and in our personal lives are complex, complicated and seemingly endless. But this Easter let’s take heart, and choose to believe, and to work for, a better brighter future for us together.