Easter Eggs

In my previous parish, which didn’t ‘do’ the Easter vigil, I found myself slightly disturbed by the number of ‘Happy Eater’ and ‘Alleluia’ messages in my twitter feed from those returning from evening services on Holy Saturday, confident that the resurrection had already happened. I kept wanting to reply ‘Spoiler-alert – I haven’t had my resurrection yet!’ It made me think about the timing of our Alleluias – if you were here yesterday for the 8.30pm service, was the resurrection then? Or is it now, at the 10am service? What about those churches that have their Eucharist at dawn? Are they the ones who are really getting it right? Is their resurrection the real one?

Let’s explore this idea a bit more, using the time-honoured medium of chocolate eggs.

(I would hold up a whole egg, at this point).

Jesus’ tomb was a little like this egg – inside it’s dark and cramped, but when the resurrection happened, and Jesus burst out of the tomb, Good Friday is smashed once and for all, and new life is set free. (At this point I dramatically smash the egg into a bowl or basket.) There is no going back. This egg is smashed. This resurrection has undoubtedly happened.

broken chocolate egg

But the trouble was, that nobody witnessed it! The solders (in that account, anyway) passed out and didn’t see Jesus emerge, and the next thing we know, it’s the women arriving at the tomb still expecting to find a dead body, and instead finding it empty. The actual moment of the resurrection happened in private. All that resurrection joy and nobody to share it.

On Easter Sunday we focus on Mary’s story – we just heard it as our gospel reading. There in the garden, the resurrection had already happened, but she was trapped in her own Good Friday – her grief and sadness kept her in the dark (hold up another, whole egg, at this point).

And we can tell the exact moment when the resurrection happened for her – it’s when Jesus calls her name. Suddenly grief is turned to joy. Mary’s Good Friday is smashed once and for all, the new life is set free in her (smash the second egg and handing it round).

That’s all very well for Mary but what about everyone else? At this point she’s still the only real witness. What about all the others? If you come back to church over the next few weeks you’ll hear more stories of how the resurrection became real to all of Jesus’ friends. But here’s a sneak preview.

– Thomas = doubt to faith when he sees Jesus’ wounds.
– Disciples = fear to peace of mind/joy when Jesus says ‘Peace be with you’
– Emmaus Road = confusion to recognition when Jesus breaks the bread
– Peter = guilt to new purpose when Jesus gives him the chance to say ‘I love you’ three times to make up for his threefold denial.
(For each one you can hold up and break a new egg)

You can also ask people to think in their own minds about what other sorts of things keep us trapped in our own Good Fridays, and let that lead into prayer that all may experience the resurrection in a way that’s personal to them, but absolutely connected with Jesus’ defeat of sin and death.


  • For very small children, it can be good to act this process out – making ourselves small and sad, scrunched up with our arms wrapped round us, and then jumping up for joy.

I also wrote a hymn that goes well with the resurrection stories. Here it is.

Easter Morning sermon

John 20.1-18

It was dawn on the first Easter Morning.  Christ had risen from death, but as yet, nobody knew it.  Christ had risen, but the Romans were still in power.  Christ had risen, but the world looked the same: the sun still rose in the East and set in the West and the weather was not especially different from how it had been two days before.  Christ had risen, but those who were ill on the Saturday, were still suffering on the Sunday.  Christ had risen, but on the surface there was nothing different that morning from the day before. 

Jesus must have been alive again for a while by the time Mary Magdalene hurried through the dark only to find the tomb empty.  She still believed him to be dead, so she still grieved for him, and all the more so when she thought that his body had been snatched – for her, the resurrection was not yet real.  Jesus was alive, but she did not know it. 

Some of us, or perhaps people close to us, are today still living through their own Good Friday or Holy Saturday; the reality of grief and suffering and worry may be so great that the resurrection cannot seem real.  If that is where we are, perhaps we know it is Easter but it seems that nothing has changed, except that the flowers are back in church.  But perhaps we might also be able to hear along with Mary Jesus himself, asking in compassion, ‘why are you weeping?’ and to know that those words were spoken not by some pristine spiritual apparition but by the real Jesus, who also trod the path of suffering, the wounds of crucifixion still on his hands and feet.

But what changed it for Mary?  How did the resurrection become real for her?  How can it become a reality for us? 

When Jesus spoke Mary’s name, she recognised him, and knew that he was her Lord, alive again. It was in that moment of encounter that the resurrection became for her not just a profound prophecy or a nice but far-fetched idea, but a life-changing reality.  For all those living in the darkness of pain, worry, and grief, I pray that the sound of the risen, but still-wounded Christ calling your name may enable you to find hope renewed and joy rekindled. 

At many Easter day services the congregation are invited to renew their  baptism promises, recalling that moment when God called us by our name and we joined his family.  Why does this traditionally happen on Easter Day?  The water of baptism represents our dying to all that is old and dead in our lives and embracing God’s new life.

Baptism is a new beginning, so recalling our baptism reminds us that Easter day is more than just the happy ending to the story of Holy Week, more than just a song of joy and the sigh of relief after the abstinence of Lent and the drama and heartache of Holy Week.  It reminds us that the dynamic of the gospel remains forward looking, and that every new start comes with a commission.

What Mary Magdelene is asked to do in today’s gospel is to become the first apostle – the one who is so transformed by her encounter with Christ that she is empowered to bring the good news of the resurrection to the rest of the disciples. 

Simon Peter also experienced this.  The night before Jesus’ crucifixion he had rejected Jesus three times, but was later forgiven and restored so that, as we read in the Acts this morning, he could stand in front of Cornelius and the crowd and proclaim the good news of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection; the good news that had already spread throughout Judea.  God´s love for his creation is stronger than anything else we can possibly imagine.  To all who are in despair, like Mary Magdalene; to all who are caught by guilt, like Peter; the message of the Resurrection is this: God´s love is stronger.  If even death cannot defeat God, then anything is possible.  There is always hope, there is always forgiveness, there is always a future. 

Our calling by virtue of our baptism is likewise to be God’s agents, sent out from our own particular encounter with Jesus Christ to pass on the good news we have received, as we have experienced it.

We’re called to ‘Go on to Galilee’ – that is, into ordinary life, where Jesus is already present. When we get there, we will find ourselves commissioned to bring the good news and the new life of the risen Christ to all, just as Mary did when she went back with that astounding statement “I have seen the Lord!” 

Risen Lord Jesus,
As Mary Magdelene met you in the garden,
on the morning of your resurrection
so may we meet you today and every day:
speak to us as you spoke to her;
reveal yourself as the living Lord;
renew our hope and kindle our joy;
and send us to share the good news with others.

Common worship:
The prayer at the Easter Garden


A brief thought for early on Easter Day

The resurrection happened in secret, the actual moment hidden in the dark hours of early morning. But for each of Jesus’ friends and followers there was a special moment when the resurrection became real for them, when life came out of death for them, when the stone was rolled away from the tomb of their own doubt and fear and confusion.

For Mary, that moment comes when the risen Christ, mistaken for the gardener in the half-light of dawn, speaks her name and she recognises him for who he is. At baptism, God calls each of us by name, allowing us to recognise God at work in us and around us in the world, and giving us access to the light and love of the resurrection.
Over the last almost two thousand years there have been many moments of resurrection, many moments when individuals and whole peoples have been freed from the tyranny of sin (of their own sin, or the sins of others that have oppressed them).  The resurrection is therefore not only a past event, but an eternal moment of rebirth, hope, light and life, which still transforms the dark places of this world.