What does Easter mean?
APRIL ALWAYS coincides with the Easter period in the Christian Calendar. But what does Easter mean? I want to approach the question by asking you to look at the image accompanying this article. Take a little time and let the colours stir your imagination. The image is of a jigsaw puzzle entitled ‘Nuance’, given to me for a Christmas present by one of my daughters, who happens to be a GP. It took a long time to complete!
What do you see? Do you focus on the striking gold (a starburst?), or the patch of turquoise (the sea on a still day?), or the quiet pink (a captivating sunset?). Is the whole a reminder of the many-sided mystery we call ‘life’? A second daughter said, “Oooh, it’s like a portal into another dimension.” That did it for me.
It’s the interpretation which matters most, and not the fact of a jigsaw puzzle on the table. What I ‘see’ now is the portal. That’s why, for me, this image is an Easter invitation to view the impact of the Jesus figure in human history as a kind of portal, an entry into transformative ways of being human. It is more important to ask, ‘What do the resurrection stories of the risen Jesus mean?’ rather than, ‘What happened on the first Easter Day?’ It is not so interesting that I happened to complete a jigsaw puzzle; it is more interesting to know what meaning I take from it. And meanings have a continuing life of their own.
Life’s many-sided mystery – like a jigsaw puzzle – requires interpretation. For many people, a suffering world – economic inequalities, the rise of narrow nationalisms, heart-wrenching violence and wars, destruction of earth’s life-support systems, etc – drives them to feelings of hopelessness. The meaning of Easter is that the death knells stalking future hope do not have the final word, and a different interpretation of the many-sided mystery is possible. The God who beckons us believes in us more than we might realise. Which, for me, is the meaning of Easter. When the Church cries out ‘Christ is risen’ on Easter Day, it is celebrating the hope that we are not abandoned to a despairing fate.
So, what do you see around you? Do you lament what you think of as a world in decline, or do you see the portals which spur you into a different way of seeing? Have another look at the image.
Alan Race is an Anglican priest-theologian, with permission to Officiate in the Diocese of Oxford, who lives in Caversham.